Monthly Archives: February 2014

Don Young gets some love from the mainstream media

Stick around for long enough, and everyone loves you. Even if you’re U.S. Rep. Don Young, who’s hasn’t historically been a media darling. A reporter from the Washington Post visited U.S. Rep. Don Young recently, however, and came away seemingly smitten. The piece, entitled “5 incredible stories from 21-term Rep. Don Young,” is a photo essay taken in Young’s office, where he regaled the reporter with stories about cigars, bathrooms, and strangling bears with his own hands.

His goal, he said, is to stay in office until he’s 90. He’s been there since 1973. That’s another decade’s worth of Don Young stories for us. Read the story here. 


Senate candidate Sullivan’s giving Alaska some love

For Valentine’s Day, GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan released a radio ad, entitled “Love.” My favorite part is when he tells us how he fell in love with his wife, Julie, on first sight, and he fell in love with Alaska, first sight. “And, as my Marine Corps brothers know, I fight for the things I love.” That’s pretty good. Listen below:


Quote of the day: Message to Alaskans about ObamaCare and to Parnell on Medicaid expansion

From Kate McKee, a former journalist and current Wasilla resident:

As a Certified Application Counselor for the ACA in Wasilla, I can tell you that although there are still glitches on the website, most Valley people I have helped are able to get enrolled in a plan for $0-$200 per month and have much lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums than they ever would have gotten without the ACA. However, too many people are slipping into the “Medicaid hole” because Gov. Parnell has rejected the Medicaid Expansion for AK. They don’t make enough (money) to qualify for a tax subsidy and they can’t get Medicaid because of Parnell’s decision. These people include a woman diagnosed with cancer who is fighting for her life, a woman who can barely walk (even with crutches) and she has no idea what’s wrong with her because she can’t afford the diagnostic tests, and two extremely depressed (suicidal) men who have given up hope on ever getting the medical care they need. If you want to help these people get the coverage they need to survive, please email Gov. Parnell.

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Alaska’s AG supported Nevada’s gay marriage ban. Now Nevada calls ban unconstitutional.

On Jan. 28, Alaska state Attorney General Michael Geraghty signed on to an amicus brief in support of Nevada’s voter approved, gay marriage ban, which is being challenged by eight same sex couples. On Monday, however, the Nevada Attorney General decided to drop its defense of the marriage ban, and is now arguing that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The Nevada’s AG office told the Ninth Circuit, which was hearing the case, that other court decisions, particularly the Supreme Court’s decision last June in United States v. Windsor which stuck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, “signifies that discrimination against same-sex couples is unconstitutional,” and that the ban “cannot withstand legal scrutiny.”

In January, Alaska’s Geraghty had argued that there is no constitutional right to gay marriage. What happens to that argument now? Or, as Alaska state Sen. Hollis French asked: “If we were willing to follow them before are we willing to follow them now?”

Likely not. The brief, according to the Alaska Department of Law, just goes away.

In other gay rights news:

  • On Wednesday in Kentucky, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the state was constitutionally obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
  • Meantime, in Alaska, an amendment failed in the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans’ Affairs that would have granted same-sex couples who are in the military the same perks in applying for driving licenses as other couples. Republican committee co-chair Gabrielle LeDoux said she was going to wait until the Alaska court ruled on another gay rights issue before passing the amendment. “There’s no point in singling out this particular bill right now,” she said. Reps. Max Gruenberg and Neal Foster voted for the amendment. Reps. LeDoux, Pete Higgins and Shelley Hughes voted against it.

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3.3 million nationwide and more than 5,000 Alaskans signed up for ObamaCare

From the Washington Post:

The latest enrollment data from the Obama administration show that 3.3 million people have signed up for private health insurance through federal and state insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. This figure represents all enrollment from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1. It includes both people who have and have not paid their first month’s premium. Of those people, 1,146,100 selected their health insurance plans in January, meaning there was a 53 percent increase enrollment last month alone.

This includes more than 5,000 Alaskans.


