Editor’s note: This omnibus edition of Loose Lips covers the period 21 March 2013 through 15 January 2014.
Jan: 15: Upon inception, this column was intended to be one of the lighter, more essayistic, and gossipier parts of the website, kind of like a dessert to go with the heavier meal on the left side of the site. But just as desserts often turn into the most popular part of the meal, so has this column turned into one of the most popular features in the website. All of which is fine, except that it wasn’t initially designed to be this way. It’s a clunky reading experience, particularly on smart phones. So, although I reserve the right to change my mind, I’m going to be folding the items here into the front page of the main site. For now, and maybe forever, they’ll be labeled “Loose Lips,” unless anybody out there has a better idea. When I get the time and energy, the archives will eventually be folded into the main content. For now, you can find them by reading below. Thanks for reading, and if you have Loose Lips tips, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan 8: Lincoln’s birthday is on Feb. 12, and all across the country, Republicans worth their spit are planning fundraising events in his name. In Alaska, the dinners serve as fundraisers for the Republican Women’s Clubs. The first Lincoln Day dinner is on Feb. 1. It’s being held in Anchorage at The Bridge restaurant. The keynote speaker is Lily Stevens, the youngest daughter of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The problem? It appears that planners weren’t thinking Lincoln-like big enough. The venue only holds 100 people, and there are likely more Republicans than that who live on one block somewhere even in Rep. Les Gara’s district. The lesson?: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” And if you still don’t understand the lesson, on Feb. 20, Juneau will be hosting their Lincoln Day dinner at the capital city’s Baranof Hotel. Keynote speakers will be the party’s lite gubernatorial candidates, Mayor Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lesil McGuire, who have each been tasked with a speech about President Lincoln. If I were in charge, I’d pass out paper and pencil, and have them write on the following quote and then make them discuss: “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” I’d even buy a ticket and stand in line to watch them wrestle with that one. March 15 is the dinner in Fairbanks. We’ll see what that group comes up with.
Jan. 4: The more I know, the more I know. And I know that often, particularly in Alaska, those who get the best paying government jobs are not those who are the smartest, or the most accomplished, or the ones with the best qualifications and ideas. They are often given to hangers-on and friends. Enter Mayor Dan Sullivan’s decision to appoint his chief-of-staff, buddy and high school friend, Dan Kendall, as the interim general manager of Municipal Light & Power. From everything I’ve heard, Kendall’s a very nice man, but when Sullivan announced that he appointed Kendall, the collective reaction amongst those in the know around the state was, “You’re kidding me.” This is no throw-away job. The municipality owned ML&P provides electricity to more than 30,000 Anchorage residents and commercial customers. Sullivan said that Kendall’s experience working at ENSTAR qualifies him to run ML&P because the utility owns a share in a natural gas field along Cook Inlet’s western shoreline. Sounds good. However, the reality is that Kendall’s tenure for 30 years at ENSTAR was as a corrosion technician. Before becoming chief-of-staff about a year and a half ago, he was a member of the plumbers and pipefitters union and didn’t supervise or manage any employees. He was never involved in any of the company’s gas supply contracts, regulatory matters nor participated in the operations or management of the company. He likely never participated in one employee’s evaluation while at ENSTAR. For 30 years, he seemed quite content to drive around in his truck, getting a big union paycheck, checking for corrosion. This kind of good-old-boy, back-slapping patronage from the mayor is what’s truly corrosive, and it’s got to stop. I’ve always thought that Mayor Sullivan has the potential to be one of the best public officials in the state. This kind of thing isn’t going to get him there.
