Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving in Alaska

Anybody who’s gone through a dark night of the soul in Alaska knows that it can be especially long and dark this time of year. Alaska’s always a harsh place, and it begins to feel intensely that way come mid-November, when the sky’s mostly gun metal grey, the sun only a brief tease.

But people help. Remembering what we’re grateful for helps too. Sen. Lisa Murkowski understands this. She recently put out a call to Alaskans to tweet about what they’re thankful for. One person wrote that she’s grateful that she lives in such a beautiful place, another that she’s thankful for her good husband, her twin babies, and Sitka. A teacher with Redoubt Elementary school sent out a video of her and her students, who are thankful for all the educational opportunities in Alaska.

I’m writing this from the Triple A Chevron on the corner of Airport Heights and Debarr, waiting for my tires to get changed. Right now, I’m thankful for Fred Heinzelmann ,who has owned this place forever. It’s the only place in Anchorage that I know, where if you can’t pump your own gas, you can pull up to the pump and honk your horn for service.

“Here’s Sam,” one of the workers says as a customer pulls up and honks.

Sam, who looks like he’s seen a lot of Alaska Thanksgivings, smiles at the attendant.

One of the workers here is from Samoa. She’s been here for ten years. The darkness doesn’t bother her anymore. She likes it here a lot more than her home country. Her family is here, and the food’s better here.

“It’s always coconut over there,” she says. “Coconut and pig.”

Yes. It always could be worse.

The other day, I sent some questions to politicians who are running for federal and statewide office, about what they were doing for Thanksgiving, what their favorite Thanksgiving food is, family traditions, any holiday memories they want to share, and what they were grateful for this year.

Some of them answered. Some didn’t. Nobody mentioned coconut or pig. Nearly all wrote about pie. Gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott, who is an Alaska Native from Yakutat, also likes smoked salmon and herring egg salad. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell likes sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, while his Republican challenger “Afghan” Dan Sullivan likes smoked salmon from the family’s fish camp. Mayor Dan Sullivan, who’s running for lieutenant governor, likes turnips with lots of butter. State Sen. Lesil McGuire, who is running for lieutenant governor, sent along a recipe for her famous apple pie.

U.S. Rep. Don Young likes turkey tail. Turkey tail? “For those of you who haven’t heard of Turkey Tail, it’s exactly what it sounds like,” he said.

Some of their answers allowed a little glimpse beyond the public face.

Gov. Sean Parnell and his wife Sandy have spent Thanksgivings volunteering with the Salvation Army helping to feed the hungry. “Serving in that way takes me back to a grandfather I never knew who died on the streets of Seattle and is my way of giving thanks for the strangers who fed and clothed him,” he said.

What’s Parnell most grateful for?  “A wonderfully understanding and loving wife in Sandy for over 26 years of marriage.”

One of Afghan Dan’s holiday memories was when, “I literally surprised my wife and three daughters and came home to Anchorage unexpectedly for 4 days over Christmas while I was deployed on active duty with the Marines in 2005-2006.”

One of Mayor Dan’s favorite traditions is cooking with his mother and “serving as her official gravy and dressing taster.”

Sen. Mark Begich is most grateful this year that his mother celebrated her 75th birthday. “And of course, Jacob and Deborah surviving my schedule.”

Mayor Dan is particular grateful for his daughter’s “wonderful” wedding this year.

The upcoming year is going to be brutal on us. The balance of the Senate will likely rest on our shoulders. The governor’s race will be competitive. The ballot initiatives, particularly the oil tax initiative, will pit neighbor against neighbor.

Lesil McGuire has a lot of things going for her. Following a script is not one of those things. Heart, however is:

“My parents are older and our children are older and alas I am older too. Life is way too short and I am so happy for these moments around a table with my family and making memories. Alaska is the very best place on the earth, but too many Alaskans are living without enough food and clothing and warm shelter. This is a time for all of us to reflect on how fortunate we are to have these things and to remember that we have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate among us.”

I’m thankful that I live in a place that still has the ability to take my breath away, and that we have so many good politicians looking after us. Seriously. I am.

