Monthly Archives: March 2014

Gasline legislation passes the Senate. Stedman votes no, details concerns in letter.

The Alaska state Senate voted 15-5 to pass legislation that would enable the large diameter, natural gas pipeline to move forward. The vote was 15-5. Four Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill. Democrats proposed 16 amendments–ranging from greater ownership in the line to a change in tax structure–all of which failed.

At anywhere from $45 to $65 billion, if built, it will be one of the biggest, most expensive projects in the world.

The proposal partners the state with BP, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips as well as Canadian pipeline company TransCanada Corp. It’s the latter partnership which appears to be the major concern for most who voted against it, including Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, who wrote the following letter detailing his concerns. The legislation now moves to the House. It’s not normally so, but in this case that chamber appears to be the more deliberative body.


Vets gathered to defend GOP Senate candidate Sullivan against ‘fishy’ residency claims

Seven veterans and one father of a vet who died while serving in Iraq gathered at the Veterans Memorial on the Anchorage Park Strip to defend GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, a Marine, against questions about his residency in the state.

Those who are questioning Sullivan’s residency “should be ashamed of themselves for attacking Dan Sullivan’s service to America,” said Daniel Juarez, who served with Sullivan in the Marine Reserves. He also said that those who are “attacking” Sullivan should “apologize to service men and women across the country.”

Sullivan is a Marine reservist who’s been in and out of active duty since 1993. Sullivan moved to the state in 1997. However, he was absent for seven years since that time. He left Alaska in 2002 to work at the White House and the State Department before coming back to the state in 2009. For two years during, from 2004 to 2006, he was called into active duty.

Because of his absence from Alaska, the pro-Begich super-PAC, Put Alaska First, has been airing ads questioning Sullivan’s residency claims. The most recent ad calls those claims “fishy.” Likewise, the Alaska Democratic Party, quoting an Anchorage Daily News story, says that Sullivan continues to “airbrush” his residency.

The campaign, as well as the veterans who had gathered on Tuesday, said that the time he spent away from Alaska, both in D.C. and while on active duty, was in service of his country following 9/11. Many who spoke said that they, too, had left the state for the service. They feel that an attack on Sullivan is an attack on them.

“I met Dan Sullivan while both of us were serving up here in the Marines and I understand the difficulty in having to relocate to serve your country,” said retired Marine Corps officer Casey Campbell.

Wayne Woods was there. Woods lost his son, Shane Woods, in Iraq in 2006 while serving in the Army. Shane’s name is on the memorial. Wayne came to show his support of Sullivan because Sullivan, he said “has the same values as my son.”

As I wrote on Sunday, Alaska is chock-full of veterans, and those who are supporting Begich would be wise to tread carefully here. In addition to potentially offending veterans in the state, the national Republicans will be using any statement by challengers perceived to be anti-veteran. Earlier this month, in another hotly contested Senate race, the right jumped on Arkansas’ Sen. Mark Pryor’s statement that challenger Rep. Tom Cotton is viewing his service in the military as an “entitlement.” Pryor described Cotton’s attitude as, ‘I served my country, let me into the Senate.’”

Sullivan himself was with his wife and three school-aged daughters on spring break.

Shortly after the press conference, Begich’s campaign issued the following press release touting Begich’s commitment to vets in the state:

“As a member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since 2009 U.S. Senator Mark Begich has fought to improve care and services offered to Alaska’s veterans with his unique understanding of rural and urban Alaska.

Begich’s record includes:

Alaska Territorial Guard – In 2009, Senator Begich successfully secured reinstatement of pension payments for members of the WWII-era Alaska Territorial Guard.

“Significant legislative victory for veterans” – The Disabled American Veterans called Begich’s push to establish advanced appropriation for veterans health programs “the most significant legislative victory of veterans in a generation.”

Extended TRICARE for Military Dependents – In 2011, Begich helped extended TRICARE services for dependent children of military members to the age of 26.

Waived Telehealth Copays – In 2012, Begich and Sen. Grassley’s proposal to waive copays for telehealth and telemedicine visits for veterans was signed into law.

Historic Rural Care Access – Begich followed through on campaign promise to help veterans access care closer to home by allowing rural veterans access to Native health facilities.

U.S. Navy Award – In February 2013, Begich was given the highest civilian award from the U.S. Navy, the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, for outstanding service and work on behalf of the Navy.

