Monthly Archives: November 2013

Murkowski’s office documents experience of veterans

4864226_mlU.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office provides a nice tribute to those who have served our country with a monthly feature entitled, “Veteran Spotlight.” So far, 18 vets have been interviewed by Murkowski’s office. The veterans are from all across the state, have served in all branches of the military, and have fought in conflicts all across the world. The most recent story is particularly touching. The veteran’s name is Herb Stettler. He served in the U.S. Army and did a 13 month tour during the Korean War. Stettler lives in the Kenai and the story highlights how the community came together after his house burned down.

Read more about Settler below and click here to read the other stories amassed by Murkowski’s office:

Herb Stettler served in the U.S. Army and did a 13 month tour during the Korean War.  Stettler is an active member of the Kenai Peninsula veteran community, supporting fellow veterans and honoring veteran sacrifice at local events and ceremonies – and has fostered a special bond with his neighbors for years that was reciprocated when they rallied to his aid last year.

During his interview, Stettler recalls being 18 years old when he was asked to register for the draft.  At 20, he enlisted in the Army and his superior officers capitalized on his farm-honed strength making him a machine gun operator.  During his Korean War tour, Stettler says there were some “hairy times” and he was often called upon to provide machine gun cover for his fellow soldiers to escape enemy fire.

“I hope that the Lord took all of our men up there for defending the freedoms of our people,” Said Herb Stettler.  “For those of us who made it home, we are there for each other.  It’s a camaraderie thing with your fellow veterans.  You’ve got something in common.  You don’t talk about it much- you’re mostly talking about day to day stuff, but you are there to support each other.”

Stettler was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge for his service. After he got out of the Army, Stettler made his way to Alaska, eventually settling on the Kenai Peninsula. Today, at 82 years old, he is an active officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10046 and the American Legion where he works to honor veterans, their service, and our country. It’s a commitment the Kenai community returned in an overwhelming way last year, when his home burnt to the ground and the community came together to build him a house.

“My house caught fire. It was a chimney fire that got away and the whole house went,” Said Stettler.  “The community came in and everybody chipped in and they built me a 10 x 34 foot cabin and put a deck on it and an addition behind it.  It is warm in there and it doesn’t take much to heat it.  They put plumbing in there and my goodness, I am living good.  I sure thank the community.  I owe them a lot.”

“Herb Stettlers’ story is one of an American hero,” said Senator Murkowski. “He has served our country and returned home where he continues to support active duty military members, veterans and the community as a whole.  We owe it to veterans like Herb to honor them through sharing their stories, and we owe it to the rest of us to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrate for us.”


New political app helps consumers go beyond the ballot box

There is a new app that is a “must have” for political activists or people with strong political views to help them “walk their talk.” The app is called 2nd Vote, and it’s designed to rank companies’ ideological leanings and helps consumers who wish to keep spending aligned with political values. It is currently available for iphone and Android platforms.

The new app ranks companies based on five issues: gun rights, the environment, abortion, federal subsidies and same-sex marriage. The higher the ranking, the more conservative the company. While the app was designed for conservatives, liberals can take advantage of it as well by supporting companies that have low numbers.

The app ranks everything from fast food chains to airlines, from energy to insurance companies. While the creators of the app continue to expand their listings of businesses, most regional and local businesses are not yet listed and ranked. In other words, for now you can get a ranking for Starbucks coffee but not for Anchorage-based Kaladi Brothers coffee.

Starbucks is ranked liberal because of its contributions to Planned Parenthood, its corporate policy of providing same-sex benefits to employees and their support for pro-gay legislation; however, conservatives can find solace in the company’s tacit support of the second amendment by not banning firearms in their stores.

The app also allows provides options. Alaska Airlines has a score of six, but Frontier Airlines scores a seven and is a better option, according to the app.

Frontier’s CEO, Bryan Bedford, has “openly structured the company and its values around his Christian view of people and life,” 2nd Vote writes about Frontier.

Most interesting, to this Alaskan at least, is that among the big three producers –  BP, Exxon and ConocoPhillips—the latter has the highest conservative store, while BP is only slightly more liberal than Exxon. Among other things, 2nd Vote dings BP for funding UNICEF, which is an “organization that pushes for legal abortion to be a right for women all over the world.”

Exxon also supports UNICEF, plus it gives matching gifts to Planned Parenthood, according to the app.

Who knew?

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Don Young: Alive and kicking

Below is a press release from U.S. Rep. Don Young about chest discomfort he experienced while traveling in Southeast Alaska earlier this week:

Rep. Don Young standing with veterans.

Rep. Don Young standing with veterans.

“While traveling in Southeast Alaska this week during the Congressional state work period, Alaska Congressman Don Young experienced some minor chest discomfort and out of caution went for examination at the Wrangell Medical Center. After observation, he was advised to seek further diagnostic tests, which he undertook Saturday afternoon in Anchorage.