Jan. 2: The last legislative session didn’t turn out in quite the way that some had planned and hoped. Some believed that a Republican majority in the state’s executive and legislative branches would usher in a slate of conservative laws on social issues. But as had happened in previous sessions, those social issues — abortion, school choice, gay rights — got pushed aside to focus on oil taxes. That’s what was said, anyway. The truth is that most legislators, even Republicans, simply don’t have the stomach for such controversial and extreme subjects. They take an ungodly amount of time and energy. When such bills start to gain traction, true believers from both sides descend upon Juneau, waving signs in legislators’ faces and calling them things like misogynists and baby killers. A few legislators, however, are true believers themselves. Enter whispers of Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold, and Valley Rep. Wes Keller organizing what’s being called a “conservative caucus” in the House. The caucus would presumably push for a more conservative social agenda, and create a louder voice in the current majority organization. It’s unclear how much juice, if any, Reinbold and Keller have. While Keller can be respectful and tolerant to those with opposing views, Reinbold isn’t. At all. Will the caucus become a force or a footnote on campaign brochures?
Dec. 28: Edna DeVries, the former state legislator and current Palmer City Council member, is running for the newly created Valley state Senate seat. Her campaign kickoff was on Saturday night at Turkey Red in Palmer. Devries is considered a Republican purist, which in the Valley doesn’t mean that you decline federal funds, or that you’ll necessarily turn down state money for things like, say, a bridge that will never get built, or a port that will see little, if any port traffic, or roads that lead to nowhere without a bridge that will never be built. In the Valley, it means that you were at least a one-time friend of Sarah Palin, and that you at one time wanted to oust former Republican Party Chair Randy Ruedrich, the most successful party chair the state has ever seen. It also means that you invoke Jesus often, and that you pray for everything and you share those prayers on Facebook. In DeVries’ case, she prayed for a campaign manager. The question remains however: could a campaign manager sent straight from above help Devries if Rep. Bill Stoltze decides to run? Speaking of Republican purists: Ultra-conservative radio talk show host Glen Biegel has begun a Facebook campaign to urge Anand Dubey to take a run at the seat now occupied by Rep. Lindsey Holmes. Dubey ran against Holmes in 2012 when Holmes won as a Democrat. He lost by about 10 percentage points. Now a Republican, Holmes will have the party support and the money behind her. But Dubey’s got some things going for him if he decides to run. He’s technologically savvy, and unlike Holmes, there aren’t signs littering his district, urging voters to recall him. Too, in terms of novelty, he wins hands-down. He would be the first state official from India elected to office, the only one whose spouse is a Hindu, and while Devries has Jesus, Dubey’s got Jesus AND he’s got Ghandi. “If one leader acting like Gandhi can change the world, one legislator can change the state,” he told this reporter in 2012. How about that for aspirational?
Dec. 17: Looking for a job where you have to go to political events armed with a video camera and surrounded by people who think you’re evil? Rumor has it that a new super PAC called America Rising is looking for a thick-skinned Alaskan to follow Sen. Mark Begich around the state videotaping him in hopes of catching that one gotcha moment – – a policy flip-flop or embarrassing gaffe. America Rising’s mission is to dig up dirt on Democrats. The new super PAC was formed by Matt Rhoades, 2012 Romney for President campaign manager. Joining him will be former RNC research director Joe Pounder and spokesman Tim Miller. Before you Dems reach into your bottomless pit of self-righteous indignation, please note that America Rising was formed in response to American Bridge, the Democratic super PAC which has been tracking Republican candidates at public appearances and has been credited with exposing such highly covered blunders such as Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” and Rep. Steve King’s comparison of immigrants to dogs. It’s hard to envision what the trackers are going to get out of Begich, who’s got the instincts of a raven and will likely never say anything resembling, “If you like you’re insurance, you can keep it.” Oops. I mean again. He’ll never say it again.
