[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/18/art.todd_sarahpalin.jpg caption="Gov. Sarah Palin and her 'First Dude' Todd Palin"]
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) – He’s the man Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin likes to affectionately call her “First Dude.”
Todd Palin was introduced to the nation at the Republican National Convention as a blue-collar oil worker. A laid back father of five and a world-record holding snowmobile racer.
He was also a member of Alaska’s Independence Party until 2002, a radical group that has long advocated secession of the state from the United States.
Todd and Sarah met in high school at a basketball game and eloped in 1988, six years after graduation. Todd grew up in Alaska and is part Eskimo. He’s an avid outdoorsman and champion of the Iron Dog snowmobile race.
Another image of Todd Palin has also emerged – he’s known by many as his wife’s greatest adviser and most loyal protector. One family friend told CNN, “Todd is incredibly supportive and is willing to do whatever it takes to help Sarah.”
Todd may appear quiet and subdued but he’s already made quite an impression on his wife’s running mate, Sen. John McCain. On the campaign trail earlier this month in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, McCain said, “He’s not afraid of Washington, DC! He can take them on!"
Alaskans interviewed by CNN say Todd Palin has plenty of influence.
He’s not on the state payroll, but lawmakers say he is a central figure in his wife’s policy agenda.
Stephen Branchflower is one man who certainly thinks so. He was hired by the Alaska legislature to investigate the firing of the state’s top cop and figure out if the Palins pressured him to fire the governor’s ex-brother-in-law, trooper Mike Wooten.
Sarah Palin has said Wooten repeatedly threatened her family after a bitter divorce from her sister. She claims he even threatened to kill her father, accusations that Wooten denies.
Branchflower wants to subpoena Todd Palin because he says, “[Todd Palin] has spoken to numerous government employees … I think … he's such a central figure to the events.”
Gov. Palin has denied exerting any pressure to have anyone fired. Todd Palin hasn’t spoken publicly about the case and there is no word yet if he will comply with a subpoena.
CNN was granted access to thousands of emails released earlier this year from the Governor’s office which show that Todd Palin had been copied on hundreds of them. The topics of the emails ranged from public criticism of Gov. Palin to her meetings with corporate leaders.
Andrew Halcro, who ran as an independent against Sarah Palin for Governor in 2006 and a critic of the Palins, wants to know why Todd Palin was being copied on state correspondence.
Halcro wrote a blog about Todd Palin called “Shadow Governor” and says, “Todd plays the role as kind of the fixer.”
Even Halcro found himself the subject of emails that Todd Palin was copied on. He wants to know why.
“This whole process, and the whole string of emails, to me really raise some red flags,” Halcro told CNN.
Campaign Spokeswoman Meg Stapeleton explained it this way: there is spousal privilege in that the governor is asking him to print them off or take care of business.
Alaska lawmakers say Todd Palin is a fixture at the state legislature. So much so, some told CNN they’ve joked about getting buttons that read, “What would Todd do?”
One of those lawmakers is Lyda Green, a republican and president of the state senate, but not friend of the Palins.
“I had a meeting I requested with the governor … I was particularly surprised that Todd was there. I had never seen a spouse stay in the room through the meeting.”
The campaign says, "Todd's role has not been inappropriate."
The campaign also confirms Todd Palin has taken two trips with state commissioners to survey Alaskan mines and one to survey part of the proposed route for the natural gas pipeline, his wife's key goal. the state paid for those trips, according to the campaign, because the were considered "state business" since Todd Palin is trying to expand Alaska’s workforce.
When Todd Palin isn’t at his wife’s side on the campaign trail or at the legislature, the McCain campaign says he’s at home – juggling the cooking and carpooling for their five children.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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