Gene Horner, Alaska veteran, agrees with Begich’s record of accomplishment and today lauded his efforts in the U.S. Senate:

Gene Horner – Retired Army Vietnam Veteran:

“Mark has personally been there for Alaska’s military families, from fighting in Congress, to working with the VA, when veterans need him he answers the call. He’s fought for Alaska’s military past and present including those who served our country before statehood. He listens to us both as veterans and fellow Alaskans and recognizes the sacrifices we have made. Mark has always been a fighter for Alaskans in uniform.”

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Correction: Sullivan has three daughters, not two, as the story originally said. Also, the timeline has been updated.


Loose Lips: House has sense? A new deputy at DOA. Vets speak out for Sullivan.

18955141_mKTVA Channel 11
put up Mayor Dan Sullivan’s picture on their website when they announced the Club for Growth endorsement. The endorsement actually went to the real Senate candidate, former Commissioner Dan Sullivan. This begs the question: if the media is confused, it certainly excuses others who are like-wise confused, particularly as Sullivan hasn’t yet exactly barraged the public with ads.

The Alaska House has sense? The Alaska state House on Monday voted unanimously to pass a “sense of the House”– basically a version of a resolution—condemning EPA chief Gina McCarthy’s comments about gifts she received while visiting Alaska. Specifically, she told a Wall Street Journal reporter that a gift of moose given to her by an Alaska Native girl “could gag a maggot,” Also, after she was given a pin by the mayor of North Pole, she “threw the f…ing thing away.”

The resolution doesn’t go far enough for some. Rep. Bob Lynn, who isn’t retiring, ever, wants her fired. For his part, Gov. Sean Parnell’s campaign posted a picture of him and his COS Mike Nizich, dressed in camouflage, lording over a hopefully-recently shot moose.

House Finance Co-chair, Alan Austerman’s daughter, Carol Austerman, made it official today: She’ll be running for the seat her father will be vacating.“Growing up in a family involved in state and local government, I have been raised to know the importance of public service and providing leadership – it is part of my heritage,” she said in a release.

Why is the former executive director of the Democratic Party, Deborah Williams, involved in trying to kill pot legalization? She was seen at the UAA debate on the upcoming initiative, manning the table for the national anti-legalization group, Project SAM, short for “Smart Approaches to Marijuana.”

SAM might have some pretty good arguments to keep underground one of the most available, and relatively harmless drugs out there. However, if the battle revolves solely on names, my money’s on the pro-pot group: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, or TCTRMLA, for short. After all pith, like the War on Drugs, is so 1990s.

Gov. Sean Parnell continues to raise money, holding several events last week, ending the week with an event on Friday at the Embassy Suites in Anchorage and a Sunday brunch in Girdwood. Those in the know say both events had respectable crowds.

From the annals of once-a-state-worker-always-a-state-worker: Former Alaska state Sen. John Torgerson is the new acting director of the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward.

Some Anchorage Assembly candidates will go to great lengths to get voters’ attention. Perched in the snow on Saturday in the median strip on Minnesota at the Northern Lights intersection sat Phil Isley waving his political signs.

Early voting has begun for the muni election.

Former Gov. Bill Sheffield is having a fundraiser for Dan Coffey on Tuesday, who’s running for Anchorage mayor in the 2015 election.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was hoping to get a $750,000 budget increase even though the agency had $660,000 unspent from the previous year. Surprisingly, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, which tends not to have big love for regulators, or big spending, wrote a letter in support of the increase.

Don Habeger is now the new deputy commissioner of the Department of Administration. Habeger come from Commerce, where he was the former director of Corporations, Business and Professional Licenses.

Lite gov. candidate Bob Williams has a web video up. With yeasty props, even.

It’s odd, isn’t it, that once you announce that you might take a run against an incumbent governor, then some people begin to give you wide berth. Even those who used to embrace you. Enter Brad Keithley, who hasn’t been to Juneau once to testify this session on oil and gas issues. For the last few years, he was practically a fixture there. It’s a shame, because he has an interesting power point on the gas line just in case. Legislators might learn a few things from it. Late addition: Keithley is scheduled to speak that the MatSu Business Alliance on Friday.

An announcement from Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s campaign:

Tomorrow afternoon, (Tuesday) Alaska veterans will speak out against the shameless attacks on Dan Sullivan leveled by Senator Mark Begich’s SuperPAC.