Here’s McGuire’s apple pie recipe:

You need 2 c chopped and peeled Granny Smith apples, 2/3 c sugar, 2 T if flour, 1 egg beaten with whisk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup of sour cream, 1/4 tsp salt. Chop apples set aside. Beat egg with whisk and add flour and flavoring, add in sugar the stir in sour cream and salt. Pour in apples and mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 375 for glass or 400 for metal for 20-25 minutes or till set. Remove from oven and drop temp to 350 degrees. Mix 1/2 stick of butter, with 1/3 c flour and 1/3 c brown sugar to get crumble topping. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cardamom or use ground nutmeg if none, cardamom! Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and put back into oven for 20 minutes!

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Kriner’s Diner to serve up some Thanksgiving love

On Thursday, Kriner’s Diner, the small box of a family restaurant perched on the hill on C Street before Fireweed, is opening its doors to any and all looking for a Thanksgiving meal. It’s free, and it’s in keeping with the spirit of the business.

The building that houses Kriner’s has seen all sorts of restaurants come and go since I’ve lived here. I have eaten at all of them and while some were worthy of success, they all felt transitory. But there’s something about Kriner’s which feels like it’s going to stick. It feels right, like it belongs, like the spirit of this family-run restaurant has been wandering around Anchorage for years, just looking for a home.

Sure, the food’s good, and that’s part of the charm. Although I haven’t had one, I’ve been told that the burgers are the best around. I can say with confidence that the corned beef hash is the best I’ve had. And in keeping with its stated political leanings, the owners definitely are thumbing their noses at the government’s urging for restaurants to cut back on serving sizes.

“As you can see I am a Conservative at heart but welcome all political views at Kriner’s Diner. Remember God loves us all,” the family patriarch, Andy Kriner, writes on the broadsheet menu, along with a story about how his family all pitches in to run the business.

“In God We Trust And Merry Christmas,” the menu tells the diners.

Famous quotes are littered throughout:

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Abraham Lincoln.

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Mark Twain.

Dishes give diners entry into the lives of the Kriner family. “Sam Burger,” is named after Brother Sam. Another brother doesn’t eat meat. The short stack is named after daughter Lucy. “My 3 Kids Breakfast Special,” speaks for itself. And there’s the aforementioned “Uncle Park’s Politically Incorrect Corned Beef Hash & Eggs.”

The Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear arguments on whether companies should be treated like people. Those arguing that some should, should look no further than Kriner’s.

On Thursday, as always, the mashed potatoes will be served with gravy and a heartbeat.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Supreme Court to hear if corporations also have religious rights

Dahlia Lithwick on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear if companies must offer contraceptive coverage to employees:

Citizens United taught us that corporations count as people when it comes to campaign speech. Does this weird concept of personhood extend to their religious rights? The 10th Circuit said yes. The 3rd Circuit said no. More questions: Does the birth-control coverage benefit substantially burden a company’s exercise of its religious rights, if it has them? Is the contraception mandate nevertheless justified by compelling government interests because it is a vitally important element of affording women equality in health care?”

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When tennis courts and politics go out of bounds

I’ve stayed away from Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s tennis mess, mostly because I haven’t really kept track from the beginning on what’s going on. And I didn’t keep track from the beginning because I had no idea the tennis courts would actually turn into a big story. Who can blame me?

And part of the reason it’s turned into a big story is that the story continues to change. There appears to be a new wrinkle just about every other day or so, and now, those wrinkles have pitted Sullivan against Alaska state Rep. Bill Stoltze, the powerful co-chair of House Finance. And in the meantime, the person who could perhaps help smooth out the wrinkles is staying mum. Rep. Lindsey Holmes, as she tends to do when she’s facing controversy, has gone radio silent.

Here’s what we know: the Legislature appropriated $37 million of grant money to Anchorage for maintenance on facilities that were built in the 1980s. Sullivan wanted to use some of this money to build tennis courts –anywhere from $4 to $10.5 million — in the Turnagain neighborhood, where Sullivan lives and which is represented by Alaska state Rep. Lindsey Holmes.

From there, things get dicey. Questions still floating around include:

  • How much flexibility does the municipality have to spend the money?
  • How much are the courts going to cost?
  • What did the Anchorage Assembly know about this project and its costs?
  • What did the Legislature know when it appropriated the money?

