Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fiscal conservative Nancy Dahlstrom gets another government job

Former Eagle River state Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom who ran Gov. Sean Parnell’s Anchorage office is now going to work for the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. She’ll serve as the Executive Director of Serve Alaska, an organization that brings AmeriCorps’ programs to Alaska.

You might remember that Dahlstrom left the Alaska state Legislature in 2010 in order to fill the newly created job of military liaison, which as it turns out, was against the law. Dan Sullivan, who was then the state’s attorney general, deemed that the Alaska Constitution doesn’t allow legislators to accept jobs created while they are in office. She resigned less than a month later. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, Parnell hired her to run his Anchorage office.

You also might remember that Dahlstrom ran as the “real” fiscal and social conservative alternative to Lisa Murkowski for the House seat. She lost the race against Lisa, but was appointed to her seat by father Frank after Frank appointed Lisa to fill his seat in the U.S. Senate.

One of many Republican politicians on the public dole railing against government spending, Dahlstrom has been a state worker since 2001, with the exception of a short stint at Providence Hospital between government jobs.

During her first year as a fiscally conservative legislator, she spent three times what Murkowski did on travel and twice as much for all discretionary expenses.  And she and a majority of her fiscally conservative Republican colleagues voted for ACES, the largest increase in oil taxes in the state’s history.

Word is that she’s eyeing Sen. Fred Dyson’s seat. Perhaps working on the state dime to administer a federal program that has been repeatedly derided by fiscal conservatives will allow her ample time to do so.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Thank God it’s Friday’s random facts

WHAT ALASKA’S WATCHING: A map recently unveiled by YouTube shows the most watched videos in real time across the country. The videos being watched can be filtered according to the number of views or shares, as well as by gender and age of viewers. On May 17, at 6:30 a.m, the most popular video being watched across the country, including in Alaska, was Greg Karber’s video called “Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless.” Take a wild guess what that’s about. The second most popular was a video shot by Kenai Penninsula’s Brad Josephs entitled “A grizzly Ate My GoPro!!!” Watch it to see what a bear’s tongue really looks like. A video of a revised version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station, was third. Source: YouTube.

NOT SUCH A NICE PLACE TO LIVE: Camden, New Jersey (population appr. 77,000) is the poorest city in the United States. More than 40 percent of the city’s population lives below the federal poverty line. It’s also one of the most dangerous places in America. There were 67 murders there in 2012. The violence is mostly attributed to gang wars and a robust illegal drug trade. Source: The Economist, May 11, 2013.

TELL THE FOLKS IN CAMDEN:  Gun violence in America is down. There were 11,101 homicides in 2011, down 39 percent from 1993. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics report released May 7, 2013.

DOCTORS RAKING IT IN: Alaska has the highest healthcare costs for services in the country. A 2010 study found rates in Alaska were up to 192 percent of what they are for the same services in Washington state. In Alaska, doctors get reimbursed through Medicaid $1,141.23 for cataract surgery, to name just one procedure. In Washington, it’s $394.44. Source: Alaska’s Health Care Commission.

SURGEONS REALLY RAKING IT IN: Alaska has the most expensive workers’ compensation premiums and is number one in medical costs for workers. It pays surgeons 482 percent of the Medicare rate. For instance, worker’s comp will pay a doctor $4,181 for knee surgery in Alaska (nearly four times what it reimburses under Medicaid). In Washington, it’s $869, and in Hawaii it’s $693. It’ll pay $2,339 for an MRI in Alaska. In Washington it pays $769, and in Hawaii $634. Source: Alaska’s  Worker’s Compensation Medical Services Review Commission.

BURN BABY BURN: Believe it or not, global warming is real. Carbon-dioxide concentrations recently hit their highest level in 4 million years. Earlier this month, the atmosphere around the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, for the first time, hit record setting 400 ppm measurements of CO2. The last time such values prevailed was in the Pliocene Epoch when jungles covered northern Canada. Source : New York Times, NOAA. 

PREAKNESS GALS: Only five fillies have won the Preakness in the race’s history. They are Flocarline in 1903, Whimsical in 1906, Rhine Maiden in 1915, Nellie Morse in 1924 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Source: Pimlico Race Track, Baltimore. 

FRUITS OF OFFICE: Running a foreign government can be quite profitable for those with, say, questionable ethics. Here are some rough estimates of corruptly obtained assets by notable world leaders: Muammar Quaddafi (Libya 1969 – 2011) $30 – $80 billion; Suharto (Indonesia 1967 – 98) $15 – $35 billion; Sani Abacha (Nigeria 1993 -98) $2 – $5 billion ; Ferdinand Marcos (Phillipines 1965 -86) $5 – $10 billion; Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia. 1987 – 2011) $3 – $5 billion; Jean Claude Duvalier (Haiti 1971 – 86) $0.3 – $0.8 billion; and Hosni Mubarak (Egypt 1981 – 2011) $1 – $70 billion. As you can see, that’s some pretty impressive looting. Source: Transparency International and the International Centre for Asset Recovery.