Dec. 11: It used to be that if you made it to the Governor’s Annual Christmas and Holiday open house in Juneau, you could, along with fellow Alaskans, munch from cheese logs and pate, pop a bacon wrapped prune or a miniature quiche, and wash it all down with some rum. Now, the savory is all sweet, and the rum has gone the way of pirates and red-nosed lobbyists. But the absence of salt and spice hasn’t seemed to hamper public enthusiasm. On Tuesday night, a line of people waited up to 40 minutes in the rain in front of the mansion in Juneau to get inside and munch on one or more of the 24,000 cookies and some of the 100 pounds of fudge. Shivering commissioners stood outside serving hot cider to the shivering crowd. Once inside, guests were greeted by Gov. Sean Parnell, his lovely wife Sandy, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. No reports of anybody spilling the cider, or bumping into the tree, though it was remarked upon that Deputy Commissioner of Administration Curtis Thayer got the plum, warm and dry job of handing out free tickets to the movie, “Polar Express.” Then again, he was the only deputy that was put to work. Perhaps not coincidentally, today, Wednesday, is Commissioner of Administration Becky Hultberg’s last day on the job. She’s leaving to run the hospital association, a cushier and better paying gig where she likely won’t have to serve hot cider to the shivering masses, say nothing of undertaking the herculean task of making state government more efficient. It was a job, I’m told, that she did with the kind of determined efficiency and grace for which she has been known since she first came into the public eye as Frank Murkowski’s press agent. Then she was known in media circles as “the beautiful Becky Hultberg.” Now she’s known across the state as “the beautiful Becky Hultberg.”
Dec. 8: Question: what do you do if you’re Elizabeth Halseth, a young family-values Republican state Senator from Nevada, named one of the hottest politicians in the country by lad mag Maxim, with a bikini photo spread to prove it. You have three small children and you’re having an affair with a golf pro named Tiger Helgelien. Your husband creates a scene that ends up in his arrest and it’s all over the newspapers, and bloggers start saying mean things about you? Answer: Take your cues from one of your conservative female idols and quit half-way through your term. After you quit, grab the Tiger by the tail and hightail it to Alaska. It likely seemed a perfect solution in 2012, when the two made the move. It’s both the home of her female idol and Tiger’s birthplace, and there aren’t as many mean bloggers up here. Since being here, the pair has attended conservative functions, and have been setting the groundwork for a future political run for Tiger by buying up web domains like TigerforAlaska.com and Alaskansfortiger.us. The couple might prove useful to Alaska. Tiger’s got really nice white teeth, and Halseth knows how to heat up the desert by posing for the camera in the middle of it, clad in nothing but a bikini. Alaska can sure use some heating up. Too, she seems adept at victimization. In 2012, after the sordid story made headlines, Halseth told reporters she couldn’t stay in Nevada anymore because she was “regularly demonized by selfish partisans and a handful of reckless bloggers with personal agendas of salacious, unfounded personal attacks on me.” Also, somehow, she was able to blame Obama for the whole thing. Sound familiar? Welcome to Wasilla, er, I mean, Alaska. Read more about her here, here and here.
Dec. 4: Sun-starved Alaskans paying attention to the news out of Hawaii might have noticed the buzz about an Alaskan catching a humongous amberjack off the coast of Kona. His last name was Thayer. Surely not THAT Thayer. Anyone who knows Curtis Thayer, deputy commissioner of Administration, knows that he can tell a tale or two about fishing. However, his 12-year-old son Matthew is a different story. For one, he’s very polite and nice, like his mother. Secondly, he’s a real fisherman with real bragging rights. On the day before Thanksgiving, he caught a 150 pound amberjack in Hawaii. It happens to be the largest amberjack caught in the 50th state this year, only 1.5 pounds off the state record and only 6 pounds off the world record. No dumb luck here. Matthew’s quite the fisherman. He won the 2009 youth salmon derby in Seward and won a cash prize this past summer in the derby.