Earlier this week, a SuperPAC affiliated with Senator Begich’s reelection efforts launched their latest attack ad against Dan Sullivan.  During the period of time that is referenced in the ad, Dan Sullivan was working in the service of his country.  The new ad “Fishy” follows the same trail as “Home” to attack Sullivan’s time in the US Marine Corps, the White House and U.S. State Department.

WHAT: Veterans speak out against latest Begich SuperPAC ad attacking Dan Sullivan

WHERE: Anchorage Veterans’ Memorial – Delaney Park, Anchorage, AK

WHEN: 1:00pm AKDT (Tuesday)

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The RNC’s ‘Growth and Opportunity Project’ comes to Alaska

A year ago today, the Republican National Committee launched a new initiative with a name that only a committee could love. The goal of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” is to expand the party, with a focus on reaching out to women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Pacific Americans. According to those who pushed for the project, the party “has to stop talking to itself.” It urged Republicans to try to “engage with voters who don’t always identify with Republicans.”

To that end, the RNC has hired field directors throughout the country. Michael Shirley has been assigned to Alaska since September. And though he’s not talking to some of the best Republican consultants in the state — namely Art Hackney and Marc Hellenthal — he is speaking at Republican district conventions and working with party people.

The RNC has also launched a six-figure cable and digital ad buy as part of a “Create Your American Dream” campaign. It features the GOP’s version of diverse Americans, none of whom appear to be Alaskans, talking about what issues matter to them and why they choose to vote Republican. The ads will run in 14 states, including Alaska. Watch for it on a webpage near you, and be prepared to think, “Why am I watching an ad by people who don’t look anything like me or my neighbors, telling me about why they’re Republicans?”

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The week in politics: Parnell’s light is dimming, Palin drama, and the culturally sensitive left

Until recently, Gov. Sean Parnell has had a relatively soft ride, with the public and Alaska media taking it comparatively easy on our well-coiffed, unassuming governor. The one who declared during his 2008 race against U.S. Rep. Don Young that “I just want to be a light.” A little odd, and he wasn’t elected, but it sounded good. Who doesn’t like light?

Besides, after Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin, hiring someone whose highest aspiration was to be a light sounded relaxing. Like sitting on a beach in California, where perhaps he met the oil industry exec he wanted to appoint to sit on a board that decides the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline and how much local taxes the oil companies pay. Where else would he have gotten the name? Parnell won’t say.

All we know is whoever sits on the board has the ability to cost or save the oil companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

Anyhow, after a sudden storm of apparently unexpected public outrage, the Californian withdrew his name and flew back to the light.

And that’s not all: The governor also appointed a former Exxon Mobil executive to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. You know, the one that is going to partner with Exxon Mobil to manage Alaska’s share of the gas line? This one lives in Texas, where there’s also lots of light.

Then there’s HB 77, which came from the governor. In the Senate Resources Committee, more than 100 people from across the state gathered at legislative offices to testify against it on Wednesday. For 90 minutes, fishermen and tribal leaders, environmentalists and sportsmen spoke against the bill.

“Please kill this bill now and send a Senate resolution to Gov. Parnell asking him to apologize to Alaskans for introducing this ‘Muzzling Alaskans Act,’ ” said 64-year-old fisherman Eric Jordon of Sitka. Legislative offices across the state erupted in cheers. They came back and did it again on Friday.

More stormy forecasts: School choice, which Parnell was willing to fight for until he wasn’t, appears dead, and the women’s groups and socially liberal independents are beginning to organize over abortion.

In short: Parnell’s light increasingly looks like it’s coming from one of those energy-efficient bulbs.

Parnell’s response to all of this? Bash the EPA over a mine, not, it should be noted, over the comments that the EPA chief made about throwing away a “f…ing” pin that was given to her by a North Pole official, and saying that a gift of moose meat that she got from an Alaska Native girl “could gag a maggot.”

Perhaps we need Don Young to give Washington bureaucrats a seminar on class and manners, especially when boorish bureaucrats deal with civilized people who were on the land before there was a Washington.

Speaking of the culturally sensitive left: The environmentalists are coordinating a campaign against Lisa Murkowski over her fight to build a potentially life-saving road between King Cove and Cold Bay. They claim that she is “politicizing real medical emergencies.” Got her on that one. Yep. She’s a politician. And yep, she’s fighting for a road through a slice of a wilderness refuge in order to save lives. But birds, apparently, are more important than people who eat things that “could gag a maggot.”