HOW IMPORTANT IS ALASKA TO THE BIG THREE? Number of times Alaska was mentioned during ExxonMobil’s first quarter conference call in April: 0. Number of times Alaska was mentioned during BP’s first quarter conference call: 0. Number of times Alaska was mentioned during ConocoPhillips first quarter conference call: 15. Source: SeekingAlpha.Com.


Run Gabrielle Run

Love or hate her politics, for those who know Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, there’s probably one thing that most will agree on – – she can run and win. She ran for Mayor of Kodiak and won. She ran for the state House from Kodiak and won. Then, she moved to Anchorage and ran for the Legislature and won and raised more money for that race than anybody else running for state House. (She did lose against Don Young. But then again who hasn’t?)

She’s a runner, all right, in more ways than one. On Sunday, the 65 year old politician ran the 35th Annual Fredericton Scotiabank Marathon in New Brunswick, Canada. She didn’t finish anywhere near the top, but she did finish and she gained a new appreciation for the conduct of her fellow legislators in Alaska.

The hot news in Nova Scotia this weekend involved one legislature assaulting another one in the bathroom. Charges have been filed and a resignation has been tendered and Canadian politicians are talking about how it’s beneath the dignity of the House.  It’s unclear what got into the assaulter, but he apparently didn’t take lessons from one of our legislators that fists aren’t necessary when a simple tongue protrusion will do. And no resignation is required.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Thank God it’s Friday’s random facts

NICE GOVERNMENT WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: There are ten state workers that together have approximately 35,000 hours of leave, worth $1.8 million. And they get to cash this out anytime they want. Source: Alaska Department of Administration

THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT OUR PRESIDENTS: Grover Cleveland was a hangman prior to moving into the oval office. The S in Harry S. Truman’s middle name didn’t stand for anything. Richard Nixon proposed to his wife on their first date. The 38th president was named Leslie Lynch King Jr. at birth and later renamed Gerald Ford. Source:

THE SPOILS OF ALASKA WATERS: In 2010, Alaskans held 76 percent or 15,477 of all 20,275 Alaska commercial fishing permits. However, Outside permit-holders earned about 55 percent of the roughly $1.5 billion gross earnings from Alaska’s fisheries in both state and federal waters. Source: Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Commission.

SIZE MATTERS: The University of Tennessee’s. Neyland Stadium currently has a seating capacity at 102,455 seats, which makes it the largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference. You can just imagine how that might upset Texas football fans because they’re always are talkin’ about how they have the biggest this and that. Anyhow, to make those cowboys happy, Texas A&M has announced that they intend to expand seating at Kyle Field to 102,500. That means Texas A&M’s stadium will soon be the biggest in the Conference, boasting a whole 45 seats more than the Tennessee Volunteers. Source: Texas A&M University, University of Tennessee.

TEENS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: 33 percent turn to Facebook, 30 percent prefer twitter, 20 percent choose YouTube and 17 percent use Instagram. Source: Piper Jaffray.& Company (Investment Bankers).

ANOTHER NAIL IN THE ALASKA’S BIG LINE COFFIN: Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum announced on Thursday that they reached an agreement to move forward with construction of a $10B natural gas export terminal in Texas. The partners reportedly plan to ship as much as 15.6M metric tons of gas annually from the Golden Pass facility. Source: Bloomberg News.

TELL THEM HOW YOU REALLY FEEL: In Nevada, you can vote for “none of the above.” Source: Nevada Division of Elections. 

NO SPECIAL SESSION REQUIRED:  The legislative session in Iowa is either 100 days or 110 days, depending on the year. This year, state legislators were supposed to gavel out on April 17 but they didn’t get all their work done. So they’re still going at it in Des Moines, the state capital. And they’re doing so without receiving per diem, something unheard of in Alaska. Source: Amanda Coyne reporting from Iowa.

NICE GOVERNMENT WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT II: Alaska legislators are paid an annual salary of $50,400 and they get $238 or $253 per diem, depending on the time of year. That’s the highest per diem rate in the country. Iowa legislators are paid $25,000 a year and get $135 a day in per diem while the legislature is in session. Source: National Conference of State Legislators.


Should Alaskans trust recent PPP poll on gun control?

I’m a little late on reporting on the PPP poll released last week which shows both U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich having lost support in Alaska because of their opposition to the gun control bill. And if that and other polls about gun control conducted by PPP and paid for by a Democratic group wasn’t continuing to make headlines, I might continue to be late forever.