Dec. 3: Thanksgiving dinner dishes weren’t even washed or put away and the holiday shopping frenzy was in full force. Black Friday followed by a busy weekend of holiday shopping, and Cyber Monday and a new one I didn’t even know about called Giving Tuesday (I learned about it reading Rep. Les Gara’s newsletter). If you have more gifts to buy, and wish that your Christmas and your state had more blue to go with the red, you might consider attending the Alaska Democrats’ holiday auction scheduled for Friday, December 6 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Viking Hall off Dimond. Tickets will be available at the door for $20. The auction will feature a multitude of special and unique items ranging from an ice climbing trip with Sen. Hollis French, to one of Margaret Pugh’s famous southern fried chicken dinners prepared in your home or her home in Juneau. There will be art, a river rafting trip and “fabulous” travel packages. If sugar plums are just too purple for you, you can stop by the residence of Bill and Michelle Bittner on Wednesday, December 4, from 6 – 7 p.m., where they along with a gaggle of notable Republicans will be hosting a toast to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s 2016 campaign.
Dec. 1: There was a time in my life when I could spend hours watching All My Children and General Hospital. Granted, I was like 10 years old. But a whiff of Loves Baby Soft can send me back to those summer afternoons, confused and enthralled by the casual promiscuities, the Old Testament-like tragedies, the quick resiliencies, and mostly by the ever changing relationships. And now, I’m pretty convinced that in later years, a whiff of Versace Crystal Noir will send me back to the time when I was keeping track of which legislative staffer was working for which legislator. Why did that one leave that office? What does that one have that the other doesn’t? I’m sure if I really did some inquiring, the intrigue would dissipate. For now, however, it all feels full of adult-like mystery, and I’m going to keep it that way. Here’s the latest: Erin Shine, who was with Rep. Craig Johnson, has moved on and is now with Sen. Anna Fairclough’s staff. Josh Walton, from Rep. Mia Costello’s office will be going to work for Rep. Craig Johnson. Ryan Makinster who has been a legislative staffer in the past, and more recently with the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation and State Chamber, has returned by joining Rep. Mia Costello’s staff. DECD legislative liaison Crystal Koeneman, who reportedly was banned from the Capitol building because of poor relations with certain key legislators, has left her department job and is joining the staff of Rep. Lora Reinbold, who goes through staff almost at the same frequency as All My Children’s Erica Kane went through husbands. Then there are some legislative staff keeping extra warm in Puerto Rico, attending a legislative conference, while the rest of us shiver in sub-zero Alaska, dreaming of soap-opera worthy experiences in the sun.
Nov. 26: The end of the year, when the clock resets for campaign contributions, is coming fast. And state candidates need to have as many fundraisers as possible before the clock restarts. They’re busy even on Thanksgiving week, when few others are. On Monday night, gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott had a fundraiser in Juneau, his hometown. In Anchorage, the once-Great Alaska Shootout begins tonight, and from 5 – 7 p.m, Mayor Dan Sullivan is hosting a pre-game fundraiser at the Petroleum Club for his lite gov. bid. And if you’re not a big fan of him or tennis courts, you can head to Eagle River to support Reps. Bill Stoltze and Dan Sadler who are having a joint fundraiser at the same time. Mayor Dan isn’t the only lite gov. candidate having an event on Tuesday. Sen. Lesil McGuire will be in Fairbanks tonight where the Teamsters, Operating Engineers, and Sen. Click Bishop, among others, will be hosting an event in support of her quest to snare the number two spot on the Republican Party ticket. Hold your snark about McGuire and unions: the Teamsters and the Operating Engineers are not strangers to supporting Republican candidates. Just ask Bishop.
Nov. 25: Much has been made of the decision by the Legislative Council last week to change the rules about office expenses being used as income, as it should have. That some leggies were using such expenses — ranging from $9,000 to $20,000 — to supplement their income probably caught many by surprise. It’s going to hurt, but they’re already making more than nearly every other Legislature in the country. Anyway, another decision made during that same meeting got virtually no media attention, but has people talking nonetheless. Turns out that the Legislative Council gave real estate developer and campaign contributor Mark Pfeffer yet another sole source contract. This one was a $100,000 contract to advise the Legislature on its selection of new furniture for the new legislative office building. The one that quadruples the rent to provide office space in Anchorage for legislators who often don’t show up to their offices. The new office space with the glass elevator. The one that was the result of a sole source contract with Pfeffer.
