Monthly Archives: August 2014

Comment of the day: UA professor on UA president’s $320,000 bonus.

Below is a comment from University of Alaska Fairbanks Emeritus Professor Richard Seifert, who is one of the 721 people, as of 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, who signed a petition against UA president Pat Gamble’s $320,000 bonus, atop his salary, if he stays until 2016. The comment was attached to Seifert’s signature. In June, the Board of Regents voted to renew Gamble’s contract and on the bonus.

As an Emeritus professor of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who was awarded the Usibelli Service Award in 2009, and returned this award, all $10,000, to the University Foundation to support a student home for the Honors Program, I find it astoundingly ill-advised and indefensible from any personal or public perspective. When the University budget has been cut $12 million, why on earth would the UA Board of Regents reward very modest administrative performance in this way? Isn’t salary enough?

Gamble has been president of UA since mid-2010. His first full year, in 2011, he made $308,750—not including the free housing that comes with the job and a $9,250 car allowance. He began making $320,000 in 2012. Only one other state employee makes more than Gamble. That’s Dan Fauske, who was head of Alaska Housing Finance Corp, and is now running the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. Fauske made about $350,000 last year. His position does not include house or a car.


Governor hopeful Mallott’s first radio ad of general election

Most people can agree, even, it appears, the candidate himself, that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott has gotten a slow start in the race. Here’s his first radio ad of the general election. Will it help to ignite some sort of spark? I think it’s pretty good. I played it for a friend of mine who thought it’s soft and vague, and that there’s nothing that clings to the ribs. What do you guys think? Facebooktwittermail

Keithley’s ‘fiscal pledge’ may have unintended consequences

As I wrote last week, Brad Keithley, an Anchorage-based politically active lawyer and consultant, sent out a questionnaire to candidates, testing their fiscally conservative creds. For a few years now, Keithley has been focused on the state’s budget problems. He was toying at taking a run for governor, but decided against it. However, he still wants to make a difference. He has said that he is willing to put up to $200,000 of his own money trying to elect candidates who are serious about cutting the budget. To that end, he sent all the candidates that questionnaire. He’ll use those answers, along with the results of a poll that he commissioned, to choose the candidates.

One of the 11 questions is the following about a pledge: “Will you publicly commit prior to the election not to join any legislative caucus that conditions your membership upon your support of and vote for whatever budget is sent to the floor by the Finance Committee?”

Keithley hasn’t said if an affirmative answer is requisite for his support. It is, however, implied.

Like many of the plethora of pledges, Continue reading


Poll questions give preview into possible upcoming Senate ads

Below are some interesting questions that a reader was asked from a polling firm testing the strengths of various messages, which could potentially both support and/or work against Senate candidates Dan Sullivan and Sen. Mark Begich. It’s unclear who paid for the survey. In any case, who’s paying for it is less interesting than the questions themselves, which give a preview into what’s likely to come to a television screen near you. (An interesting note: although the questions run the gamut, nothing was asked about the Pebble Mine, which, as the pro-Begich super-PAC Put Alaska First is well aware, will be a big issue in the race.)

Keep in mind that some of them are rough and may not be transcribed perfectly. The reader was typing them as fast as his or her fingers could go. Also note that my job here wasn’t to fact check statements or the assumptions embedded in the questions, some of which are patently false. (Dan Sullivan did not defraud the VA, for instance. There’s absolutely no proof that Mark Begich did anything nefarious in business deals with local developer Jon Rubini. And I’ve never once heard about him keeping a helicopter here.)

Here it goes: Continue reading


Miller calls on Begich to pull ‘misleading’ and ‘disingenuous’ ad

Since Dan Sullivan won the GOP Senate primary race on Tuesday, it’s been unclear how much Joe Miller, who saw a late surge and came in second in the race, was going to be involved in Sullivan’s campaign. Sullivan and Miller had a “positive” meeting on Wednesday, Sullivan’s campaign spokesperson said. But that’s as far as he would go. Miller’s spokesperson didn’t immediately return a call.

Miller said during the last debate of the campaign that he would support the Republican nominee. But support comes in all degrees. Miller got 29,173 votes on Tuesday night. Those are numbers to pay attention to. Sen. Mark Begich beat then Sen. Ted Stevens by about 4,000 votes in 2008. Many of Miller’s tea party supporters will vote for Sullivan anyway in the general. But not all of them without Miller’s full-throttled endorsement.