Alaska-Japanese LNG partnership emerging

As members of the resource committees in the Alaska state Legislature are focusing on the mammoth, 40-year old dream of a large diameter natural gas pipeline, the relatively modest bullet line, or the Alaska Stand Alone Project, appeared to be moving along with a potential big investor.

The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp., charged with making the bullet line a reality, announced today that the Japanese Resources Energy Inc., or REI, is interested in making a multibillion dollar investment in the line, and buying a large amount of LNG—as much as 150 MMscf per day—from  the state.

According to AGDC, REI visited the Anchorage offices on Wednesday to give a presentation which expressed interest in “exploring opportunities to assist with the financing of the ASAP project.” The investments include an LNG facility, local storage, export terminal and ocean transportation assets.

REI, made up of large businesses and a bank in Japan, has been in Alaska for years, trying to establish relationships and work with Alaska’s government to enter into a joint agreement to sell the state’s North Slope gas to Japan.

In 2012, then DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan told the consortium that it should deal with AGDC. At the time, however, AGDC was, for various reasons, in no position to be dealt with. Now, however, the time appears ripe.

AGDC President Dan Fauske said that “REI would be an excellent anchor tenant” for the project as it heads to open season in 2015.

“Today’s presentation reaffirms our belief that we have a commercially viable project capable of delivering gas to Alaskans by 2020,” Fauske said.

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Gubernatorial candidate Mallott’s $230,000 campaign haul surprises some

According to his campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott raised $233,427 from October 2013 to February 1st, 2014, and received 1,100 individual contributions. Mallott will not file his official fundraising report until the deadline this weekend, but apparently wanted to get something out on the same day that Gov. Sean Parnell filed his report, showing that he had raised $407,253.

Mallott, who hasn’t been overly visible in Anchorage, did better than some pundits in Anchorage had been predicting. Anchorage based political consultant Marc Hellenthal, for one, was surprised and impressed, he said. He said that he didn’t believe that Mallott would raise more than $100,000, mostly because he’s run a relatively low-profile campaign.

Apparently, however, Mallott has been more active outside of Anchorage than many knew. According to his campaign, Mallott has been holding “Conversations with Alaskans” all across the state. His travels have been in keeping with his stump speeches, which have called on the state’s leaders to reach out beyond the power centers and to listen to all Alaskans.

“We’re going to run a spirited campaign that unites Alaskans around common values and common sense, and we’re off to a great start,” Mallott said in a press release.

Mallott is a young 70-year-old and has both business and political experience. If elected, he would be Alaska’s first governor of Alaska Native descent.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s unclear how much money Mallott spent getting those donations. His campaign didn’t immediately answer that question. Parnell still has more than $330,000 cash on hand.
  • As Mallott pointed out in his release, he raised more money than did Parnell during the comparable period when Parnell ran in 2010.
  • Because Mallott got into the race in October, Parnell had a six-moth fundraising advantage on him.

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Parnell raises more than $400,000 this election cycle

Gov. Sean Parnell filed his disclosure with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday morning, showing that he has raised $407,253 this election cycle, which ran from April 15, 2013 to Feb. 1 of this year. He spent $76,220, leaving him with a hefty  amount to spend on the race.

Parnell’s campaign said in a press release that about 93 percent of that money came from 1,100 Alaskan donors, who are limited to $500 donations per year.

“I am both grateful and humbled by the incredible amount of support shown by Alaskans,” Parnell said in the release. “Our message of proven leadership and opportunity for all Alaskans is resonating.”

The reports aren’t officially due until Saturday. The other candidates, independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott haven’t yet filed their reports. Neither was immediately available for comment.

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Groups target Senate candidate Dan Sullivan

Groups supporting Sen. Mark Begich were busy on Tuesday attacking the GOP candidate Dan Sullivan, who is the GOP fundraising front-runner, and appears to be the candidate to target. On Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a video of Sullivan walking down the street in D.C., talking to Republican strategist Mike Dubke. According to Sullivan’s campaign, he was simply in route to a breakfast meeting of the Ripon Society, a Republican group that promotes Republican principles.

Later on Tuesday, the Alaska based super-PAC Put Alaska First, which supports Begich, released its first attack ad against Sullivan. Jim Lottsfeldt, who is running the super-PAC, said it’s a $49,000 ad buy and is running throughout the state.