All of these, thanks largely to Sullivan, are moving targets and have been answered in various ways, depending on the audience.

The fourth question is one that has recently caused the most tension. Stoltze said that he worked with Holmes on the tennis court money, and that she told him that the courts wouldn’t cost more than $4 million.

She’s not confirmed or denied this. Instead, Sullivan is doing the talking. He says that’s not true. Stoltze then called Sullivan untrustworthy. In turn Sullivan called Stoltze disingenuous, which is a nice way of calling him a liar.

I know Stoltze a little. Like many of us, he contains multitudes. He’s razor sharp, can be vindictive and tempestuous. But I would never call him a liar. And neither should the mayor of Anchorage, who risks putting his city on the losing end in a battle over funds during next year’s legislative session, say nothing of alienating one of the Valley’s most powerful and popular lawmakers.

According to Holmes’ Facebook page, she is someplace sunny taking pictures of cute raccoons.

Her absence feels familiar. She also stayed low when she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican last year. But that was a different sound of silence. Now, it’s bigger and potentially more destructive.

Holmes doesn’t have a lot to gain from getting in the middle of the mess. On one side, she risks alienating Sullivan and the powerful tennis group who want those courts built, many of whom are her constituents. And there’s Stoltze on the other side, who helped get her a position on House Finance when she switched parties, and appears to have been nothing but gracious to and supportive of her.

But just because it’s not good politics to tell the public what she knows, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have an obligation to do so. After all, isn’t that what we expect our elected officials to do?

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Bill introduced encouraging small donors to contribute to federal candidates

For the past few weeks, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and a handful of other Senate Democrats have been sending out emails trying to get voters to sign a petition urging Congress to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allows for unlimited giving to super PACS.

It’s unlikely that it will happen anytime soon. For one, it’s rare for Congress to pass a law that directly conflicts with a Supreme Court decision. And even if it does, the Supreme Court would have to be convinced to change its mind. Secondly, it’s unlikely that Congress will change the law given that so much super PAC money is involved in the electoral process. (It should be noted that there’s a super PAC set up to promote Begich’s candidacy.)

One legislator is trying to counterbalance the big money that goes into elections. U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican from Wisconsin, recently introduced legislation to restore tax credits and deductions for small political contributions. Under H.R. 3586, small donors would be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $200 ($400 on a joint return) for contributions to a national political party or a candidate for a federal office. The bill would also allow a campaign contributor to elect a tax deduction, instead of a tax credit, of up to $600 ($1,200 on a joint return).

It’s not a new idea. Such tax incentives were repealed in 1986 as part of an effort to simplify the tax code. With the repeal went many small donors.

According to an analysis from Dēmos, a nonprofit that tracks political donations, in the last election cycle, candidates for House and Senate raised the majority of their money from those who donated $1000 or more, and 40 percent of the money from those who gave $2500 or more, or .02 percent of the population.

Nearly 60 percent of super PAC funding came from just 159 donors contributing at least $1 million. More than 93 percent of super PACs money came in contributions of $10,000 or more from just 3,318 donors, or the equivalent of 0.0011 percent of the U.S. population.

If the bill reaches the Democratic-controlled Senate floor, it will be interesting to see how Begich and that handful of Senate Democrats vote.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Sullivan and Begich react to Iranian deal

14385998_mOn Sunday in Geneva, Iran agreed with the U.S. and five other world powers to freeze or reverse much of the progress that the country has made at its key nuclear facilities, including capping or eliminating stockpiles of uranium, not adding new centrifuges, and daily monitoring by international inspectors. In exchange, Iran will experience a modest lessening of international sanctions.

President Obama and others have called the agreement historic, and say it’s a precursor to a wider agreement in six months. Not everybody is thrilled. Those who aren’t include Israel and some Republican hawks, which in this case would include Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, who thinks that the deal is too soft.

Read the Washington Post’s analysis of the deal here.

On Sunday, Sullivan, who had worked at the State Department when sanctions were enacted, sent a release criticizing the deal, which he said had “dubious merit.”

Following Sullivan’s release, Begich sent out a release, which seemed to take a tough stand on Iran without criticizing the deal. “The threat to their neighbors and the entire world of an Iran with nuclear weapons is far too great to use a carrot instead of stick diplomatic approach,” he said.

