Monthly Archives: April 2014

A first look at first quarter fundraising numbers in Alaska’s Senate race

The Federal Election Commission filings for the first quarter of the year are beginning to roll in and be analyzed. Here’s what some reporters in the national media are writing:

From the Huffington Post on Outside funding of Put Alaska First, the pro-Sen. Mark Begich super-PAC:

In advertisements to support Sen. Mark Begich (D), Alaska-based super PAC Put Alaska First has questioned the home-state credentials of the one-term senator’s opponents and critics. The group has cast potential Republican opponent Dan Sullivan as an interloper…But the pro-Begich Put Alaska First also relies heavily on out-of-state support, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Nearly all of its funds have come from the national Democratic group, Senate Majority PAC, and most of that money has been paid to a Democratic media buying firm created to work with Senate Majority PAC and other national super PACs.

Continue reading


First Lady Sandy Parnell’s Volunteer of the Year awards

First Lady Sandy Parnell announced the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Awards on Wednesday.  “We are so fortunate to live in a state where so many people dedicate their lives to helping others,” Sandy said. “I applaud these Alaskans for their service and encourage others to find ways to strengthen our communities through volunteering.”

The volunteers will be recognized at a luncheon and ceremony in May.

Below are the list of recipients:

  • Donene Amodo, Village of Akhiok: Volunteering with Green Dot, a violence-prevention program, and with Alutiiq Cultural Week, this lifelong Akhiok resident also gives her time as a community health aide and provides a “safe home” for children.
  • Phillip Ball, Eagle River: A top wish-granting volunteer for Make-A-Wish Alaska, Phillip helps children with life-threatening medical conditions. Last year, he granted 10 wishes to local children and their families. Phillip is a technical sergeant with the U.S. Air Force.
  • Robert “Beau” Bassett, Anchorage: For 15 years, Beau has grown the Alaska Points of Light Youth Leadership Institute and has raised money to keep the program growing and provide scholarships to students.
  • Darrel Hess, Anchorage: Darrel has devoted thousands of hours through numerous local programs and projects aimed at improving the neighborhood, including parks, roads, sidewalks, homelessness, and safety.
  • Erin “Rinny” Heywood, Juneau: Rinny is a driving force behind a “pay-it-forward” page on Facebook. She facilitates a grassroots effort to help others, with the site serving as a platform to run food drives in Juneau.
  • Bellanira “Deya” Imdieke, Dillingham: Serving on the board of directors for SAFE, the Safe and Fear-Free Environment shelter and advocacy center, for 18 years, Bellanira (Deya) has given nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer service each year during the past decade, also serving as a crisis line volunteer.
  • Cynthia Erickson, Tanana: Cynthia serves on numerous advisory councils and boards, and founded Tanana’s 4-H youth group, which gave a powerful presentation at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in 2013 regarding suicide, abuse and child neglect.