Lightening up, here’s one for you: There’s talk about a brewing custody fight between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston. Word is that Bristol has taken the child, contrary to a court order, to Arizona. At least we know they aren’t going to be traveling through the Southwest in the Palin RV, up for sale for $279,000.

Gov. Parnell might think about buying it. There’s a sunroof in the bedroom that allows the light to flood in.

Last week in this column, I wrote it had been rumored that my favorite Facebook poster, Rep. Bob Lynn, would be retiring after he got his bill on immigration and driver’s licenses passed. As you-know-who might say, au contraire, mon cher. Lynn isn’t going anywhere. Never.

Former Knowles chief of staff Jim Ayers has signed on as an adviser to Byron Mallott’s campaign. And this is a little late in coming but independent candidate Bill Walker hired rural adviser Paulette Schuerch from Kotzebue. Nancy Peterson, most recently from Unalaska, is his campaign manager.

In the lieutenant governor’s race: Energetic Wasilla math teacher and Democratic candidate Bob Williams spent his spring break pushing a new poll that he commissioned that shows he has a chance, pressing the flesh wherever he went.

On to the mighty Senate: GOPers are wondering if Joe Miller is going to attend the Republican state convention. Big endorsements for DNR Dan this week: Club for Growth and the Alaska Associated Builders and Contractors, though what he’s doing with all this support is anybody’s guess. Finally, my deepest sympathy to Mead Treadwell over the death of his brother-in-law.

The Anchorage Assembly race is heating up. Pete Petersen is getting lots of love from the unions, at least two of which are putting at least $50,000 into his campaign. Word is that incumbent Assemblyman Adam Trombley’s comparatively disorganized business supporters are scrambling to raise PAC funds. A Friday night fundraiser featuring Sen. Lisa Murkowski should help.

Finally, whoever wins which races, it probably won’t be someone like Fairbanks Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts, who tried to get the Fairbanks Co-op Market to no longer carry Ms. Magazine.

Perhaps he’d benefit from a little enlightening here: Not only do women now have the right to vote, they exercise it.


This column was first published in the Anchorage Daily News 

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Pro-Begich super-PAC calls Sullivan’s residency ‘fishy.’ Sullivan hits back.

Retired Air Force General Joe Ralston, who is a former NATO commander and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to an ad released on Sunday by the pro-Mark Begich super-PAC, Put Alaska First. The ad questions GOP U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s Alaskan residency.

“It’s disappointing and shameful for anyone to attack Dan for leaving Alaska to serve his country after 9/11,” Ralston, who is a Sullivan supporter, said.

The ad, entitled “Fishy” begins: “Dan Sullivan, his claims of being an Alaskan just got fishier.” It says that Sullivan, while claiming to have been a 10 year resident of the state in 2013, checked the “non-resident” box when applying for a fishing license in 2009. Fish and Game’s rules for residency are different than other residency requirements. To qualify for a resident license, you have to be physically present for a year and not claim residency in another state.

Sullivan moved to Alaska in 1997. He left the state in 2002 to work for the National Security Council. He was called to active duty in the Marines between 2004 to 2006. He then worked for the State Department until 2009, when he moved back to the state to be Alaska’s attorney general, and then the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.

While away, he owned a house in Maryland, which the ad mentions.

“This is clearly a coordinated effort on the part of national Democrats to attack Republican candidates for their service, and distract from their record of supporting Obamacare and President Obama’s failed agenda,” Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said in a statement.

Those who are supporting Begich would be wise to tread carefully here. Republicans will be using any statement by challengers perceived to be anti-veteran. Earlier this month, in another hotly contested Senate race, the right jumped on Arkansas’ Sen. Mark Pryor’s statement that challenger Rep. Tom Cotton is viewing his service in the military as an “entitlement.” Pryor described Cotton’s attitude as, ‘I served my country, let me into the Senate.’”

Pryor, like Begich, is a Democrat running reelection in a red state. Neither are veterans. And their campaigns at times appear to parallel each other. Increasingly, Cotton and Sullivan’s campaigns also have similarities and national groups will likely use similar strategies to advance the candidates.

Sullivan’s campaign released the following timeline of his service:

May 2006—January 2009: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs, Washington, D.C.

December 2004— April 2006: Active Duty Marine Corps, staff officer to CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid

August 2002—December 2004: Director, International Economics Directorate of the National Security Council and National Economic Council staffs at the White House, Washington, D.C.

