Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bill Walker’s role in bringing the National Guard sexual abuse story to light

Sometime last fall, two chaplains with Alaska’s National Guard knocked on independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker’s door. They had something to say about rampant sexual abuse in the Guard, and they didn’t know where else to go. They had tried everything else. They even broke ranks and went to Gov. Sean Parnell years before, in 2010. They waited. Nothing happened.

One of them knew Walker from church. He started telling Walker about what he knew and what has since been reported. Female Guard members were getting sexually assaulted and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

There’s been a nasty rumor going around that Walker knew about the sexual assaults, but that he also sat on the information. After I heard the rumor, I asked to speak with Walker about what happened.

While it’s true that Walker didn’t have an easy answer for the chaplains, it’s untrue that he didn’t do anything. He did what he knew how to do to get the information out to the public and to get the abuse to stop.

When the chaplains came to Walker, he was already a candidate for governor, and he knew that if he made an issue of it, he risked it turning into a political story, he said. And if that happened, there’s a chance that the story itself would be minimized.

“I was horrified,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. But I knew something had to be done.” So shortly after the chaplains left, he picked up the phone and called former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker for advice. He then flew up to Fairbanks to talk to Whitaker.

Whitaker, who confirmed Walker’s account, told him that he’d handle it and that he had a good relationship with a trusted reporter. Weeks later, the first story by McClatchy reporter Sean Cockerham appeared in the Anchorage Daily News about the abuses.

Whitaker confirmed that he called Cockerham and provided him information. As is standard policy with reporters, Cockerham would neither confirm nor deny that Whitaker was a source.

The story that Cockerham chronicled shocked many in the state. It said that at least 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. As of October, no one had been charged or prosecuted.

It also said that the chaplains had come to Parnell in 2010—presumably the same ones who came to Walker three years later—to ask for help. According to the story, one member of the guard, Lt. Col. Ken Blalock had about 15 victims come to him. He also said that he told Parnell and the Anchorage Police about the issues, and got his “butt chewed” for going above his chain of command by the head of the Guard Gen. Tom Katkus.

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

Also following the article, the Alaska National Guard revealed that a dozen soldiers face administrative charges of sexual misconduct, including four sexual assault cases.

In late February, Gov. Parnell called on the federal government to help investigate the issue. He said that prior to the time, the information he received was too vague to call for action. However, in February, he talked to a “specific person who was able to make specific claims about what went wrong.” Within 24 hours, he went to the feds.

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So many reasons for McGuire?

Here’s a web ad from Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire, who’s running for lieutenant governor.

The singer is Sarah Page, a South Anchorage McGuire constituent. It’s cute, and catchy, except the music and the visuals are nearly identical to this other video about how many ways there are to die. This is how this one starts:

Set fire to your hair

Poke a stick at a grizzly bear

Eat medicine that’s out of date

Use your private parts as piranha bait

We’ll see where this one goes.


Begich’s new beautiful campaign ad

Below is Sen. Mark Begich’s latest campaign ad. Like his other ones, it’s beautiful and it features a real person who pulls at your heart. The real person in this one is Terry Tagarook, who lives in Wainwright, and who now can get VA-reimbursable health care at his local clinic. Begich takes credit, but Murkowski worked the issue also.

Why don’t other campaign commercials do it like this? It is just that the Democrats make better ads than Republicans?


Lt. gov candidate Sullivan says he’d invade ANWR

From Andrew Sheeler’s story about Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s visit to Ketchikan. Sullivan’s running for lieutenant governor:

“If I was governor today, I’d probably invade ANWR. I mean, what are they going to do, shoot you?…Well they might, but you know, martyrdom goes a long way sometimes.”

Sullivan declined to offer his stance on same-sex marriage, which Alaska voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban in 1998. That ban recently was challenged in federal court by five Alaska same-sex couples…Citing his potential involvement in litigating the matter or overseeing a related ballot initiative if elected lieutenant governor, Sullivan declared his neutrality on the subject at the Chamber lunch.