Loose Lips: The gossipy boys-on-the-bench edition

Loose Lips

  • Often times I roll my eyes at the Capitol building, boys-on-the-bench hallway chatter. For one, the bench warmers tend to be white males who make too much money and have too much time on their hands. Secondly, they use their time gossiping instead of say, doing something really useful like reciting poetry. But often they know what they’re talking about. Recently, some of the gossipers were talking about the most vulnerable legislator. The general consensus is that it’s Rep. Lindsey Holmes, who has two Democratic challengers: former Assemblyman Matt Claman and Clare Ross. They boys on the bench think that Holmes has a better chance against Ross than Claman. Indeed, Ross is campaigning hard, if campaign literature drop-offs are any indication.
  • Meantime, finding a challenger to Rep. Mike Hawker has become a project of Jeff Landfield’s. The young, impetuous Landfield is taking to Facebook, as is his wont, sending out a call for possible candidates to run against Hawker. What he has against Hawker is anybody’s guess, except that Landfield, who ran against Sen. Lesil McGuire in 2012, just won’t stop getting stuck on and into things. Just call him the tar baby of Alaska.
  • Moore and Landfield? I told you he doesn’t stop. And neither does she. Shannyn Moore has a new radio show which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fox News Talk Radio KOAN. The station is holding tryouts for a conservative co-host who can go “toe-to -toe” with Moore and “keep the left in check.” Landfield, is, of course, on the docket for Friday. Listen at 95.5 FM or 1080 AM.
  • Rumors are flying about the possibility of the tennis court money being re-appropriated by the Legislature.
  • Days until the election: 202.
  • Last week, GOP senatorial candidate Dan Sullivan announced that he raised $1.3 million in the first quarter of the year. I’m told that this week, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura each contributed $1,250 to his campaign.
  • The Republican National Committee’s six-city short list for their national convention is Cincinnati,  Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Las Vegas. If it’s Ohio, Sullivan can expect some “Welcome Home,” banners, courtesy of the national Democrats.
  • Does anybody else see some similarities between Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and the former chair of Alaska’s GOP Russ Millette? In the Melville story, Bartelby was fired from a law office because he had a breakdown. But he just wouldn’t leave. Millette, in a sense, was likewise fired from his position as chair, and he likewise refuses to leave, or at least to give up the title. On April 14, he signed an email to Sen. Mike Dunleavy as “Dually Elected Chairman of The Alaska Republican Party per April 2012 ARP Convention.” The email Millette sent as “Dually Elected Chairman” is about amending the constitution to allow for school choice. He urges Dunleavy to “seriously consider going with an Advisory Vote and get the school choice question on the August Primary ballot.” Last I heard, that idea had been floated around but quickly dismissed. Apparently Millette is too busy being chair of the party to have noticed that those who oppose school choice are far more organized than those who support it, and chances are, at this point, it would lose at the ballot box.
  • At at press conference last Sunday evening following passage of the minimum wage bill, the House Rules committee chair, Rep. Craig Johnson, suggested that he thought the session would likely go beyond the scheduled adjournment date of April 20th. “I can’t see how we can get out of here in time,” he said.
  • In my ADN column last Sunday, I said that City Hall-cum-bench-warmer rumor mongers were saying that Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan had been avoiding Juneau these last weeks because of the tennis court controversy. Sullivan himself responded to the rumor:

Amanda – you need better sources. I never go to Juneau during the last two weeks of the session – everyone is too busy. I have made three trips this year, most recently March 24th.

  • Richard Petersen of Kasaan was elected president of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. He replaced Ed Thomas who has lead the Southeast tribal government for nearly 30 years.
  • I know that the “breastfeeding is sexy” story is getting overplayed, including by me. But, as Rep. Shelly Hughes herself indicated, if there’s an “abundant” resource worth extracting, then by all means, we should. In that spirit, the press release that called breastfeeding sexy, was also offensive to at least one other person in another way. Hughes said that, among other things, breastfeeding, “could reduce anti-social behavior, incarceration and sex-trafficking” which produced the following tweets:



Contact Amanda Coyne at


Holmes’ bill levels playing field between public defenders and prosecutors

On Tuesday, the Legislature unanimously passed HB 262, introduced by Rep. Lindsey Holmes, which gives the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) and the Public Defender Agency (PD) latitude in contracting expert witnesses and other services to defend people who don’t have enough money to hire a private lawyer.

As it stands, when securing certain services like expert witnesses or contract lawyers, OPA and PD are required to put in a formal request for procurement. The Department of Law, which is the prosecutor, doesn’t have to, which can give the already powerful DOL an advantage. Also, the bill ensures that public defenders don’t have to get permission from the DOL to contract services.

Holmes has been mightily criticized for switching from Democrat to Republican in 2013. But it’s hard for a member of the minority to get a bill of any significance passed. So although her switch might have hurt the Democratic Party, in this case anyway, it appears to have been good for the public.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Parnell announces debate schedule

Gov. Sean Parnell’s re-election campaign confirmed that he will be participating in at least eight debates leading up to the general election in November, three of which will be before the primary election. So far, Parnell doesn’t have a Republican primary challenger. In the general he’ll be running against Democrat Byron Mallott and Independent Bill Walker.

“Our debate schedule, along with this early announcement, will ensure all Alaskans have an opportunity to learn about our goals for the next four years,” Parnell said in a release.

Indeed, it’s so early that it’s likely that many media outfits haven’t yet scheduled debates. So far, only two of the eight are debates hosted by media. Five of them are hosted by Chambers of Commerce across the state. Jerry Gallagher, Parnell’s campaign manager, said that Parnell is open to adding debates and that Gallagher is working with KTUU Channel 2 and Alaska Public Media to schedule them.