Nov. 22: Even though state offices closed at noon on Friday because of freezing rain and snow, the commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Susan Bell, had time enough to appoint Jo Ellen Hanrahan to serve as the department’s deputy commissioner. This position opened earlier this week with the dismissal of Daniel Patrick O’Tierney. Hanrahan has a degree in accounting from Ithaca College. She’s been in Alaska since 1980 and has worked in various departments in the state during her 29-year tenure. Most recently, she served as the department’s Director of Administrative Services where she provided management information and support services for the department’s programs. In this position, she played a critical role in budget development and procurement. One of the immediate tasks she’ll face, in conjunction with the commissioner, will be appointing new directors to the Division of Insurance, and to the Division of Banking and Securities, both of whom announced that they’re leaving in December.
Nov. 21: Right when you really start to like a conservative talk show host in this town, and it can take a lot to get there, he has to up and leave on you. I actually began to like and depend on Dan Fagan before he left us for the Big Easy. Now it’s KFQD’s Casey Reynolds who’s leaving for other horizons, leaving a big hole for those in Southcentral who like privileged white male conservative grumpiness salted with smarts for breakfast. Friday is his last show. Kansas City here he comes, with all the joyous excitement that Kansas City has to offer. He wants to walk the sidewalks in winter without fear of slipping, he said. Or something like that anyway. More to the point, his girl, Amy Coffman, is down there. She’s busy organizing state workers and memorizing passages of Das Kapital. Some have questioned how such a relationship could work. I don’t. I’ve seen them together. It works just fine. It’s Kansas City’s gain. Anyway, Bernadette Wilson is taking over for awhile. Bernadette blasted onto the scene a few years ago as Mayor Dan Sullivan’s “party planner.” She’s been ubiquitous since, working for Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell, and has lent her face to a whole host of Republican causes. Word is that it could be a permanent gig, and that she’ll be joined by Ethan Berkowitz, who needs no introduction. Everyone knows Ethan. Besides, he’ll do it himself, quite nicely. The two won’t be able to scratch that itch for that privileged white male conservative, etc, etc. But they’ll have their own something else. Something short and sweet. Ha!
Nov. 20: With the maximum contribution allowed limited to $500 per calendar year, statewide candidates, serious about mounting a successful campaign for that break point, are trying to serve the ball over the net to raise as much money as possible by year end. Mayor Dan Sullivan has served as a public official in Anchorage for the past 14 years. If he hasn’t learned enough to refrain from calling a powerful state legislator out of bounds, he has learned the importance of Davis Cup-style political fundraising. Last week, he lobbed a mass mailing soliciting contributions. If you’re the kind of player who wants a little topspin, a glass of wine, say, or a meatball for that campaign check, he shared his fundraising rounds for the remainder of the match set in the letter as well. So, if you’re not too busy on the courts and want to see Sullivan as Parnell’s doubles partner, here’s the schedule: Nov. 21, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., McGinley’s Pub; Nov. 26, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., Petroleum Club; Dec. 5, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Associated General Contractors Headquarters; Dec. 14, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Ashlock residence, Girdwood; Dec. 30, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., Quarter Deck, Hotel Captain Cook.