I’d chalk that poll up, as I have other PPP polls, to the kind of crackpot group that you find on both sides of the political spectrum intent on spreading propaganda and false narratives.

But the media can’t seem to get enough of the PPP gun polls, which have been conducted in at least five states, and are dutifully reported on even as some of the polls’ findings are patently absurd. Get this: according to PPP, only about 35 percent of Alaskans oppose expanded background checks.

Alaska-based Dittman Research, which tends to get these things right, recently conducted a poll for Alaska’s House majority which shows only 23 percent of Alaskans supported Obama’s efforts to tighten gun control laws, with 67 percent approving state legislative actions to oppose those efforts.

Was the PPP poll conducted solely on Homer residents or did it only poll those who live in Rep. Les Gara’s House district? We’ll never know because geographical location is among many things that are left out of the crosstabs.

I don’t know much about the other states that PPP has polled and I haven’t looked much into the crosstabs of the polls from those other states, but if they are as full of sample errors as the poll conducted in Alaska, then not one poll conducted by PPP should be taken seriously, perhaps ever again.

Here’s a few blatant examples of what a botched polling sample looks like, a la PPP:

  • Gender: Alaska is roughly 50 percent male to female, but the firm sampled 56 percent women to 44 percent men.
  • Party affiliation: Of the total registered voters in Alaska, only 14 percent are registered Democrats. About 27 percent are registered Republicans. The sample size that PPP used was 25 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.
  • “Independents/other.” About 53 percent of registered voters are registered “undeclared,” and “nonpartisan.” Then there’s the Alaska Independence Party, which is a whole other breed of people, and the Libertarians.  The two of them make up about 6 percent of voters. The PPP’s sample lumps them all together, calls them “Independent/other,” and only uses a 45 percent sample size.

The errors go on. Let me be clear here: I think that Begich’s voting against his party on gun control was a decision based on political expediency more than principle. Everyone knows that Begich isn’t a gun enthusiast. He likely doesn’t believe that the federal government is going to invade homes of gun owners, or that a foreign force is going to somehow take over the military industrial complex, capture our soldiers and leave the defense of the homeland to those in the Kenai amassing assault weapons.

What Begich does care about and what he’s good at is politics and about getting reelected. His vote against gun control was evidence of that.

The upcoming Senate race is going to be a monster. Joe Miller has announced that he’s running, but the race will likely also draw a handful of good, solid Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s already in exploratory committee phase, and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is said to be getting close to making a decision. A vote for gun control would have likely put the end to Begich’s Senate career.

So he had a choice: stand on principle and vote with his party, or lose the race and become the last Democratic senator Alaskans will likely see in this lifetime.

He might lose anyway, but now he stands a chance with the help of some Republicans and independent voters. What he doesn’t need is for some left leaning polling group, a group tied to the party to which Begich belongs, trying to sell a lie, in a state where many think that the left are a bunch of liars anyway.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


The ‘quiet governor’ creates noise

Early evening Friday announcements are normally reserved for bad news and document dumps. So, that Gov. Sean Parnell would announce his future intentions on a Friday after 5 p.m. struck many, including this writer, as flatfooted. Then again, Parnell’s not known for his ability to generate excitement. In fact Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell once called him a “quiet governor” in front of a group of businessmen and officials from all across the globe visiting Alaska to discuss opportunities in the Arctic. The president of Iceland was there. Parnell was somewhere else being quiet.

But sometimes—well at least once anyway—he gets it right. In the weeks leading up to Parnell’s announcement, nearly all of Alaska’s political establishment had assumed that he would forgo a run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Mark Begich and instead stay the course. But in the hours leading up to Parnell’s 5:50 p.m. announcement in Fairbanks, the political trap lines were buzzing. Had everyone been wrong?  In the past weeks, had Parnell been able to muster the political courage to take Begich on?

Why else would he choose to make an announcement at an event—the Alaska Republican Women’s Convention– where both Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski were in attendance?

Even those who should have known were second guessing their assumptions. The backbone of Alaska’s Republican Party was in Fairbanks waiting to hear his plans. Party stalwarts like don’t-mess-with-Paulette Simpson from Juneau was there.  Rhonda Boyles from Fairbanks and newly elected Rep. Lynn Gattis from Wasilla, were there.  (Everyone knows that you shouldn’t mess with them either.) Sen. President Charlie Huggins and House Speaker Mike Chenault showed. The room was packed. Everyone waited and whispered.