The ad targets Sullivan’s residency in Alaska, and makes much of his time away from the state. Sullivan’s campaign fired back, saying that the ad is proof that Democrats and Begich don’t value national service. “During the time in question, Dan left Alaska to serve our country in the War on Terror in the White House, in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice,”  Mike Anderson, Sullivan’s campaign spokesperson said in a statement.

Read the full statement here:

This new ad paid for by Michael Bloomberg and Begich-Obama’s special interest friends proves two things:  One, the Democrats fear Dan Sullivan most of all, and Two, Mark Begich and his cronies do not value national service.  During the time in question, Dan left Alaska to serve our country in the War on Terror in the White House, in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice.  Dan then returned to Alaska to faithfully serve Alaska as our Attorney General and as the Commissioner of Natural Resources.  Now is the time to put a warrior for Alaska back in the Senate.

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Legislature starts to question TransCanada’s role in building LNG line

5839204_mMembers of the Alaska state Senate are beginning to question whether or not TransCanada is the right company for the state to partner with to build a large diameter natural gas pipeline that all told could cost more than $60 billion. The pipeline, which would carry natural gas from the North Slope to tidewater that would be shipped as LNG, would be one of the largest construction projects in the world. Legislation being considered this session, introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration, would begin to bind the state with TransCanada for generations.

However, the state has not put the newly conceived LNG project up for bid. Nor has it appeared to consider other companies that might partner with the state to build the line.

“It’s not Exxon, BP and Conoco’s responsibility to see that the state is aligned and to protect our interests. We have to protect our interests with TransCanada,” said Sen. Bert Stedman during a Senate majority press conference. Other members of the majority, including Sen. Peter Micciche, said during the press conference that they will look hard at the partnership.

The administration has proposed legislation that would begin the process of building the natural gas pipeline, a project that’ s been in the works for over 40 years. The initial legislation is just a start, the administration has said. However, it’s a start with a start at binding agreements and a multimillion dollar price tag attached to it.

TransCanada and Alaska go back a long way, most recently when it was the company chosen by the legislature in 2008 to build a pipeline to go from Prudhoe Bay through Canada. It was the only company then that designed a project to fit specific “must haves” that were delineated by Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration.

In exchange, the company was entitled to receive $500 million of state money to allow it to get to crucial commercial agreements with the companies that own the lease rights to the gas—ExxonMobil, BP and Conoco– and companies willing to ship the gas. For various reasons, those commercial agreements all dissipated. Legal contracts that the state has with TransCanada, however, haven’t.

Some legislators are wondering if the state has stuck with TransCanada simply to delay potential legal issues.

Democratic Sen. Hollis French would like the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore the legal contracts the state has with TransCanada. So far, however, Senate President Charlie Huggins hasn’t assigned that bill to the committee.

“There’s discomfort in the Capitol about whether we’re getting shoehorned into this new gasline deal with a partner that didn’t deliver in the last deal,” French said. “What’s the cost of shopping around?” he asked.

Legislators have likened the relationship with TransCanada to a marriage. French continued with the metaphor. “It’s like we’re staying in the marriage for the sake of the children without knowing who the children are,” he said.

The state has hired various consultants to help it understand that contracts. However, the bulk of committee testimony so far has been used by TransCanada, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and BP, all of whose testimony appears to be coordinated.

Meanwhile, rumors persist that behind closed doors, some of the producing companies are also quietly questioning TransCanada’s role in the project.

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Correction: The original version of the story said that Sen. Hollis French was on the “Judicial” Committee. There is no such thing as a “Judicial” Committee. It’s the Judiciary Committee and Sen. Bill Wielechowski is now the minority member.


Crossroads bashes Begich over missing unemployment vote. AFL-CIO comes to his defense.

Karl Rove’s group, Crossroads GPS, is airing a radio ad in Alaska, bringing up a month’s-old story about U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s trip to Hawaii when the Senate was voting on an unemployment extension. Begich missed the procedural vote on Jan. 7 to deliver a speech to the American Aviation group, to meet Hawaii’s governor and to attend fund raisers. The missed vote was well covered when it happened. Begich said at the time that the Hawaii trip was planned well in advance of the procedural vote. (Listen to the ad here: Hawaii radio ad.)