That neutrality didn’t extend to this year’s crop of initiatives: Sullivan said he is opposed to initiatives to repeal SB21, Parnell’s signature oil-tax reform law; legalize and regulate marijuana much as Colorado does; raise the minimum wage in Alaska to $8.75 an hour in 2015 and $9.75 in 2016; and bar the Pebble Mine project from going forward.


Unequal pay at the New York Times and elsewhere

The right, which sees the New York Times as an organ for the Democratic Party, is having a schadenfreude shindig over the unceremonious firing of the paper’s first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, particularly as details on the discrepancy in pay between her and her predecessor comes out. It’s akin to the way the Republicans reacted when they learned that Sen. Mark Begich, who was a vocal supporter of equal pay laws, paid his female staffers less than his male staffers.

From the New Yorker about the pay differential:

As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman.


New group forms to counter Koch brothers

American Bridge 21st Century– the group that has hired that guy to come up and follow GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan around with a camera – announced a new national digital/research/rapid-response project aimed at the Koch brothers and those who the brothers are supporting.

Here’s the YouTube ad that went out with the announcement of the group’s formation:

According to a memo leaked to Politico, the Koch brothers funded political arm, Americans for Prosperity, intends to spend $125 million on the upcoming midterm elections. Americans for Prosperity has already spent $2.5 million attacking U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. It gets confusing, however, because Begich himself is the only Senate candidate, including among the three Republican challengers, to whom the Koch brothers have donated. In 2010, they gave his leadership PAC $5,000.

David Brock, the founder of American Bridge, called the group’s new effort a “research-and-communications, first-of-its-kind war room that’s targeting the Koch brothers and also the GOP candidates who are benefiting from their … spending.”

In related Koch brothers news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday called for amending the U.S. Constitution to bar big money donors, like the Koch brothers, from unlimited donations to super-PACs.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


PPP poll on oil taxes

I missed this in my earlier coverage of the wide-ranging PPP poll: Question 1: If the election were today, how would you vote on SB 21 referendum?:

  • Yes: 45 percent
  • No: 34 percent
  • Undecided: 21 percent.

A few things to keep in mind: It was a poorly conducted question. I’d wager that not many in the public know what SB 21 even is. (For those who don’t: it’s the oil tax repeal.) Also, PPP has been problematic in the past. However, the polls number in the Senate race track generally consistently with other poll numbers released.

I’ve tried to get a response from those who are working against the repeal. No luck.
Continue reading


Dems highlight complaint against KFQD talk show host Dave Stieren

According to the Alaska Democratic Party, a citizen has filed a Federal Communications Commission complaint against KFQD-AM talk show host Dave Stieren. The complaint is related to a contract that Stieren got from GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, whose campaign paid Stieren’s communication firm $6,697 for “media training” and “coaching.”

The complaint says that Stieren gave Sullivan more airtime than Sullivan’s Republican primary opponents, which would potentially violate the FCC’s equal time provision for federal candidates. Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, said that this is an example of Sullivan “using his Outside money in an attempt to buy support.”

According to the FCC, complaints aren’t generally public until they’re resolved. Stieren denies the charge.

Generally speaking, each candidate running for federal office must receive the offer of equal access to television and radio. It can be hazy, however, when it comes to news programs and opinion-focused talk and television shows.

In the past, the FCC has granted “equal time” exceptions to such diverse shows as “The Phil Donahue Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Politically Incorrect,” “The Howard Stern Show” and “The Jerry Springer Show.”

I spoke with Stieren last night about the complaint. He denies the claim of favoritism. He said that the contract, which lasted about five weeks and started in February, clearly stated that he wasn’t going to focus on the race while the contract was active. That didn’t mean, however, that he would completely avoid the topic of the Senate.

He and his business partner Mary Ann Pruitt, who is the state House Majority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt’s wife, met with the Sullivan campaign about 5 times. He disclosed all of the information required to Morris Communications, which owns KFQD.