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The latest in battle of ads between Koch brothers and Begich

The Koch brothers are firing back against an ad released last week by Sen. Mark Begich. In its response to that ad, Flint Hills Resources, which is owned by the Kochs, is accusing Begich of making “misleading and false statements” about them and their refinery in North Pole, Alaska. Koch Industries announced last month that it was pulling out of Alaska. The fate of the refinery is unknown.

The Koch ad is the latest salvo in an escalating war against Begich that has been being waged even before the current election season.

Here’s a little background on the latest battle: The Koch brothers’ funded political group has been airing ads, accusing Begich, among other things, of supporting a carbon tax, which would hurt Koch Industries. Among Koch Industries holdings is a refinery in North Pole, Alaska. While waging the ad campaign on the carbon tax, Koch Industries announced that it was pulling out Alaska. Begich used the first commercial of his campaign to point out that he does not support a carbon tax. Also, the ad says that we shouldn’t trust the Kochs, whose refinery left “a mess.”

The refinery has left about 300 households and businesses with tainted water, and a sulfolane plume that’s 3 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. About 80 people who worked at the refinery are at risk of losing their jobs, and other entities, including the Alaska Railroad, also relied heavily on the refinery and are now considering layoffs.

For more detailed background read here and here.

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Sarah Palin to start her own digital video channel

A solid news site, Capital New York, gets the scoop on Sarah Palin’s upcoming video channel, called “Rogue TV,” which is expected to launch in April or May:

Fox News contributor and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will be launching her own digital video channel, tentatively called “Rogue TV,” a source familiar with the project told Capital. The channel will be available through Tapp, the digital video service founded by former CNN chief Jon Klein and former NBC Universal entertainment executive Jeff Gaspin. Subscriptions will cost $10 per month. Rogue is expected to launch in April or May, and it would be one of the first of the digital channels offered by Tapp. Palin’s channel will feature video commentaries from the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, discussing current events and political issues.

Continue reading here. 


Quote of the day: Don Young also gags

As hoped for, Rep. Don Young weighs in on Gina McCarthy’s comment that a gift of Alaska moose given to her by an Alaska child “could gag a maggot.”

Do you know what makes me gag? The EPA’s continuous assault on our state; whether it be blocking offshore air permits in Alaska for years, making it difficult for our power plants to operate, harassing our fishing fleet over deck wash and fish waste, or attempting a grab of Alaska’s lands. This just goes to show the EPA truly doesn’t understand our state and the people that live here. Gina McCarthy’s words sound like they come from someone who has contempt for, rather than an appreciation of, the rich customary traditions of Alaska’s people. Maybe the placer miners in Chicken, AK will invite her in for dinner during the EPA’s next raid and she’ll like what they’re serving a little better.


Young works to secure USF dollars for rural Alaska

I haven’t written about Rep. Don Young for a while, and don’t have much of an idea what he’s up to. He did send a press release out today about meeting with the FCC chairman. The meeting, according to a press release issued by his office, “focused around finding new ways to serve rural and tribal areas across the country. The conversation included discussions on how to maintain a strong and robust Universal Service Fund (USF) and how to uphold the federal mandate of universal service,” the release said.

The Universal Service Fund is a charge on every phone bill that helps subsidize costs of telecommunications in rural America. It should be noted that the FCC classifies all of Alaska, with the exception of Anchorage, as rural. Therefore, the USF fund is more important to Alaska than to any other state in the country.

Recently, with the help of Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska based GCI and Copper Valley received $41 million as part of the fund to increase cell phone and broadband access to tribal areas in the state.

Meantime, according to Newsweek, other telecom giants are scaling back on promises to connect rural America:

After making a big, bold promise to wire every corner of America, the telecom giants are running away from their vow to provide nationwide broadband service by 2020. For almost 20 years, AT&T, Verizon and the other big players have collected hundreds of billions of dollars through rate increases and surcharges to finance that ambitious plan, but after wiring the high-density big cities, they now say it’s too expensive to connect the rest of the country. But they’d like to keep all that money they banked for the project.

Read more here.

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What would the left say if EPA ‘could-gag-a-maggot’ chief were a Republican?

The left is keeping with the worst of its tendency to resort to labeling Republicans as racist or bigoted when they say something they don’t agree with, and yet remains silent when their own says something insensitive. Most recently, it’s going after Rep. Paul Ryan for this comment made during an interview: 

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

Ryan has since apologized.