I reached out to the other main Republican candidates, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller, about whether or not they had a response. Neither did by the time of this writing.

Read both statements in full below:

Dan Sullivan:

Chasing deals with the world’s biggest terrorist regime is not the way to enhance Alaska’s or America’s national security. I am proud of my service under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a senior U.S. official who helped lead the charge in pressuring Iran with economic and financial sanctions.

Instead of once again rubber stamping this latest Obama Administration initiative of dubious merit, I hope that Senator Begich will work to actually understand the ramifications of this deal for Alaska’s and America’s national security as well as for our allies in the Middle East, and ask hard questions of his fellow Democrats in Washington DC, like Secretary of State Kerry.

We can’t afford another series of broken promises to Alaskans, especially when we’re dealing with a terrorist regime that wants to acquire nuclear weapons.

U. S. Sen. Mark Begich:

Iran is one of the most unpredictable and dangerous countries in the world, so any agreement with their unreliable government must come with strong provisions for verification. I don’t support making any concessions, such as easing sanctions or taking the military option off the table, until they prove to the international community they can be trusted. The threat to their neighbors and the entire world of an Iran with nuclear weapons is far too great to use a carrot instead of stick diplomatic approach.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Joe Miller drums up support in D.C.

The Daily Caller is reporting that Senate candidate Joe Miller spent some time in Washington, D.C. this week, drumming up support from “top” conservative leaders against his main Republican primary challengers Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.  He labeled both “establishment candidates” who are part of the “ruling class destroying the country,” he said, painting himself as the candidate who “reflects the will and the voice of the people.”

The real rub, however, seems to be that they both supported Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010 in her write-in bid. Read much more here.

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Alaska Young Republicans ‘appalled’ at Senate candidates’ silence on Begich filibuster vote

Hear no evil The Alaska Young Republicans are going after Republican Senate candidates for their silence on U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s vote on Thursday to change the Senate filibuster rules. So far, none of the three main Republican candidates —  Joe Miller, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Dan Sullivan—have condemned Begich’s vote.

“While Senator Begich’s position is not surprising to those closely following his positions on important Constitutional issues, we are surprised and appalled that none of the Republican candidates for US Senate in Alaska have released any statements condemning Senator Begich’s disgraceful stance,” the group said in a press release.

Thursday’s vote, which passed 52-48, allows nominations to executive branch and judicial nominations to proceed with a simple majority, or 51 votes. It does not affect Supreme Court nominees or any legislation. It will, however, likely affect the rest of Obama’s agenda, much of which, including the regulation of greenhouse gases, will play out in the courts.

Critics call the change a “power grab.” Supporters say the the change was necessary because Senate Republicans have been so intransigent that courts and agencies were suffering as a result.

So far, 79 Obama nominees have faced filibusters, more than double the 38 picks of President George W. Bush.

All but three Democrats—Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—voted for the change. Pryor and Manchin face tough reelections in their respective red states in 2014. Levin announced his retirement earlier this year.

The young Republicans also want the state party to speak up.

“As the next generation of local and national leaders, we cannot sit idly by as the Alaska Republican Party and our future candidates for office are quiet on issues of such gravity,” they wrote.

“We urge them to stand up for our state and hold Senator Begich accountable for his actions.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Unless Treadwell’s fundraising has improved greatly, his campaign appears to be underwater

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is running in the Republican primary to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, has much going for him. He’s a long-time Alaskan, for one. He’s knowledgeable on Arctic issues, and he’s already won a statewide election.

According to FEC reports, however, raising money isn’t one of his strengths. His campaign spokesperson said that things have picked up since the last filing period, which is from July 1 to Sept. 30, when he raised $196,000.

“Our campaign finances are just fine,” Treadwell’s campaign spokesperson manager Fred Brown said. “We have improved each quarter and will undoubtedly have the resources to not only win the primary but replace Mark Begich in November.”

But unless things have turned around significantly for Treadwell the last two months, it appears that his campaign is underwater financially.

During the last quarter, Treadwell raised $196,000, leaving him with about $154,000 on hand. However, his debts and a campaign loan total $50,000. Too, $26,700 of that money is designated for the general election, meaning that it’s earmarked to be used after the primary.

