September 01, 2008 6:52 PM
The campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., likes to herald the independence of its new running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Officials of the Alaskan Independence Party say that Palin was once so independent, she was once a member of their party, which, since the 1970s, has been pushing for a legal vote for Alaskans to decide whether or not residents of the 49th state can secede from the United States.
And while McCain's motto -- as seen in a new TV ad -- is "Country First," the AIP's motto is the exact opposite -- "Alaska First -- Alaska Always."
Lynette Clark, the chairman of the AIP, tells ABC News that Palin and her husband Todd were members in 1994, even attending the 1994 statewide convention in Wasilla. Clark was AIP secretary at the time.
"We are a state's rights party," says Clark, a self-employed goldminer. The AIP has "a plank that challenges the legality of the Alaskan statehood vote as illegal and in violation of United Nations charter and international law."
She says it's not accurate to describe the party as secessionist -- they just want a vote, she says, adding that the members of the AIP hold different opinions on what Alaska should be.
"My own separate opinion as an individual is that we should be an independent nation," Clark says. Others in the AIP "believe that being a commonwealth would be a good avenue to follow." Some advocate statehood -- but a fuller statehood than exists now.
She doesn't know what Palin's position was.
"It never came up in conversation," Clark recalls. "But when she joined the party, our platform was right under her nose."
Clark says that Palin left the party and became a Republican in 1996, when she first ran for mayor of Wasilla.
The McCain-Palin campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.