Primary Election Debates

  • April 28 – Anchorage, hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
  • April 30 – Anchorage, hosted by AARP in partnership with the Anchorage School District and the Alaska Retired Educators Association.
  • August 12 – Fairbanks, hosted by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.

General Election Debates

  • August 28 – Kodiak, hosted by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce.
  • October 1 – Ketchikan, hosted by the Ketchikan Daily News.
  • October 8 – Soldotna, hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce.
  • October 21 – Fairbanks, hosted by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.
  • October 28 – Anchorage, hosted by KTVA Channel 11 and the Anchorage Daily News.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Alaska state Rep. Hughes apologizes for calling breastfeeding “sexy”

On Tuesday, Rep. Shelly Hughes, a Republican from Palmer, apologized for her “poor choice of words” when she described breastfeeding as “sexy” in a press release about a resolution to encourage the practice.

The release, which has gotten a fair amount of attention, was sent to media on Monday night, and was headlined: “Smart and Sexy: Legislature Encourages Hospitals to Promote Breastfeeding.” The “smart and sexy” part was later dropped from the official release on the House majority website.

“My intent was to draw attention to this incredibly important issue. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of attention I hoped to receive,” Hughes wrote. “I take full responsibility for the headline. I apologize for the poor choice of words, and am sorry if I offended anyone.”

In addition to the sexy comment, Hughes, who is known for being colorful and playful on the House floor, also used interesting language to urge her colleagues to vote for the resolution.

“As a legislature forever fond of natural resource development, it’s time to endorse the extraction of this God-given, abundant and renewable natural resource,” Hughes is quoted in the release as saying.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Legislature passes bill that restricts abortions for poor women

On Monday, the Alaska state Legislature passed a bill that defines medically necessary abortion. The bill now heads to Gov. Sean Parnell’s office after the Senate voted to agree to strip family planning money from the bill. The vote was 13-7. Only one Republican, Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman, voted against the House version of the bill. Democrat Sen. Donny Olson, from Nome, voted for it with the rest of the Republicans.

The bill would only effect women whose abortions are paid for through Medicaid, which provides health care benefits to the poor.

The family planning money had been a source of contention and eyebrow-raising debate. Sen. Fred Dyson gave a speech on the floor in March, where he talked about doing research on condoms and concluded that women could access contraception in Alaska by having it air shipped to them. Republican Senator Pete Kelly said birth control is for women who don’t want to “behave responsibly.”

Most recently, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux said nobody in Alaska was without access to birth control. “Other than putting contraceptives in the drinking water, I mean we’ve done just about everything we can do as far as family planning services,” she said.

At stake was money for the Alaska Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which, if enacted, would be 90 percent federally funded, and according to Planned Parenthood, would eventually result in net savings to the state of $8.9 million per year.

Sen. John Coghill, a conservative from Fairbanks who has long been fighting to end abortion, said that he didn’t support the family planning money because that money would make its way to Planned Parenthood, which supports “population control” rather than family planning.

“(B)y removing the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the House made it clear that their only interest is restricting women’s pregnancy decisions – not promoting women’s health or reducing unintended pregnancies,” Jessica Cler, Planned Parenthood Alaska Public Affairs Manager said.

Planned Parenthood sued earlier this year against similiar regulations enacted by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


On night of lunar eclipse, House majority release calls breast feeding ‘Smart and Sexy’

6089097_sThe House majority press office is really busy this time of year. The media is particularly pesky. Bills and resolutions are getting passed, and with each one that does so, a press release goes out. Four releases went out Monday from the office. Sometimes the press office writes the releases. But usually, at least the shell of them come from the office of the lawmaker who carried the bill. The press office’s job is to check, proof, and disseminate.

One of them, which was sent out on Monday night about a resolution offered by Palmer Rep. Shelly Hughes encouraging breast feeding, said that the practice was “sexy.” In full the headline read: “Smart and Sexy: Legislature Encourages Hospitals to Promote Breastfeeding.” The “Smart and Sexy” part was taken out of the release that appears on the House Majority website.

The resolution encourages hospitals to implement a program called “The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

It’s unclear if either of the two press secretaries, who are both men, wrote the release or if it came directly from Hughes’s office. The press office wasn’t available late Monday night, and nobody at Hughes’s office answered the phone. It’s also unclear for whom breastfeeding is supposed to be sexy: The baby? The mother? The viewer?