In the ad, a narrator berates Begich for missing work to go to Hawaii. To the backdrop of Hawaiian music, the voice of a young man exclaims, “Surf’s up dude. Cowabunga!” And in a bit of irony, Crossroads, a group that supports Republicans, tells listeners to call Begich’s office to tell him we need a “fully funded unemployment extension,” an extension that Senate Republicans have been repeatedly blocking. Begich has voted repeatedly to extend unemployment benefits.

Alaska AFL-CIO issued a press release, defending Begich over the ad. “The hypocrisy of this ad is thick. Karl Rove attacking Mark Begich for not supporting working families is akin to me giving a lecture on hair styling and beauty products,” AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said.

Beltrami, it should be noted, is bald.

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Inside Edition gives taste of new Palin reality show

Palin spotsman imageAs many might have heard, the Sportsman Channel, which picked up the rights to the Iditarod, is also featuring a new Sarah Palin reality show, entitled, “Amazing America With Sarah Palin.” The show is debuting in April and is described like this: “Mrs. Palin will take us nationwide to find the people and places that share and reflect her passion for what makes our country amazing.” Nice work if you can get it. (From at least one of show’s promo pics, it also appears that Palin has a new hairdo!)

If two months is too long to wait, you can get your fix on Inside Edition, which will be doing a little inside the filming thing in Wasilla for Palin’s 50th birthday. You can catch it at 4:30 on Tuesday on channel 5. Watch the promo here.

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Senate candidate Sullivan has more contributors than Dems say, but still not enough.

On Friday the Alaska Democratic Party put out a press release about the number of Alaskans who contributed to U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s campaign. The Dems, quoting the Alaska Dispatch, said that Sullivan’s fourth-quarter FEC report shows that he only had 130 Alaska contributors. This is evidence, they say, of Sullivan’s tepid support in this state. Sullivan’s from Ohio, and has been back and forth from Alaska to D.C. since 1997, and his challengers have been trying to paint him as a carpetbagger.

Raising nearly $1.3 million, Sullivan leads the money race among the GOP primary-race contenders, and although he doesn’t have as much money on hand, he outraised incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, who raised about $850,000 during the last quarter. Although the percentages of total funds raised inside and outside the state were about the same for both, the release pointed out that Begich had more than 1,100 Alaska contributions during the same period.

The truth, however, is more complicated. According to his campaign, Sullivan actually had 320 Alaska donors, but because unlike Begich, the campaign didn’t list donors who gave less than $250 $200, those people don’t show on the FEC report.

Too, Sullivan doesn’t have nearly the same name recognition as does Begich and entered the race two weeks into the filing period.

Still 320 Alaskan donations is a small number, and the campaign needs to be more effective in reaching out to Alaskans if it wants to be competitive against Begich. From what I can tell so far, Sullivan’s campaign is still focusing its attention on attracting large, out-of-state donors. It’s only released one web-based ad and doesn’t appear to be as acitve soliciting Alaska donors as his competitors.

Begich, in the meantime, is aggressively sending out numerous fundraising appeals. Additionally, his campaign  has aired several radio ads, and third-party groups, including the National Association of Realtors, the American Chemistry Council, and Bristol Bay Native Corp., are airing ads thanking Begich for his support.

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The week in Alaska politics: Lily Stevens speaks out, Parnell charms and oilies don’t.

From my column that was published in the Anchorage Daily News on Sunday:

Republicans in their finery gathered a week ago Saturday night at the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage to celebrate Lincoln Day, courtesy of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club. All the usual suspects gathered: Gov. Sean Parnell, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who — with a top hat and a fake beard — looks amazingly like Lincoln. Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mead Treadwell sat with the governor, while his primary opponent, Dan Sullivan, sat with Rev. Jerry Prevo and his lieutenant, Glenn Clary. Even Joe Miller, the third member of the primary faceoff, showed. A certain low-level buzz follows Miller wherever he goes. Blame it on magnetism. Star power. Black helicopters.