Imagine what the left would say if Ryan visited one of those inner cities, accepted a gift of food from a child prepared by the child’s family, and later told a Wall Street Journal reporter that it was food that “could gag a maggot.”

From what I can find, there’s been absolutely no condemnation of the EPA chief Gina McCarthy’s remarks from the culturally sensitive, non-racist left.

Alaska state Rep. Doug Isaacson, a Republican from North Pole, offered a resolution on the House floor condemning the EPA chief’s remarks and calling for her dismissal. He withdrew it due to technicalities but plans on reintroducing the resolution.

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State of the U.S. Senate

resized senate map

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Speaking of primaries, it’s been fascinating to watch the GOP contest in Alaska, where Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) started as the favorite but has been such a mess that the nomination is now former state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan’s (R) to lose. In fact, a couple Republican operatives separately told us that if Treadwell continues on in the primary, the distraction could cost Sullivan the seat. Also planning to run in the August primary is Joe Miller, the Republican nominee who lost to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R) write-in campaign in 2010. GOP leaders aren’t worried about Miller winning the nomination, but a three-way race could further bog down Sullivan. Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Begich (D) is, we believe, a formidable incumbent whose biggest problem remains the Last Frontier’s significant Republican lean.


EPA chief McCarthy apologizes after saying Alaska moose meat gift ‘could gag a maggot’

From the Wall Street Journal, on EPA chief Gina McCarthy’s comments while in Alaska meeting with Bristol Bay tribal groups about Pebble:

She has been surprised by the government’s ethics bureaucracy and its gift guidelines, remarking how officials chased her down for a dinky North Pole pin someone gave her at an event (“I threw the f—ing thing away,” she told them), and for a jar of moose meat that “could gag a maggot” she accepted from a little girl during a hearing in Alaska.

McCarthy offered an apology to the Alaskan delegation of the National Congress of American Indians at a conference in Washington, D.C., who appeared to grudgingly accept it.

GOP senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s campaign used the comments to bash Begich. “After 5 years in the Senate, Senator Begich’s inability to educate his democratic colleagues in Washington about the uniqueness of Alaska continues to be on full display,” Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said.

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Parnell under fire. His pick for SARB withdraws name, goes back to California.

As I predicted would happen, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Dennis Mandell withdrew his name to sit on the State Assessment Review Board, the board that values the trans-Alaska pipeline for tax purposes.

Gov. Sean Parnell has drawn fire for appointing Mandell, a Californian and a former oil industry executive. Parnell has offered no explanation as to why he had to go to California to find a qualified board member. Likewise, he’s offered no explanation as to why he fired the former board member, who fought to raise the assessed value of the pipeline, resulting in millions of tax dollars for Alaskan communities.

A state law says board and commission nominees must be registered Alaska voters. The Alaska Constitution says that such boards must be filled by U.S. citizens, which Parnell used to defend the appointment. He continued to do so even as members of his own party began questioning the legality of the appointment. His intransigence, from someone who isn’t known to be so, is puzzling.

This has not turned out to be the smoothest session of Parnell’s tenure. It looks like school choice, which Parnell supported, is dead for now. Women’s groups and socially liberal independents are beginning to organize over abortion. And Parnell’s bill to streamline DNR’s ability to permit is under intense attack. More than 100 people from all across the state gathered at legislative offices to testify against HB77 on Wednesday. For 90 minutes, fisherman and tribal leaders, environmentalists and sportsman, spoke against the bill. Many of them with an intensity and anger rarely seen.

The comments of Eric Jordon, a 64 year old fisherman from Sitka, were reflective of the testimony. “Please kill this bill now and send a Senate resolution to Gov. Parnell asking him to apologize to Alaskans for introducing this ‘Muzzling Alaskans Act,’” he said. The crowd gathered at the Sitka Legislative Office building erupted in cheers.

Parnell, a former ConocoPhillips lobbyist, who is running for reelection against Democrat Byron Mallott and independent Bill Walker, should be worried about upsetting so many Alaskans. And he should be worried about looking like he’s too close to industry right now. His major accomplishment so far—lowering taxes on the oil industry—is on primary ballot for repeal. I’ve been told that polls indicate that the vote, if held tomorrow, would be close.

On Thursday, Mallott took advantage of the situation. He sent out the following mock state board appointments form:

Board on which you would like to serve:
Employer (circle one)
ConocoPhillips Exxon Shell BP
Occupation (circle one):
Lobbyist Oil Industry Consultant Oil Executive
State of Residence (Alaska not required):

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