As of Sept. 30, he only had $43,300 cash on hand. During this period, he appeared to be spending roughly $57,000 a month.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich raised $813,000 during the same time period, and ended the period with $2.4 million cash on hand.

Dan Sullivan, who is also running, didn’t enter the race until Oct. 15 and therefore didn’t fill out a report. Joe Miller, the other candidate, only raised $31,900 from individuals this year.

A few things to note: At the end of September, Treadwell hired national high-powered fundraiser Lisa Spies who has organized fundraisers all across the country for Treadwell. The spoils of her efforts won’t be clear until the next filing date, which is in mid January. But Treadwell has also beefed up staff and taken on other substantive expenses since the reporting period.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

Correction: The original article said that Fred Brown was Treadwell’s campaign manager. He’s his spokesperson. 

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Don Young upbraids Park Service comptroller

Whatever you say about Rep. Don Young, he upbraids well. On Thursday, Bruce Sheaffer, a comptroller with the National Park Service, was on the other end of it. The subject was a hearing on H.R. 3294, a bill which would allow states to control management of federal lands for states willing to pay 50 percent of the costs associated with that management. The federal government would retain ownership. Skip to minute 1:13 to see how Young weaves in King George, the Taj Mahal and Chevys.

 

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New attack ad: Alaska woman would have done it better

Alaska girls kick assThe New York Times is reporting that the woman who is attacking Sen. Mark Begich on healthcare in a Koch brothers’ funded commercial isn’t a real Alaskan. She is actually an actress who lives in Maryland, which likely came as a surprise to few who watched the ad. She simply didn’t have an Alaskan vibe. (Though I chickened out on saying so in my piece about the ad earlier today, lest she be a recent transplant who hadn’t yet shed her Outside suburban skin.)

The actress’s name is Connie Browman, and she has appeared in other commercials. Ironically, one of them touted the importance of regular mammograms. Under ObamaCare, the healthcare bill that Browman says in the commercial, among the 14 free preventative service benefits for women are mammograms.

“We don’t want to lose even one person to breast cancer. Which is why regular, digital mammogram screening is so important,” she tells the audience, using that same, earnest voice she used in the Alaska commercials. “Senator Begich didn’t listen. How can I ever trust him again?” she said, in the background the kind of kitchen that I want to set up camp in.

This is not to say that Begich shouldn’t in some part be held responsible for the mess that ObamaCare has become. It’s just that if you’re going to try to pass off a Marylander as an Alaskan in an attack ad, you should at least try to make her look a little cold, or forlorn, or tough, and always pretty, of course.

It’s a rookie mistake often made by heavy-footed Outside consultants who don’t understand the political landscape of Alaskans, say nothing of the kind of kitchen they cook in.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Many top jobs open at Department of Commerce

Susan Bell, the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, is going to be busy in the days and weeks ahead filling some of the top jobs in the department.

On Wednesday of this week, Bell announced that Daniel Patrick O’Tierney, the department’s sole deputy commissioner, was leaving. His last day will be Friday, Nov. 22. Circumstances surrounding his departure are unknown.

Earlier this week, the director of the Division of Insurance, Bret Kolb, submitted his resignation. Kolb is leaving to accept a position as director of business development for Palmer-based Victory Ministries of Alaska. According to his resignation letter, his last day of state service will be December 19th.

The department’s Division of Banking and Securities’ director, Lorie Hovanec, is retiring December 1. Prior to this position, she was a practicing trusts and estates attorney and vice president with Wells Fargo Trust Company.

The commissioner’s special assistant and legislative liaison, Crystal Koeneman, has also recently submitted her resignation and has accepted a position with Rep. Lora Reinbold (R – Eagle River) as a legislative staffer starting sometime in December.

All of the changes don’t come at the best of times for the department. The legislative session is only weeks away, and the holidays, which aren’t the best hiring time, are nearly here.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Treadwell and Sullivan speak out on Medicaid expansion

On Friday, Gov. Sean Parnell announced that he would not accept federal funds to provide health insurance for poor Alaskans. His announcement was met with much criticism from groups and individuals across the state, many of whom were incredulous that the governor would turn down what was considered free money from the federal government, something that Alaska hasn’t historically been known to do.