“As a legislature forever fond of natural resource development, it’s time to endorse the extraction of this God-given, abundant and renewable natural resource,” Hughes is quoted in the release as saying.

In related news: A sexy blood moon was crossing the earth’s shadow on Monday night.

Contact Amanda Coyne at 


ObamaCare costs less than projected

The CBO on Monday said that ObamaCare will cost $104 billion less in subsidies than projected over the next decade. Obamacare’s lower-than-expected costs will come largely because premiums will be cheaper than previously thought. Republicans in Washington had no immediate response to the news. So far, more than 7.5 million Americans have signed up for ObamaCare. The three GOP Senate candidates in Alaska—Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell—have all vowed that they would work to repeal that law if they were elected. None have said what they would do with those who have signed up or with the many more millions of citizens who work for small businesses that don’t provide health care, or those with preexisting conditions who have been denied insurance benefits.
Continue reading


Mystery video illustrating Anchorage LIO deal

This video which is supposed to illustrate the Anchorage Legislative Office deal showed up in my inbox last week. I’ve asked around, but nobody is taking credit for it. It looks like it’s professionally made, but the facts are a little off. Rep. Mike Hawker and Rep. Bill Stoltze are named as the pigs in the video. The wolves are developer Mark Pfeffer and Bob Acree. To be fair, Stoltze had no more to do with the deal than did Democrats Rep. Max Gruenbert, and Sens. Lyman Hoffman and Dennis Egan. Other Republican House members who signed off on the deal include Craig Johnson, Lance Pruitt and Peggy Wilson. Senators included Kevin Meyer, Lesil McGuire, Dennis Egan, John Coghill, and Peter Micciche.

Continue reading


Sometimes we could all use a little Sen. Giessel sitting on our shoulder

You know how Wally Hickel used to talk about the little guy on his shoulder who guided him? More and more I’m feeling like we all have a little version of Sen. Cathy Giessel sitting on our shoulders, her little egg timer in one hand, her little finger on the mute button in the other.

Two minutes, exactly! That’s what she gave the public when testifying on HB 77, the bill that would radically alter Alaska’s water and land use laws to benefit mining and other commercial interests. A second more and they got muted.

Sen. Hollis French’s egg couldn’t even parboil during a committee hearing last week in Senate Resources. At issue was whether oil executive witnesses should take an oath before giving testimony. The U.S. Congress does it. Why not Alaska? Particularly as the industry has a history of, well, being a little creative with the facts.

Giessel chairs the committee and she can smell a trick from a mile off.

Here’s the conversation:

Giessel: As the chair it is my decision, and I’ve gotten a legal consultation on that.

French: I guess I’ll just — As a point of personal privilege I will say that …

Giessel: Sen. French, you are out of order.

French: The only …

Giessel: Brief at ease.

French: I’m going to keep talking …

And then she pushed the mute button. French was true to his word and continued to talk at a dead mic. What did he say? Maybe he borrowed the quote from “Les Misérables”: “If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned.”

“We are to conduct ourselves with some decorum,” Giessel said later on the Senate floor. Which for her apparently means that industry executives can talk as long as they like. But the public? Two minutes exactly. An elected official who’s a Dem? Your egg only gets seconds in the pot, politico.

And speaking of talk: With my own tiny version of Giessel and her timer sitting on my shoulder, every time I open my mouth to talk about the Alaska Dispatch buying the Anchorage Daily News, she pushes the button and I go mute.

But unlike French, I can’t even muster up the energy to continue to talk over her. I cry, instead. (Which she really doesn’t have a lot of patience with: “Decorum!” I can hear her say.)

They’re bittersweet, wishing-the-best-for-all movie tears. A movie, truth be told, into which I’ve written myself only a minor part. A writer who struts and frets her hour upon the page …

Kind of like what certain members of the minority in the Legislature must feel.

Word has it that Fairbanks Sen. Click Bishop, a Democrat dressed in, well, Democrat clothes but who claims to be a Republican, is trying hard not to play a bit part. Apparently, Click thinks the best way to do that is to be “Republican lite,” which might be backfiring on him. The word is that ugliness transpired in a meeting over his vote to change the way the Alaska Constitution picks our judges. The pressure is enough to make a grown man named Click tear up.