So, an announcement that might have been as exciting as waiting for water to boil-turned into an event. It might just be the most exciting one of the governor’s race.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Thank God it’s Friday’s random facts

HEALTH INSURANCE: Alaska is one of four states that don’t require its state workers, including state legislators, to pay for monthly health care premiums as part of their health care benefits package. The average that other state workers pay is 20 percent. The Legislature could fix this, but then lawmakers would be forced to pay monthly premiums. Source: Alaska Department of Administration.

ABORTION: Fifty percent of American adults describe themselves as pro-life. Sixty four percent of American adults think second-trimester abortion should be illegal. However, according to a review of hospital based studies, 85 percent of American women abort after a prenatal Down-syndrome diagnosis (typically in the second trimester). Source: Atlantic Monthly, May 2013.

TREADWELL’S TRAVELS: In 2012,  Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell spent $56,589 on official state business travel, which was $15,969 more than Governor Sean Parnell spent on travel in 2012. Source: Alaska Department of Administration

BIGGEST ALASKA CONTRIBUTOR TO THE BUSH LIBRARY AT SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY:  Art and April Hackney ($100,000.00). Source: George W. Bush Presidential Library.


17 REASONS NOT TO BET ON WILL TAKE CHARGE: Despite the pundits and odd makers, no one really knows which post position in a horse race is best ; however, when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, there is only one post position never in the Derby’s history to produce a winner – – Number 17. The unlucky horse to draw No. 17 this year is Will Take Charge. Place your bets accordingly. Source: Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs.

SLAVERY:  Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century – – a $32 billion industry. It is estimated that there are 27 million slaves in captivity today ‘around the world. There are estimated to be 17,500 children, women and men trafficked into the U.S. each year. Source: CAST – Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.

SIZE MATTERS: The State of Rhode Island could fit inside Alaska 425 times. Source:


Hockey politics: Is UAA beginning to listen?

It took awhile, but it appears that the University of Alaska Anchorage might finally be at least giving lip service about  listening to the people. The Anchorage Daily News reported that on Thursday, the university is suspending a search for a new hockey coach pending a reevaluation of the search criteria. (Read more about the hockey fiasco that here and here).

This is how UAA Chancellor Tom Case explained the decision:

“There was tremendous interest in the process, in the future of Seawolf hockey and in the coach selection. We had a search process that was good, but there was so much interest in the process we decided to open it up to further input and ideas.”

That’s one way of putting it. What he doesn’t mention is that those “interested in the process” included a plethora of noisy, alienated hockey fans, some of whom contacted their state legislators to tell them so.  In turn, some of those state legislators contacted the university to ask them if the university understands that times will soon be lean and that community support is vital when funding decisions are going to be made?

It took awhile, but it appears that if the hockey fans can’t get the attention of the university, then legislators who hold the university’s purse strings can.

In any event, it appears that Case is still missing the point: both the Alaska State Hockey Association and the UAA Hockey Alumni Association has called on the university to find a new athletic director, one who won’t, as the current one has done, let UAA’s hockey team continue to flounder.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


North Pole refining Koch brothers likely to be involved in upcoming Alaska Senate race

The New York Times reports that the thumping conservatives — particularly tea party conservatives — have taken in the past few years isn’t scaring off the mega donating Koch brothers. The pair, along with their long list of advocacy groups, foundations and tangled knots of libertarian whatnots plan to be out in full force come the next election cycle.

According to the NYTs:

“(T)he brothers want their network to play a bigger role in cultivating and promoting Republican candidates who hew to their vision of conservatism, emphasizing smaller government and deregulation more than immigration and social issues. They are also seeking closer control over groups within their network, purging or downgrading those that did not deliver last year and expanding financing for those that performed well.”

The NYTs said that the pair hasn’t decided whether or not it will be involved in primaries. But it’s hard to see them resisting, considering that the primaries are where the battles for the Republican soul are fought, battles that are the raison d’être for the brothers.

What does this mean for Alaska? For one, the upcoming race against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is expected to be one of the hottest in the country. And the Republican primary will be especially smoking. Rabid conservative Joe Miller and newly invented conservative stalwart Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell have both said that they’re all but in. And then there’s DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is looking increasingly like the dark horse candidate.

All of this is perfect Koch brother fodder, and all of this will happen on the heels of a contract for royalty oil that the state approved with Koch brother owned Flint Hill Resources, which has a refinery in North Pole, Alaska.

Under the terms of the contract, the state will deliver a maximum of 30,000 barrels a day of its royalty oil to Flint HIlls for five years, beginning next year. The contract is worth an estimated $3.5 billion to $5.9 in revenue for the state and billions for the Koch brothers.

In addition to being one of the state’s largest refineries, Flint Hills is one of the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s largest customers. They also own a tank farm in the Port of Anchorage area by Ship Creek. And they hope to own a majority of the U.S. Senate, including a new Republican senator from Alaska.

Contact Amanda Coyne at