A release that Miller sent today (in full below) appears to indicate that Miller at least will fight back against Begich when his name his used by Begich to attack Sullivan, Continue reading


Loose Lips: Click clicking with Alaska. Neuman positions himself. Treadwell’s ‘positive’ campaign.

18955141_mFairbanks state Sen. Click Bishop’s campaign has been full throttle even though his Republican opponent dropped out of the race long ago. Fundraisers. Media attention. As Click would say, “Click is clicking.” What’s afoot here? Just being a good Republican? Fighting the freedom cause? There’s probably some of that. But remember, we’re talking about a politician, one who is beginning to make it known that he has his eyes set on the governor’s chair in four years.

Speaking of real gubernatorial candidates, Independent candidate Bill Walker and his wife, Donna, celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary on Wednesday.

Jeremy Price has been named the Alaska Director for Americans for Prosperity. Prior to this position, he worked at the American Petroleum Institute and has worked in the offices of both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young. The AFP, a Koch brothers funded group, is said to be serious about organizing in Alaska even after the elections are over.  Continue reading


Begich and Sullivan campaigns release opening general election ads

Here are the opening ads for Dan Sullivan and Mark Begich, establishing the themes that will no doubt follow both candidates into the general election. The person whose political career is probably most harmed by Begich’s ad attacking Sullivan is Mead Treadwell, who left open the possibility for a future campaign during his concession speech. In any case, it’s nice that the Sullivan campaign’s creative team finally seem to be understanding what Begich’s people have known all along: the best narrative trick that any candidate in the state has is the beauty of the state itself.



Koch-brothers funded group goes after Begich on attendance

Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers funded group, released an ad today featuring Steve Perrin, the owner of Rainy Pass Lodge in Skwentna, Alaska, about 50 miles north of Wasilla. The lodge is well-known in Alaska, and was the subject of a reality show. The AFP buy is about $1 million.

In the ad, Perrin talks about the Alaska “value of hard work, taking care of yourself and your family.” He claims that U.S Sen. Mark Begich “hasn’t been showing up for work” and that he missed more votes last year than more than 80 percent of his colleagues. According to the tracking site that’s featured on the ad, Begich missed 4.5 percent of total votes in his career. He missed a total of 12 votes in 2013. This year, he’s missed 46. In April through June alone, he missed 22 votes. That said, his over-all total voting attendance record is higher than Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s record. Also, keep in mind that because of the distance between Alaska, and D.C., the state’s congressional delegation always misses more votes than most other federal officials in other states.

Further, the message of self-sufficiency in the ad is muddled by the fact that like many small businesses in Alaska, Perrins’ lodge Continue reading


Keithley’s questionnaire tests commitment to fiscal conservatism

Anchorage lawyer and consultant Brad Keithley, who has committed $200,000 of his own money to support fiscally conservative candidates in the upcoming races, has sent out a questionnaire to try to test the fiscally conservative commitment of those candidates. (See the questionnaire here).

Keithley, who has been pushing for decreased spending in the state, had been toying with running for governor this past winter. In the end he opted to effect change in other ways, including setting up an independent expenditure committee. When he announced the formation of the committee, he said that he would use the money to support three to five or so specific candidates. He says that the seats that he’ll target are ones that are winnable. ”We’re going to be professional and serious about this,” Keithley said. “I want to move the needle.”

Keithley has been using a 2013 report by UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, to argue that the state cannot sustain current spending levels. Continue reading


A reader pushes back on NYTs column on the Senate race

From Wednesday’s New York Times column on the race, making a case that Dan Sullivan’s victory last night doesn’t spell doom for Sen. Mark Begich’s reelection chances and why the state is more sympathetic to Democrats than it would appear:

Alaska’s electoral politics are among the worst understood in the country: The state has had only a handful of competitive federal contests over 54 years since 1960, and there are no neighboring states from which to draw comparisons. The state has defied the expectations of electoral analysts since it was admitted as a state in 1959, when most thought it would become dependably Democratic. It then proceeded to vote Republican in 1960 in the presidential race, and in every other such contest since Johnson’s landslide re-election in 1964.