Pressure defines everything during the last week of session. Medicaid and abortion. The gas line. The ever-growing budget. The unions, led largely by AFL-CIO Prez Vince Beltrami, aka Baldtrami, are putting pressure on legislators to vote against an increase in the minimum wage, ironically enough. If it passes, it’s taken off the ballot in August. Then the Republicans can change it back and gut it, as they did in 2003.

And here’s the big one: if it stays on the ballot, it’ll draw folks out in August to vote for the oil tax repeal, which will also be on the ballot. Oilies don’t want that, and they’re pushing hard. Their argument de jour? Since there’s so much broad support for a minimum wage increase, why wait for August?

Or something like that. Last I heard, there’s pretty broad support for repealing the oil tax bill passed last session and for legalizing marijuana, also on the ballot.

Speaking of The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska, or TCTRMLAIA: There’s some debate over how to pronounce the acronym. The campaign chimed in, saying it sounds like “tic-tram-la.” Juneau Assemblyman Jessie Kiehl says to him it’s more like “tacit ramallah.”

In any case, the opposition to pot, led by former Democratic Party chair Deb Williams, supposedly met with talk show host Bernadette Wilson about joining the campaign to fight against party-planning treats.

And speaking of parties: There was a surprise going-away gathering for Sen. Fred Dyson in the Capitol. Even Gov. Sean Parnell, who rarely strays from his office on the third floor unless there’s a fundraiser on tap, showed up. Stories were told, as were non-condom jokes. Turns out the Guv was Dyson’s paperboy way back when The Anchorage Times was probably still around and this was a two-newspaper town.

Things got ugly for a while after the ADN won that war. I wasn’t around but I’ve heard some at the ADN weren’t as gracious as they might have been about winning.

People’s lives are wrapped up in what they do, particularly when they believe they’re fighting the good fight, as those who work for both organizations truly believe.

A very wise woman named Alice Rogoff once told me: “You’re going to do what you’re going to do, Amanda. The important thing now is how you do it.”

I didn’t listen then. I often wish I had. I hope everyone else involved does.

Finally, a huge congratulations to Sen. Anna Fairclough, who got engaged to John MacKinnon, the executive director of Associated General Contractors of Alaska. The ring is said to be lovely.


This piece was originally published in the Anchorage Daily News.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Already controversial minimum wage bill gets more so as it passes House

20140409_L&C_cmte_hb384_capture (1)From the beginning, the rushed minimum wage bill which passed the House on Sunday was controversial. It was only heard in one committee and was put on the floor 9 days after introduction. And a sign held in a committee hearing by Ed Flanagan, a former Alaska Labor Commissioner, made it all the more so.

In addition to being a former commissioner, Flanagan is also the chair of Alaskans for a Fair Minimum Wage, the group behind a ballot initiative that would raise minimum wage. During a House Labor & Commerce Committee hearing on the minimum wage bill, Flanagan held up a piece of notepaper onto which he had drawn a dollar sign.

He later said that he was trying to remind a member of the committee to ask about whether or not the bill had a fiscal note. House Speaker Mike Chenault and others in the majority however, saw something more nefarious in the works, which is clear from a speech that Chenault gave on the House floor, after passing out a picture of Flanagan holding the dollar sign.

“I see a man representing organized labor sitting in a committee room, flashing a dollar sign to elected members of this body as they deliberate the minimum wage bill,” Chenault said. “Let me remind you this man, one of the leaders of the group backing the minimum wage initiative, is a former commissioner of labor — a former public servant to the people of Alaska. He damn well ought to know better.”

And there’s more:

You all, and most Alaskans, remember those dark days. Lobbyists leaning over rails — federal investigations — corruption charges. We’ve worked hard to restore faith in a clean process; to restore dignity and integrity to this institution, to the Alaska House of Representatives — the people’s house. And now, this. I cannot, I will not tolerate even the appearance – I cannot, I will not tolerate the reality.