Nov. 19: Bill Walker, who is running for governor as an independent, with help from Malcolm and Cindy Roberts, put together a fundraiser on Tuesday night for storm ravaged Western Alaska and for the typhoon ravaged Philippines. The state’s Norton Sound region has recently been hit by a series of storms which have battered the villages and left some without homes and others without running water. From outward appearances, the event was a success. At least 100 people crowded into the Sizzling Café on 5th Ave. It was a diverse group, both in ethnicity and in political ideology. Alaska Native dancers performed for the group. Speeches were made about the villages, and about the devastation in the Philippines. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott showed, as did Alaska state Sen. Hollis French. Reps. Bill Stoltze, Gabrielle Ledoux and Geran Tarr were also there. Gov. Sean Parnell, who was celebrating his 51st birthday on Tuesday, lent his name to the invite. Prayers were said. Money put in the basket. Walker said that it was time to “leave campaign slogans and signs at the door,” and they complied.
Nov. 18: The annual Jewish Gala was held Saturday evening at the Dena’ina Center. It was the 10th anniversary of the event and much of the who’s who of the business and political community were there. The politicians sporting their finest included: Gov. Sean Parnell and his lovely wife Sandy, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski along with her husband Verne Martell, former DNR Commissioner and now Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan with wife Julie, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, state Sen. Lesil McGuire and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux. The Jewish Gala is not known to be a staid affair, and what goes on at the gala often stays at the gala. But that tall, wild woman having all that fun? Who was she? Is this just what you get when you invite the Sephardics? She danced like Elaine from Seinfeld and she cussed like a sailor. She grabbed the mic and tipped her glass. The rabbi’s wife has seen and can take much, but that woman was even a little too much for her, according to sources. Surprisingly, and for perhaps the first time, the food served at the event was described as “spectacular.” The tall woman having all that fun no doubt got her fill.
Nov. 17: Last Monday was Veterans Day. A day, as it should be, filled with countless memorials, celebrations and observances. But there was one tribute that went relatively unnoticed. A group of Alaskans — Harry McDonald, Janet Weiss, Greg Chapados, Paul Quesnel, Holly Hylen, Doug Smith –in our nation’s capitol on business, got together and crossed the Potomac to visit Arlington National Cemetery to place flowers on an Alaskan veteran’s grave who served his nation, earning a Distinguished Service Cross, in WWII. That veteran continued to serve his nation and his state. That veteran, Sen. Ted Stevens, if he were still alive, would be celebrating his 90th birthday this Monday, Nov. 18. Wherever he is in heaven, you can bet that he isn’t just sitting on a cloud, taking it easy. Wherever he is, he’s shaking his fist at someone, fighting to ensure that Alaska gets its fair share of spiritual pork.
Nov. 14: It’s been a sad time for Alaska state Sen. Peter Micciche and his sister KTUU news anchor Maria Downey, who lost their father in late October. But there’s also been some recent good news in the family. Micciche — who has quickly become one of the state’s most respected legislators — and his wife Erin are expecting a baby. It’ll be the couple’s fourth child. The due date is in June. The couple doesn’t know yet if it’s a girl or a boy, but in either case, it will no doubt be smart, stylish, and witty. Just like Erin.
Nov. 13: If you listen to local talk radio, which is mostly conservative, you would believe that Alaska’s political left is an omnipotent force responsible for all the state’s ills. For all the left’s so-called power, however, it simply can’t seem to sustain a presence on talk radio, which is supported by ads from local businesses. Apparently, Alaska businesses don’t want their names associated with those who they believe will cause them economic harm. No matter the truth or the fallacy in the thinking, it’s too bad. More voices and more viewpoints, on the whole, are better. The most recent example is KOAM, which airs on FM 95.5 and AM 1080. That show has dropped left leaning talk show host and well-known Anchorage Daily News columnist Shannyn Moore, according to the station’s new program lineup. Adding insult to injury, they’ve decided not to replace her with a local, but with the syndicated show featuring Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate who dropped out of the race in 2011 after numerous accusations of sexual harassment. Why any business would want its name on that show is a mystery. But then again, so is the decision to give Eddie Burke and Tom Anderson their own shows. Although I have a soft spot for both, neither of them have lived all of their lives as models of the kind of values that the right wing so espouses. Then again, the more voices the better, I guess.