More to the point, had Parnell accepted the funds, up to 41,500 more people could have been insured.

It’s unclear how it will play out in the electorate in the long run, but judging from reactions, it doesn’t appear to be the most popular decision that Parnell has made, which, viewed through one lens, could be considered brave.

Some politicians praised Parnell, but most, who went public anyway, did not. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, for one, appeared not to agree with Parnell’s decision. In a statement, he said that turning away the federal funds will just make health care more expensive for others. The three Republicans who are vying for his seat, however, remained mum.

On Wednesday, both Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan responded to the decision.

In emailed statements, both appeared to support the governor’s decision. Treadwell is more unequivocal. “I support Governor Parnell’s decision to not expand Medicaid,” he wrote. “When I am elected I will work with our Governor to bring decision making home and find solutions that work for Alaska.”

As Alaska’s former attorney general, Sullivan wrote one of the first legal challenges to the law on behalf of the state. His response is more thoughtful and more measured but in the end, he agrees with Parnell.

The country’s healthcare system is in “disarray,” Sullivan wrote, “and the federal government’s promise in Obamacare to cover the vast majority of Medicaid expenses is doubtful at best.”

Medicaid, he said, “requires a functioning healthcare market and a federal government with the credibility to deliver on its healthcare promises.”

Both of their responses are printed in full below.

Joe Miller’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Miller walks a fine line here. He gets veterans’ health benefits, but his wife and children in the past received coverage through Alaska’s Medicaid program. He did, however, discuss the issue with local talk show host Glen Biegel and said that he supported Parnell.

“More power to him,” Miller said.

Treadwell’s statement:

The many failures associated with Obamacare have been well documented. I support Governor Parnell’s decision to not expand Medicaid. The federal budget is a mess and Alaska cannot trust Washington DC to fulfill its financial obligations.  We seek more cost effective ways to help those who need help. Alaska needs flexibility from the federal government to craft our own health care solutions. When I am elected I will work with our Governor to bring decision making home and find solutions that work for Alaska.

Sullivan’s statement:

As Alaska’s Attorney General, I spent weeks evaluating the Affordable Care Act, trying to understand all of its complex components and the constitutionality of its provisions.

The work I authored (attached) provided a strong foundation to the legal challenges that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare that limited the federal government’s power under the Commerce Clause and its ability to coerce states into accepting certain federal government mandates.  President Obama and Senator Mark Begich consistently promised Alaskans: that if they liked their current insurance plan, they could keep it.

For those who actually read the Affordable Care Act, they would have known that this was a promise that could never be kept. The combination of Obamacare’s mandates and healthcare policy requirements is fundamental to the structure of the Act. As these and other interrelated provisions of the Act are failing or are delayed, in a legally dubious manner, the entire structure of Obamacare is in disarray and the federal government’s ability to deliver on healthcare promises and results for Alaska has thoroughly been undermined. This is not surprising. Trying to reorganize close to one-sixth of the U.S. economy is a task for which the federal government is ill suited.

This is the context in which I view Medicaid expansion. Health care access and affordability are extremely important issues to Alaskans and it is important for policy makers to focus on them. So too is the urgent need to revive our national economy and reign in the trillions of dollars of deficits that the Obama Administration has run up in the past five years.

Medicaid costs in Alaska and nationally are skyrocketing. Medicaid expansion requires a functioning healthcare market and a federal government with the credibility to deliver on its healthcare promises. Right now we have neither—the U.S. healthcare market is in disarray and the federal government’s promise in Obamacare to cover the vast majority of Medicaid expenses is doubtful at best.

The issue of access to affordable healthcare for Alaskans remains a very important issue for our citizens. Congress needs to regain the trust of the American people on these issues before we move forward on additional major healthcare programs.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

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Koch brothers group attacks Begich on ObamaCare

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ funded group, announced that it was spending $3.5 million on anti-ObamaCare ads targeting three of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats who are up for re-election next year. Among them is Mark Begich. The others are Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

From what I can tell, all of the ads feature some variation of a woman talking directly to the audience. As Begich knows, and as the Koch brothers are catching on to, Alaska women will likely decide the outcome of the Senate race in Alaska.

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