Confused? Here’s a few things you should know:

  • An initiative increasing minimum wage is slated to appear on the ballot in August, along with a repeal of an oil tax bill that was passed last legislative session.
  • The minimum wage initiative has broad support, particularly among those who might be inclined to vote for repealing the tax bill. And it will likely draw those voters to the polls.
  • Although they aren’t publically saying so, word is that the oil industry doesn’t want the two on the same ballot.
  • Those who support repealing oil taxes want it to stay on the ballot.
  • If the Legislature passes a minimum wage bill that’s substantially similar as the one slated to be on the ballot, the minimum wage initiative would disappear.
  • In 2003, the Legislature gutted a similar bill that was also passed to keep the minimum wage off the ballot.
  • Therefore, unions want to keep it on the ballot.
  • The corruption Chenault was referring to was in 2006. Read about it here.

Although they have stayed publicly neutral on the issue, it would appear that the biggest losers in all of this is the oil industry, which is trying to get the message out that it’s trustworthy. Even if it’s not true, if this passes, the perception will be that it pushed to circumvent the democratic process.

The bill is now headed to the Senate, where all eyes will eventually be on Rules Committee Chair Sen. Lesil McGuire. Rules is the last committee to see a bill before it ends up on the floor, or not. McGuire is union-friendly. It’s unclear how much this all means to the other members of leadership. If it’s important to them, it’ll be interesting to see how hard she fights to keep it in committee and off the Senate floor.

All Democrats except Neal Foster from Nome, and Ben Nageak from Barrow voted against the bill.

Republicans who voted against it are:

  • Gabrielle LeDoux and Bob Lynn, both from Anchorage.
  • Bill Stoltze from Chugiak.
  • Lynn Gattis from Wasilla.
  • Alan Austerman from Kodiak.
  • Cathy Munoz from Juneau.
  • Tammie Wilson from North Pole.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Loose Lips: The castration edition


  • The Anchorage Daily News on Saturday published a story about how Anchorage Sen. Lesil McGuire’s ballot missed arriving at the Division of Elections by the due date in the last muni race. According to the piece, her staff faxed in the ballot, but it didn’t go through. Then they tried again. Emails were exchanged. Phone calls placed. Lots of time was put into it. Lawmakers aren’t supposed to use their staffers time for things that aren’t directly related to state business except in “infrequent and unusual situations.” McGuire is running for lite gov. If she wins, she’ll be in charge of the Division of Elections. That she can’t get it together to vote isn’t going to go down very well with the electorate and will likely be used against her.
  • One of Mead Treadwell’s last remaining paid campaign employee, the quick witted, vituperate tweeter Fred Brown who was serving as his press secretary, resigned earlier this week. The RNC has hired him and dispatched him to Arkansas where he will be working with Rep. Tom Cotton in his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor which has become one of the most watched and tightest races of the campaign season. According to sources, Treadwell didn’t take too kindly to losing the gifted Brown.
  • Federal Election Commission reports are due no later than April 15th. Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan have both released their numbers and have raised $1.05 million and $1.3 million respectively for the 1st quarter of 2014. While Treadwell has not yet released his numbers, the buzz is that his take for the quarter could be less than 20 percent of what either of the leading candidates raised. No reports on Joe Miller’s campaign cash numbers, though I’ve been told fundraising is picking up.
  • Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan is said to be shaking up his campaign. Deputy campaign manager, Ben Sparks is now campaign manager. Additionally, the campaign has hired a political director, Phil Bartell, who is from Wisconsin and appears to be a disciple of Gov. Scott Walker. The former campaign manager, Ben Mohr who recently became a father, will be working on coalition building.
  • More on Joe Miller: I’ve been told that we’ll see a kinder, softer, more media-savvy Miller than what we saw in 2010. In his first public appearance of the campaign season at UAA, however, there was some debate whether or not his staff was going to let reporters who showed to be able to tape his talk to students. Unlike in the past, things didn’t get heated. But it still doesn’t bode well that he had to be reminded that when he’s running for office in a public place, the cameras and recorders can follow. With impunity.
  • About 100 people, including Sen. Mark Begich himself, showed up for the “Alaska Natives for Begich” gathering at CIRI’s headquarters in midtown Anchorage on Saturday. Pamyua provided the entertainment. The food included moose stew, moose and black cod soup, lots of salmon and lots of pilot bread. And Begich’s staff has to win the award for the most creative campaign giveaway yet: a bingo marker with his name on it.
  • Anyone close to the legislative process knows that legislative organization is never too far from the minds of our elected state officials. The current Speaker of the House, Mike Chenault, is the only legislator to have served three consecutive terms in that position. Now, some are speculating that we shouldn’t be surprised to see him serving in the same position, after the elections, when the next Legislature convenes in 2015.
  • Mayors from around the state descend on Juneau, off and on, during the last three weeks of the legislative session. Absent this year, during this time, has been Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan who in the past was a fixture in the halls of the Capitol at this juncture. According to sources, he’s staying out of Juneau during the closing days of the session because of the controversy surrounding the “infamous” tennis court appropriation from last year.
  • From the good amendment department: On Saturday the state Senate adopted an amendment offered by Anchorage Sen. Johnny Ellis that would prevent the use of eminent domain to destroy properties in the residential neighborhoods of Government Hill until a $350 million federal loan is approved. It’s the same loan that’s been denied five times in the past. The full bill is heading to the House, and rumor has it that because its passage is a priority for Senate President Charlie Huggins, and Speaker Mike Chenault has his own priorities, like the minimum wage bill, it might sit for a while until someone blinks.
  • And finally, even though it’s in a land way far away, who can resist a good political ad about castration? This one’s from Iowa, my home state, where a new Suffolk University poll of the Iowa GOP Senate primary shows state Sen. Joni Ernst narrowly leading wealthy business executive Mark Jacobs. The jump is being attributed to the ad. Enjoy, if you’re wired that way:

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Pro-Begich super-PAC defends ObamaCare and Begich’s vote

Put Alaska First, the pro-Mark Begich super-PAC, is running a 30 second television ad defending Begich on his vote for ObamaCare, something that he and other Senate Democrats have been playing defense on since they passed the bill in 2009.

The group, run by Anchorage based Jim Lottsfeldt, is spending $131,000 to run the ad across the state. The ad features Anchorage resident Lisa Keller, who describes herself as an Alaskan, a mother, a runner, and a breast cancer survivor.

“I was lucky. I beat cancer,” Keller says. “But the insurance companies still denied me health insurance just because of a pre-existing condition.

The end packs a punch: “Mark Begich fought the insurance companies, so that we no longer have to,” Keller’s voice-over says as she’s running next to the very recognizable Park Strip in Anchorage.

It’s powerful, because it’s a good ad, but also because there’s so few like it. As such, it will likely to be a model for others across the country who voted for the act.

All three of Begich’s Republican challengers—Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell, and Dan Sullivan—have vowed to work to repeal ObamaCare if they are elected to office. None of them have said what they would do about people like Keller and the thousands of other Alaskans and millions of Americans who had previously been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
Continue reading


GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan raised $1.3 million in first quarter

GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan says that he raised $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2014, leaving him with just under $2 million cash on hand. Sen. Mark Begich says that he raised $1.05 million during the same period, and has $2.8 million cash on hand.

The official reports are due to the FEC on April 15.

In the last two quarters, Sullivan has outraised Begich by about $700,000. The campaign said that it has “quadrupled our small donors to over 1,000 this quarter.” The campaign hasn’t said how many of those donors are Alaskans. In the last fundraising report, Sullivan’s campaign didn’t list the names of donors who gave less than $200.

Sullivan has been crisscrossing the state and the country raising money, helped in no small part through his family connections, his D.C. establishment credentials, and the fact that the RNC appears to have anointed him the candidate.

“Our growing momentum highlights the increased frustration with the fact that Mark Begich is a rubberstamp for President Obama’s liberal agenda, supporting his policies 97 percent of the time,” Sullivan said in a statement first given to Politico.

Neither Joe Miller nor Mead Treadwell, the other two Republicans running in the race, have released their numbers. Neither are expected to do nearly as well as Sullivan. In the last quarter, Treadwell only raised about $228,000. He had $95,000 in cash on hand, but he also had debts of $141,000. Miller only raised $30,490 in the last quarter.

Remember, though, Miller hasn’t officially kicked off his campaign, and he will use Sullivan’s money-raising prowess against him, which will likely have some effect among his tea party following. Already, Miller is saying that Sullivan “is just another big government crony capitalist,” and that his campaign is funded by “international finance,” and those who advocate “corporate welfare.”

According to Miller, those donors include former Chairman of the Board of the New York Federal Reserve, the CEO of Rockefeller and Company, the former President of the World Bank, and “numerous Goldman Sachs executives.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at