A reader sent me the following, making the case the the piece actually does the opposite of what it intended to do:

It is never a good sign for an incumbent when previously supportive national media outlets can only muster a weak “he can still win!” rallying cry instead of a confident, “he’s got this in the bag, baby!” once Sullivan became the official contender.  Nate Cohn of the NYT eagerly attempted to spin Sullivan’s win last night as “no big thang” because Alaska is too difficult to predict.  His skewed analysis on Alaska’s federal election history tried to buffer his argument to show that Republicans have only won their seats due to luck and not by the support of the people.  This is all bad for Begich, (even after Cohn painted Begich with the “scion of a state political dynasty” brush) because while most Alaskans don’t get their pulse of state politics from the NYT, Outside limousine liberals do and when deciding to whom to write those lovely large checks…articles like this matter.


Adam Wool is new Democratic state House candidate in Fairbanks

Fairbanks has a new Democratic state House candidate. Today, the day after the primary election, Elizabeth Clark, or “Putt,” as she’s affectionately called, dropped out of the race. The new candidate, chosen by local Democrats is Adam Wool, a Fairbanks business owner. Wool owns and runs the popular Blue Loon, and with his brother, started Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream.

Wool will be running against Republican Rep. Pete Higgins, who is a dentist. Higgins is in the majority.  However, he’s not a prodigious fundraiser. He’s only raised $4,083 this election cycle, and unlike many other incumbents, he didn’t bring with him a war-chest from last year. Continue reading


Day after primary, Put Alaska First attacks Sullivan on Pebble Mine

The day after the primary election, the pro-Mark Begich super-PAC, Put Alaska First, is up with a new beautifully produced TV ad. This one takes on Dan Sullivan, who won the GOP primary on Tuesday night, for his alleged support of the highly controversial Pebble Mine in Western Alaska. If built, the mine would produce 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum. It would be one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world and would sit on the headwaters of one of the world’s largest wild salmon runs. The mine has been drawing significant opposition since 2006 and for the last few years, people have been pushing Begich on his views about it. Only in January did he come out against it, miming Ted Stevens’ long-held opposition as the “wrong mine” in the “wrong place.” By the time Begich took his stand, it was almost certain that the EPA would take preemptive action and block the mine’s development, which it is in the process of doing. The EPA’s actions are unprecedented. The Pebble Mine would be on state lands, and many say should be subject to state, not federal law. Pebble hasn’t officially applied for all the necessary permits, nor has it submitted a final project plan. However, the EPA says that under any scenario, the mine would destroy up to 94 miles of streams, including five to 22 miles of salmon spawning streams, and 5,350 acres of wetlands. To be clear: Sullivan, like Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Rep. Don Young, Gov. Sean Parnell, and nearly all of the state’s Republicans, hasn’t said that he supports the mine. Rather, they all object to the EPA’s preemptive process.



Big wins in Alaska primary races

As many predicted, U.S. GOP candidate Dan Sullivan was the winner in the primary election on Tuesday night. He’ll now take on Sen. Mark Begich in the general election. As of 1:30 a.m, with about 20 percent of the vote yet to be counted–not including absentee ballots–Sullivan was leading the race by eight percentage points against Joe Miller. He was leading 15 points against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Sullivan, who has laryngitis and couldn’t speak, whispered in his wife’s ear as she thanked the crowd who had gathered at a downtown Anchorage restaurant late on Tuesday night. It had been a long day for Sullivan. He campaigned all day and also gave the eulogy at the funeral of a close friend.  Continue reading


Pollster Matt Larkin’s GOP Senate race numbers and prediction

Anchorage-based Matt Larkin, who has polled the U.S. GOP primary Senate race three times beginning in May,  released his numbers tonight. His polling figures, as well as his final prediction, have Dan Sullivan winning, Joe MIller coming in second, and Mead Treadwell in third place. Larkin is calling the race tighter than pollster Ivan Moore predicted earlier today. Larkin has Sullivan at 39 percent, Miller at 32 percent, and Treadwell at 27 percent. Moore had Sullivan with a 14 point lead over Miller.

If you click on Larkin’s graph below, what’s most striking is how far and how fast Miller has risen–from a low of 12 percent in May–and how Treadwell’s numbers have fallen from a high of 35 percent in May.

The earliest poll in May was paid for by Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who’s running for lieutenant governor. The other three were paid for by Larkin himself.

Here’s the graph: Dittman – 2014 Republican Senate Track (1)


Mid-evening primary election tweets and tidbits

If you’re online, go here or here to watch the election results. If you’re in Anchorage, head down to the Egan Center to watch with a crowd. If you want to get personal with a campaign, here’s a list of election night parties.

Continue reading