Whatever it is, this was the pleasant Joe Miller. And he was well-dressed, more than can be said for at least one other politician in the room. Apparently, someone told mayoral candidate Dan Coffey that because he co-owns the Alaska ACES and was in charge of the ACES auction item, he should dress in ACES super-fan regalia. The gold beads for the games of “heads and tails” rounded out the image.

“This is embarrassing,” he said as someone in a tux walked by.

Parnell introduced Lily Stevens, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as the keynote speaker. Before that, if someone had told me Parnell could melt hearts, I’d have said the pot campaign must be going well. But there was a collective sigh when he quoted Lincoln: “(I)f all that has been said by orators and poets, since the creation of the world, in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice.”

Even Judy Eledge, one of the Alaska GOP’s grande dames, who’s likely heard all the praise and other things that a woman could hear, seemed to flutter.

Then it was Lily’s turn. The room erupted when she said, “I’m not going to mince words, my father should have never lost his seat.”

Another very different kind of fundraiser was held Thursday night at Cafe Del Mundo: This one for Anchorage Assembly candidate Pete Petersen, who used to be a Democratic state representative and doesn’t forget it. You can read all about what he did and what he would do if he were back in the House on his website.

Read the rest here. 

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Parnell plays with blunt honesty. Will we let him?

Like all politicians, and indeed like all of us, Gov. Sean Parnell has made his share of unfortunate comments. Mostly he’s been given a pass for his slip ups. However, one of them caught up with him on Friday, when it came out that he gave Ketchikan reporters a little lecture on realpolitik and appeared to be warning of retribution for a lawsuit that the city is involved in regarding school funding.

“I do want to address this issue of how the lawsuit is viewed by legislators and by me because it does shade or color the reaction to Ketchikan requests,” he told reporters. “When Ketchikan asks for money, but yet the state may be on the hook in the lawsuit for more money, there’s kind of a reluctance, or reticence, to step forward for other projects.”

It wasn’t the wisest thing to say, and it didn’t help that it was a slow news day on Friday, and that it’s an election year. Bill Walker, an independent candidate, jumped.

“Parnell has chosen the wrong time, the wrong issue, and the wrong people to show himself as a bulldog,”  Walker said. “We need a governor who knows when to go to battle and who he should be fighting for. The governor’s comments yesterday are a blatant, public attack on local government.”

On Saturday afternoon, Democratic challenger Byron Mallott, who doesn’t appear to have a rapid response team, also put out a release.

“The merits of the Ketchikan School funding lawsuit, education funding statewide and capital spending deserve careful and informed discussion and debate not threat or intimidation,” he said.

This likely wasn’t Parnell’s intent, but if nothing else comes out of it, it was a gift for Ketchikan. It’ll be awfully difficult now for Parnell to veto funds for the city.

Parnell might be uncurious and sheltered. He’s overly cautious and captive to his right flank. But despite Walker’s characterization, Parnell’s far from a “bulldog.”  And he shouldn’t try to be one, if that’s what he was trying to do, which I doubt.

If he was truly trying to intimidate, he wouldn’t be doing so through the media. Those are the kinds of things that happen in back rooms, through a legislative liaison maybe, or a chief of staff. If he were trying to intimidate, he would be doing so at arm’s length. Think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his bridge. Or, closer to home, Sarah Palin’s jejune hit squad, and the kind of fist thumping that characterized all of Frank Murkowski’s administration.

It seems to me that Parnell was trying to be honest, and for that, he’s paying a price, which is too bad. Rightly or wrongly, lawmakers will look askance at Ketchikan’s request for funds as the city sues for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to be a tough year, and everybody’s looking for excuses to withhold money. That’s just the way it is.

And given his historic abhorrence at budget cutting, this fact likely pains Parnell as much as anyone.

Not withstanding some of his policies—namely denying insurance to tens of thousands of poor Alaskans—Parnell, at his best, is a nice, Christian man who runs as squeaky clean of an administration as such a system allows. Sometimes, he’ll even forget the political ramifications and he’ll open up and be brutally honest. Sometimes we should let him.

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