Stieren said it was “adorable,” that the Democrats were so concerned about the attention given to GOP primary candidates Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell.

Contact Amanda Coyne at

This post was updated to contain information I got from talking to the FCC. 


Loose Lips: ‘Wolf the Wolf Killer’ meets ‘Tower of Power’ edition


  • The GOP primary for lieutenant governor is now a three-way race. There’s Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. State Sen. Lesil McGuire. And now Kelly Wolf, a former one term Kenai state rep has filed. Some say he was most “infamous” for some of his indecipherable letters that he authored while in office. He also sponsored legislation that would crack down on non-profit lobbying activity. Wolf was an advocate of predator control, and wanted to make it more difficult for nonprofits to try to stop people from shooting wolves from airplanes. Wolfe the wolf killer!
  • Speaking of new candidates: Former state Rep. Alan Dick filed a letter of intent to run against Sen. Click Bishop. Last year, the Legislative Ethics Committee fined Dick $18,000 for suspect business conduct while he was a state legislator. The committee found that had a “cavalier mindset” while doing so.
  • Cook Inlet Tribal Council will be celebrating 30 years of community service on May 16th from 3:00 – 6:00 pm at their offices located at 3600 San Geronimo Drive, Anchorage.
  • Upcoming political fundraisers :
      1. May 17, 5:00 – 8:00 pm Bill Walker for Governor Family Dance (and Kalua Pork Sandwiches) at the Eagle’s Hall, Valdez.
      2. May 18, 4:00 – 6:00 pm Anand Dubey for State House Campaign Kick-off Fundraiser
      3. at the home of Anne Gore and David Hart 3001 Illiamna Avenue, Anchorage.
      4. May 27, 5:00 – 7:000 pm., House Majority Fundraiser at the Crown Plaza, Anchorage.
      5. May 28, 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Joint fundraising event for Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker at the Petroleum Club of Alaska.
    • Congratulations are due to one of my favorite editorial cartoonist. San Francisco based Healthline website has named Anchorage’s Peter Dunlap-Shohl’s blog Frozen Grin as one of the “15 top Parkinson’s blogs in the country.”
    • Miller Energy Resources, Inc. announced the acquisition of Savant Alaska LLC for $9 million cash. The primary asset in the deal was Miller obtaining a 67.5 percent working interest in the North Slope Badami Unit. ASRC Exploration LLC has the remaining 32.5 percent partner interest. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
    • Ever heard of the Valley’s “Tower of Power”? Well, it has nothing to do with Valley trash, nor of Sarah Palin’s new mega-mansion. Gov. Sean Parnell, not known for his alliterative abilities, used the phrase to describe Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who is like 10 feet tall, at an education bill signing Tuesday.
    • On Tuesday, Parnell had an overflowing turnout at a $100 plate luncheon at the Aladin Restaurant. Some of the folks attending included Northrim Bank’s Marc Langland, ASRC’s Tara Sweeney, Petro Star’s Doug Chapados, all five RCA commissioners, DOT Commissioner Pat Kemp, DOA Commissioner Curtis Thayer and Jim Palmer, who for years ran BP’s government and public affairs department in Alaska. At the event Republican Party Chair Peter Goldberg presented a check to the Parnell campaign for $100,000 from the party.
    • Also on Tuesday night, Alaska gas czar Dan Fauske and his wife Elaine hosted an event for Senate candidate Dan Sullivan. About 80 people turned out including House Speaker Mike Chenault, Rep. Mike Hawker, AHFC Executive Director Brian Butcher, Rep. Lindsey Holmes, North West Strategies’ Tim and Christine Woolston, John Boyles from the North Slope Borough, former legislator Alyce Hanley and Tara Sweeney, to name a few.
    • Also on Tuesday evening at the Petroleum Club of Alaska, Reps. Eric Feige and Dan Sadler had a joint event as well; unfortunately, no one called to share any details.
    • Getting sick of fundraising accounts? Me too. Expect more.
    • Did anyone know that Matt Moore has dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination for Congress and is now seeking a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives?
    • The Dems are meeting in Nome this weekend for their biennial state convention. This is how Nome is described on the party’s website: “A vibrant, multi-cultural, multi-national first class city in Northwest Alaska, established over 100 years ago as a Gold Rush community in the late 1800s. It is populated by native peoples, families of Gold Rush families, emigrants, immigrants and adventurers seeking freedom and peace in this welcoming community on the Bering Sea.” Which is certainly one way to see it. Another way is that it’s populated by Democrats who will vote for Byron Mallott and particularly Mark Begich.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Andrew Halcro: Begich a ‘great’ Senator