Nov. 10: Word has it that the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association may be in the market for a new president soon. The current president, Karen Perdue, is planning on retiring soon. Perdue has been a fixture in and around state government since the Hammond administration when she worked for Lt. Gov. Terry Miller. She also served as the commissioner of DHSS and as a vice president of the University of Alaska. Sources say that her job pays well over $200,000 a year which is a good enough paycheck to attract considerable interest. The natural successor seems like it might be current DHSS Commissioner Bill Streur. However, sources say that Streur has a tense relationship with many in the hospital community, to put it mildly. And those who told me about it didn’t put it mildly.
Nov. 7: If you happened to be walking around or staying at the Alyeska Hotel in Girdwood anytime in the past two days, you were probably wondering why there were so many legislators there. If you’re a geek like I am, and thought you knew your stuff, you probably noticed that they were all House members. And if you’re really geeked-out, you would have noticed that they were mostly Republicans salted with a few rural Dems. That’s because the House Majority organization was meeting to plan and prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Last year almost to the day, right after the election, the same folks were there to organize and select their legislative leadership, hand out chairmanships and make committee assignments. Now, they were there discussing what they might expect this session, what the big issues are going to be and to try to come to some consensus on their approach to the budget, among other things. Like, perhaps, those gnarly social issues that have been put on hold because of the oil tax bill.
Nov. 5: With the political cycle gearing up to full force, some have suggested that there should be a player’s guide to keep track of who’s who, who’s where, who’s doing what to whom, and what’s what this campaign season. But that’s where I come in! Here’s the latest: Robyn Engibous, who serves as the executive director of the Ted Stevens Foundation, has joined the Dan Sullivan for Senate campaign along with Kathleen Rowell who worked with Sullivan at DNR. His press secretary is Mike Anderson who recently left Rep. Don Young’s DC staff to join Sullivan. The independent expenditure super PACs are gearing up. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s super PAC operatives for his Majority Fund PAC were in Anchorage this week. Reportedly, his representative was a (ahem) blonde whose job was to talk big checks out of Democrats with money. Some sources suggest she was here raising funds as an alternative source since Begich’s super PAC has experienced some difficulty getting off the ground. Michelle Meyer appears to have signed on to run Byron Mallott’s gubernatorial campaign. She ran President Obama’s Alaska campaign in 2012. Mallot’s general election opponent, Gov. Sean Parnell, has turned to Jerry Gallagher, a trusted advisor, former staffer and one-time boss, to quarterback his re-election campaign. Gallagher is retired from both the state and ConocoPhillips. Luke Miller, Parnell’s deputy press secretary, is expected to move at some point from the third floor of the state capitol to his boss’ campaign. (Yeah!) It’s hard to think beyond the 2014 election cycle, however, Anchorage Mayoral candidate Dan Coffey has hired Marc Hellenthal to handle his 2015 election. More to come soon. Stay tuned.
Nov 2. Of all the issues in Alaska: mining, oil, gas, agriculture, tennis courts, the one that’s most highly political, and confusing, is fisheries. Even trying to explain why it’s so confusing gets confusing. Suffice it to say that when you’ve got small commercial fisherman who are competing with sports fisherman who are competing with Alaska Native groups, who are all competing against multi-billion dollar seafood processors, then you’ve got the makings for some real stinky stinkhead soup. And it can be a political minefield for anyone who enters the world. Word is that Mike Cerne, director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute which spent more than $22 million this fiscal year marketing Alaska seafood, could take some of that money and buy itself a minesweeper. For one, I heard that he rankled some by working with at least one House member on a letter to Wal-Mart about the recent salmon certification kerfuffle while Gov. Sean Parnell was supposedly handling the issue. It might have been fine if that member was a Republican. Stinky? Sure. But it’s politics. And he might have smoothed things over had he showed legislators a better time at ASMI’s annual meeting at the Captain Cook earlier last week. However, instead of sprinkling leggies throughout the room and allowing them to feel important while rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the industry, they all were made to sit at the same table, as if they were children. Go figure.