Following tests, Congressman Young was given a clean bill of health and is in excellent spirits. Saturday’s tests are standard procedure for someone who has had major heart surgery, which Congressman Young underwent in 1997.

Congressman Young thanks the medical personnel and staff who assisted him in both Wrangell and Anchorage for their professionalism and excellent care, and encourages anyone experiencing this kind of discomfort not to hesitate to seek medical attention.”


Ad of the day: Politics meets zombie zeitgeist

Some of the radio and print ads Art Hackney has done over the years have been pretty funny. But I don’t recall a funny ad for a local candidate, like the one below, since David Dittman did Tom Fink’s successful mayoral campaign. The ad below is the brainchild of Zombies for Responsible Government, which is supported by a group of businessmen and a Republican-oriented super PAC. It attempts to define Nathan Fletcher, a Democratic candidate for mayor of San Diego, as a politician who flip-flops on the issues.


New Alaska Railroad reality show: The art of myth?

We’ve all experienced the phenomena of life imitating art. Your coworker who’s reading Hemingway ends his memo with the line, “Isn’t it pretty to think so.” The Sarah Palin you know begins to act like the Sarah Palin depicted in the media.

Alaskans probably experience this more than most, with a twist because increasingly, Alaskans themselves are both the life and the art. That fisherman, the trooper, the pilot, are heroes on that reality t.v. show, and probably much to their families’ chagrin, they begin to act the part.

Now there’s yet another reality t.v. show to join the dozens of others shot in Alaska. This one focuses on the Alaska Railroad and it will begin to air on the Discovery Channel on Nov. 16. Here’s how the show is described by one of the producers:

The railroad is critical to Alaska’s infrastructure, carrying vital resources around the state. The workers who risk their lives to make sure the trains can run, and the off grid passengers who depend on its existence are the stories we want to tell, and Destination America offers the perfect platform to do so.

Not to take anything away from the railroad workers, but off grid passengers depend on its existence? You mean, the off grid passengers who are dropped off and picked up on the rail belt, within site of a major road?

And here most of us thought that mostly what the railroad did was haul coal from Healy to Seward to send to Korea, and cart tourists around.

How many Alaskans actually ride the train? The railroad isn’t sure, but it does know that about 60 percent of the 400,000 people who ride the train come from cruise ships.

In the winter, which according to the railroad is the end of September until May, the railroad only carries passengers on the weekends from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back with stops along the way. One train, which runs from October to May, runs once a month between Anchorage and Hurricane.

Recently, the railroad requested $40 million from Gov. Sean Parnell, who will release his budget in December. The money is for federally mandated safety upgrades. Last year, at the request of Parnell, the railroad received a $19.1 appropriation.

The $40 million is for both fiscal year 2015 and 2016.

“At stake is the continuation of Alaska Railroad passenger service,” railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan recently told me.

The railroad’s assets total about $989 million and include about 500 miles of railroad line and about 36,000 acres of land, about half of which are available for lease, and which accounted for roughly $10 million of the railroad’s revenue in 2012.

The Legislature has no say over the railroad’s budget.

It’s unclear how much or if any tax credits — part of the film tax credits program — have gone into the production of the show. Getting information about who got the credits and how much was spent on an individual film was always difficult. In July, 2013, the program was moved from the Alaska Department of Commerce to the Department of Revenue. And now, what was once a semi-transparent program is by statute, opaque.

What is clear, however, is that the railroad cooperated with the production, which is all well and fine. So did the Alaska State Troopers when that show was being shot.

I suspect that the troopers’ show has made troopers better at their jobs. Perhaps the show featuring a romanticized version of how very much the railroad means to the Alaska passenger that it serves, will goad the railroad on to imitate art.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Why is Joe Miller being so quiet?

Tea party favorite Joe Miller, who’s supposedly running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, has been uncharacteristically quiet. His campaign spokesman will send out an occasional press release and will occasionally be quoted. But Miller himself hasn’t yet given any public speeches. He hasn’t appeared to be actively fundraising. He’s only raised $31,900 from individuals this year.

In fact, although Miller filled out the required paperwork to run for Senate, he has yet to make a formal announcement. He can be a little edgy, but Miller, who won the 2010 primary against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is no shrinking violet. So why the low profile? What’s he up to?

For now, he seems content to sit back and let the other candidates—former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan and Lt. Mead Treadwell—scramble for the money and the attention. He’s also probably enjoying the fact that the Republican National Committee is opening at least three offices in the state and planning to spend more money here than ever before. The RNC won’t pick sides in a primary, but it’s clear that the Republican establishment doesn’t like Miller and is scared that he’ll mess up a race that they consider competitive.