The Facebook post below, from Andrew Halcro, is causing a stir. Halcro, a friend of mine, is a Republican and the president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Never one not to speak his mind, Halcro said last month that he was “mad as hell”  that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was airing ads in Alaska for Senate candidate Dan Sullivan and against Sen. Mark Begich, whom Halcro now calls “great.”  Hence the stir:
Andrew Halcro Facebook Page


Alaska Libertarian Mark Fish runs for U.S. Senate seat

In a move that has the potential to affect Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, Mark Fish filed on Wednesday with the Alaska Division of Elections to run for the U.S. Senate seat as a Libertarian.

Fish has long been a Libertarian, and is well known in those circles, but worked as both a Sarah Palin and GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller staffer and remains close to the Miller campaign.

There’s been speculation that Fish is running in order to save a spot on the ticket for Miller were Miller to lose the Republican primary and chose to run as a Libertarian. It would be a move that would all but ensure a win for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. However, in an interview, Fish said that he has never talked with Miller about that scenario.

“We’ve had conversations about a lot of things, but never about that,” Fish said.

He said that he is running so that Libertarians have a viable candidate to vote for in an open primary. The Republican primary has a closed ballot, meaning that those in other parties don’t get to vote for their candidate. The Democratic primary, however, allows for other parties.

“I want to give the registered Libertarians and people who choose an open ballot a choice other than Begich,” he said. After the primary, he said that he’ll reassess the situation. If he does stay in the race, he’ll likely draw away from the Republican candidate.

Anchorage-based Republican pollster and consultant Marc Hellenthal said that Fish would likely pick up about 5 percentage points if he stays in the race past the primary. “That could easily cost the Republican nominee the vote,” he said.

Another libertarian, Thom Walker, has filed to run for the seat, but Walker is an unknown and until recently was a registered Republican and has not been involved in the Libertarian Party. Numerous people, including this reporter, have tried to contact him in the last days but he can’t be reached.

“He’s not a viable candidate if he can’t answer his phone,” said Libertarian Party Chair Mike Chambers.

Fish is a longtime Alaskan. He spent 20 years in the National Guard. He ran for Anchorage Assembly in 2003 and for state House in 2008. He spent five years on the Human Rights Commission, until a controversial comment that he wrote on a blog about a “radical feminist” was unearthed.

Fish and Miller agree on more things than they disagree on, said Fish. However, Miller is “much more socially conservative than I am,” he said.

For instance, Fish, unlike Miller, doesn’t believe that the state should be involved in marriage at all. And also believes that abortion should be a societal, rather than legal decision.

GOP candidate Dan Sullivan’s campaign declined comment. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller’s spokespeople didn’t return calls requesting comment.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


New wide-ranging poll surveys Alaska’s political landscape

I’ve been suspicious in the past of the Democratic polling firm PPP. One, they robo-call. Secondly, in the past, they have way over sampled Democrats and under-sampled young people. That said, their sampling has improved, and some of the numbers in a wide ranging poll that PPP released today on Alaska is generally in keeping with at least one other recently released poll, even if they did poll a candidate who dropped out of the race. Read on.

Here’s some highlights from the poll on the governor’s race:

  • Gov. Sean Parnell:  44 42 percent approve of the job he’s doing while 41 44 percent disapprove. By comparison, in a poll done in March by local firm Dittman Research, 54 percent of Alaskans said that the governor was doing a good job, and 41 percent said the governor wasn’t doing a good job.
  • In the general election, Parnell wins 37 percent to Democratic challenger Byron Mallott’s 27 percent and independent candidate Bill Walker’s 17 percent. 15 percent of Alaskans remain decided.

Here’s some highlights from the poll on the Senate race:

  • Among 313 Republican primary voters surveyed, Dan Sullivan has a 14 point lead over Mead Treadwell: 40 percent for Sullivan and 26 percent for Treadwell. Joe Miller, the other challenger, is falling in the polls with only 14 percent of GOP primary voters saying that they’d vote for him in August. These numbers are generally consistent with a poll paid for by Sullivan that was released earlier this month.

Other findings:

  • In the lieutenant governor’s GOP primary race, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan would beat state Sen. Lesil McGuire 53 to 27 percent, with 21 percent undecided.
  • Among the general voting public, Sarah Palin’s favorability rating is 36 percent. Her unfavorable is 56 percent.
  • U.S. Rep. Don Young is surprisingly the most popular politician up for reelection in Alaska this year. 46 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 39 percent who disapprove.
  • However, as evidenced to how much PPP knows about Alaska politics, it polled Matt Moore against Young. As expected, Young is walloping Moore, 50 percent to 22 percent. The problem? Moore isn’t even running for Congress. He dropped out to run for state House. The new darling of the Democratic Party, Forrest Dunbar, is running against Young. But he wasn’t included.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


U.S. Senate candidate Mead Treadwell hires communications director

It appears that despite rumors that he was going to drop out of the primary, Republican Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Mead Treadwell is digging in. On Tuesday, Treadwell announced that his campaign has hired Tom Intorcio to serve as communications director.

Intorcio is no novice. He’s worked for Republican congressmen, was an Iowa field rep for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, and a field coordinator for President Bush’s 2004 campaign. He’s also been affiliated with a Patriot Voices, a grassroots group devoted to “liberty.” Watch him here talking about the group. Word is that the hire has been in the works for awhile.

According to two recent polls, Treadwell’s numbers have been falling while Dan Sullivan’s have been rising. A PPP poll released on Tuesday shows that among 313 Republican primary voters surveyed, Sullivan has a 14 point lead over Treadwell: 40 percent for Sullivan and 26 percent for Treadwell. Joe Miller, the other challenger, is falling in the polls with only 14 percent of GOP primary voters saying that they’d vote for him in August.

All of them lose to Sen. Mark Begich in the general, however. The poll, which surveyed 582 general election voters, has Sullivan losing by 5 points, Treadwell losing by 8 and Miller by 16 percentage points.

PPP is a Democratic leaning firm, and uses robo-calls to conduct its polls and has been suspect in the past. However, the numbers are fairly consistent with a poll paid for by Sullivan released in early May that used live interviewers.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Outside Dem groups dropping about $8 million into new pro-Begich ads

I found this on my Facebook feed on the day that I learned that the pro-Begich super-PAC, Put Alaska First, was buying as much as $4.6 million of television ads which will begin to run eight weeks before the election. Put Alaska First is about 90 percent funded by the Senate Majority PAC, which is run by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is also preparing to spend $3.5 million in the same time period. This money, it should be noted, is above and beyond the millions that Begich himself will put into the race, more than 80 percent of which has come from Outsiders.
Begich special interest money


Mayor Dan clarifies remarks about teacher education programs

From Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s column in the Alaska Dispatch clarifying his remarks that teaching degrees aren’t as challenging as engineering degrees. Full disclosure: I dropped out of a teacher certification program because it was tortuously vacuous. I decided to get a masters in creative writing instead.

(T)he facts show that the countries that are outperforming the U.S. are doing a better job of consistently attracting top students into the teaching profession through a combination of strategies, including more rigorous and challenging college instruction and financial incentives for entering teaching as a professional career path. The point I was trying to convey is that we should examine those strategies and implement those that make sense and will help improve our student results.