I’ve been told that Miller is considering running as an independent candidate. His spokesperson, however, denied that he’s actively considering it.

I don’t have inside knowledge of this, but it seems more likely that if he’s going to change anything about his race, it will be what chamber he’s after. Although Rep. Don Young has a reputation among liberals as being a staunch conservative, tea party groups don’t see him that way. His “conservative” ratings, conducted by the Heritage Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, are near the bottom. And in 2008, the Club for Growth sunk money into now Gov. Sean Parnell’s race to unseat Young. The group would likely do so again.

Miller would also have more like-minded companions in the House and would get a lot more attention running against Young than he will if he continues to run for Senate. And Miller likes attention.

It makes sense. Besides, it would be fun to see the two debate.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Election lessons for social conservatives

“[S]ymbolic conservatism is popular with more moderate voters, who want to express disapproval for gay marriage and abortion, but are uncomfortable with policies that seem intrusive or intolerant. The lesson of today’s election, then, will not be that social conservatives can compete in moderate and liberal areas if they offer more explicit and articulate defenses of their views. It’s that they can get away with expressing social conservative beliefs so long as they do nothing to suggest that those beliefs are likely to end up enshrined in law.”

Samuel Goldman writing about Gov. Chris Christie in The American Conservative.


Anchorage NAACP adds name to long list of Medicaid expansion supporters

Faith-based organizations, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Alaska Native Tribal Health Care Consortium, medical practitioners and their professional trade groups have endorsed and encouraged Gov. Sean Parnell to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars.

This week, the Anchorage chapter of the NAACP joined the list. On Wednesday, the group sent out a press release also urging Parnell to accept federal Medicaid dollars. “Governor Parnell should listen to Alaskans and expand Medicaid,” said Kevin D. McGee, NAACP 1st Vice President and Chairman of the organization’s Political Action Committee.

Alaska’s share of federal Medicaid expansion would cover over 40,000 Alaskans and have an economic impact of $2.49 billion on the state, according to various studies.

“It is a right to have affordable health care not a privilege,” said Wanda V. Laws, President of the Anchorage NAACP.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


American Crossroads targets Begich on health insurance claim

American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-backed super PAC, has begun web ads that target Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, along with two other vulnerable incumbent Democratic senators who are running in 2014. The video takes aim at the claim that under the new healthcare law, you can keep your insurance if you like it, which has kind-of-sort-of been debunked.

The situation is more complicated than what the ad would have you believe. In Alaska anyway, the truth is that you can keep the exact insurance policy, but you’ll pay more. Or you can go onto the exchanges, and in many cases get the same or better healthcare and pay less, a fact that Premera Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest provider of individual insurance policies, hasn’t pointed out when it sent Alaskans cancellation letters.

However, as they say in politics, he who has to explain the most loses.

In addition to Begich, the videos are also targeting Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Fan of West Wing and House of Cards? Try Alpha House.

Fans of NBC’s West Wing, including me, should mark their calendars for Amazon Studio’s November 15th debut of Alpha House – – a comedy about four unruly U.S. senators living together. The new series will be streamed online, and follows on the success of Netflix’s the House of Cards. Alpha House was written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and produced by Elliot Webb and Jonathan Alter. It stars John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos. The series will be available exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video. The first three episodes will be available for free.


French questions Parnell about allegations of abuse in National Guard

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French sent a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell on Tuesday asking for more information about allegations of sexual misconduct within Alaska’s National Guard. Among other things, French is asking for information about prosecution rates, procedures and the number of cases that have been referred to law enforcement.

French is running for lieutenant governor with Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor.

The questions were in response to an article published on Oct. 27 in the Anchorage Daily News detailing what appears to be a culture within the Guard of abuse and of the lack of local law enforcement to do anything about it. Since 2009, 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. So far, no one has yet to be prosecuted, nor has Gov. Sean Parnell, who has made ridding the state of sexual abuse a hallmark of his campaign, spoken out about the issue or the culture that seemingly exists in the Guard.

Numerous people were quoted in ADN’s article about the problems, including two chaplains who say that women have been coming to them for years and that nothing has been done about it. They also say that Parnell, who oversees the Guard, was aware of the problems as far back as 2010.

One member of the guard, Lt. Col. Ken Blalock had about 15 victims come to him. He said that he told Parnell and the Anchorage Police about the issues, and got his “butt chewed” for going above his chain of command by the head of the Guard Gen. Tom Katkus.

Following the article, Katkus issued a statement and wrote a column in the ADN assuring the public that the Guard takes these issues seriously. In the ADN piece, Katkus answers many of the questions that French poses. Among other things, he wrote that “the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers, was (sic) contacted in 21 cases, and for reasons specific to each case, these law enforcement agencies did not open investigations.”

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, has also not addressed these issues publicly.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Health insurance cancellation letters fail to tell the whole story

It was recently reported that Premera Blue Cross/Blue Shield has sent discontinuation notices to about 5,360 Alaskan customers who have purchased the plans on the individual market. The letters say that the insurance company will automatically renew insurance plans at an increased cost unless consumers cancel.

Gov. Sean Parnell has made the letters a campaign issue by pointing to them as proof of the failure of ObamaCare. So have Republican U.S. Senate candidates Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller.

But the insurance company letters do not mention that consumers might get the same insurance at a much cheaper rate through the health care exchanges, if and when they’re up in Alaska.

The same letters went out to Washington state consumers, which caused that state’s division of insurance to issue a consumer alert lightly excoriating Blue Cross and urging its citizens to “know your rights and options.”

“Don’t just take what your insurance company says, make sure you shop around,” the alert says.

The Alaska Division of Insurance has yet to issue a consumer alert and appears to be abdicating responsibility to educate consumers about the health care law to the feds.

An article about the letters sent to Washington consumers tells the story of a woman named “Donna” who got such a letter:

If Donna had done nothing, she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more a month for insurance than she will now that she went to the marketplace, picked the best plan for her family and accessed tax credits at the heart of the health care reform law.

As it happened, Donna ended up shopping on the Washington exchange, which is up and running, and found a policy that was better than she was getting and will pay only $80 a month.

Eric Earling, director of corporate communications at Premera Blue Cross/Blue Shield, defended the letters it was sending consumers.

“Our experience is that our customers are already aware that they have other options in the market and that we’ve never had to tell them in the past that we have competitors,” he said.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Bill Corbus sells Juneau’s Alaska Electric Light and Power

Washington-based Avista, which operates in five Western states, announced on Monday that it bought Juneau’s Alaska Electric Light and Power. The purchase price was reported to be $170 million, plus cash outstanding.

AEL&P was a family owned business headed by Bill Corbus, who served as Gov. Frank Murkowski’s commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue. He remains very active in the Juneau community, and has been extremely active in anti-capital move campaigns. His interest in keeping the capital in Juneau will likely not subside anytime soon.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Peter Micchiche and his sister Maria Downey lose their father

Alaska state Sen. Peter Micchiche and his sister, longtime KTUU-Channel 2 news anchor Maria Downey, lost their father “Pete” on Saturday, Oct 26. Pete was 83 years old. A celebration of his life will occur on Nov. 9 at 10:00 a.m. at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Oakland Park, Florida.

Here’s the Facebook post that Sen. Micchiche wrote about his father:

“My Father passed away Saturday and I will likely be out of touch for the next few days. Peter Frank Micciche (June 1, 1930 – October 26, 2013) lived all 83 years teaching my family to be better people, to care about those that need us most and to always take the time to do the right thing. I know where he is right now, but miss him nonetheless.

He and Mom spent 62 years together through thick and thin; they never believed in a Plan B for their marriage and taught us the same. He also served our country stateside during the Korean conflict.

My Dad was a loving, colorful, and very tough individual that was always there for us when we needed him. He was larger than life, and I believe than death as well. He is a big part of me that I will miss all of the remaining days of my life. I spoke to him daily in the last days and have no regrets.

My primary message here? Call the people you love, forget the little things and learn to forgive if such an obstacle exists. You never know when the hourglass will run out of sand and having no regrets is a significantly better alternative.

As I told him the day before he died. I am proud to have had him as my father, and I’m extremely proud be his son. I strongly believe he left us with a legacy and the philosophy that helps make the world a better place.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Martha McKenna: she’ll work hard to keep Begich in office

You’ll likely never meet her, see her face, or even hear her name, but one way or another, you’re going to be touched by Martha McKenna in the next year. According to Roll Call, McKenna will be leading the independent expenditure program for Senate Democrats in the 2014 race.

The independent expenditure, or IE, arm of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee controls tens of millions of dollars spent on Senate races each cycle, much of which will end up in the pockets of Alaska’s expanding media outlets.

In Alaska, the group will support U.S. Sen. Mark Begich against Republican challengers Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan, who are running in the Republican primary.

Although a party’s IE can be effective, those kinds of expenditure groups haven’t received the kind of attention that the super PACs have received, which have fewer restrictions but cannot coordinate with a party. Often, as opposed to groups associated with a political party, super PACs are homespun and more nimble.

So far in Alaska’s Senate race, Jim Lottsfeldt is running a super PAC to support Begich. Art Hackney is running one to support former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan. Stephen Wackowski and Taylor Bickford are is running Mead Treadwell’s super PAC.

Contact Amanda Coyne at 

Correction: The original story said that Taylor Bickford was running Treadwell’s super PAC. That’s incorrect.