Oct. 28: Did the young Austin McDaniel, staffer on Gov. Sean Parnell’s communication team, show up at a recent Begich young professionals fundraiser wearing a nametag that said that he was James McDonald? That’s what people at the event who spotted him are saying. I normally double check tips like these. However, Parnell’s communication team has declared me not a “real” reporter, but just a “blogger.” (The horror!) I guess if in their eyes I’m just a blogger, I’ll be just a blogger, which is really pretty freeing. Anyway, if it’s true about young McDaniel, I like it! It shows a cheeky, creative side of the controversy-adverse administration, though it’s unclear what McDaniel’s aunt, who is high up in the Parnell world, would think. The only critique I have is the rather pedestrian name that he chose. Of all the non de plumes available! Why not something like Carlos Danger? I understand that it’s been taken and that there are certain connotations associated with that name, but there are others like it. Slate magazine set up a widget after the Anthony Weiner outing where you can type in your name and get your very own “Carlos Danger.” Using that widget, Parnell is Mariano Evil. Parnell’s COS Mike Nizich is Rolando Jeopardy. DHSS Commissioner Bill Streur is Osvaldo Calamity. Young, cheeky McDaniel himself is Diego Gamble. They’re all oddly fitting, aren’t they?
Oct. 25: It feels like there’s been speculation since before the glaciers began to melt that Dan Coffey, local businessman, lobbyist, former Anchorage Assemblyman, etc, etc… is going to run for mayor. Now, it looks like he’s actually going to get ‘er done. Or at least that’s what an invite he sent to a select few to attend an “announcement of great importance to the future of Anchorage” suggests. The announcement will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Bill and Michelle Bittner’s home. Bill’s more than a lawyer. He’s a confidant and fix-it guy to the pillars of power of Alaska. He was also Coffey’s high school buddy. (Another high school bud who will likely be heavily involved in the campaign is Marc Hellenthal.) And lest there be any doubt, it’s all happening with current Mayor Dan Sullivan’s endorsed blessing. He’s also listed on the invite. It’s a long time until the election in 2015. By announcing early, Coffey gets to take advantage of three yearly campaign contribution cycles, allowing big contributors to max out at $500 a year for three years.
Oct 22: Last week, I wrote in this column that the Republican National Committee had placed a political operative, Michael Shirley, from Florida here on the ground in mid-September and he hasn’t been heard from since. Well, he’s now been heard from while ushering yet another new operative around town. Apparently, RNC operatives who come to Alaska spend their time introducing other political operatives to Alaska. This new one is supposedly also from the Sunshine State, and is reportedly here to get the so-called non-partisan Anchorage Assembly race in shape. The problem? The one person she should have met as soon as she got off the plane is political consultant Marc Hellenthal, who represents three of the four candidates running for election: Incumbents Bill Starr, Adam Trombley and challenger Pete Nolan, all of whom are considered conservative. But Hellenthal hasn’t even heard of her. If it’s true, she’ll likely demand some sort of anti-union litmus test, which will be wrapped around the current union law rewrite mess, which is more confusing and mysterious than the Holy Trinity. If she does so, and gets others convinced, then the likely outcome is that the Assembly turns liberal again, Mayor Dan Sullivan says he tried on his way out, the liberal Assembly gives the unions whatever they want and in Hellenthal’s words “It’s Groundhog Day all over again.” The municipal election is in April 2014.
Oct. 21: Two of the best paying jobs in state government are Dan Fauske’s position at the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. for which he is paid $366,015 a year, and Pat Gamble’s job as President of the University of Alaska, which pays $330,000 not including free housing. Being president of the Alaska Railroad Corp. is no small shakes either. The last president made $298,000 in 2012. This week, the board of directors of the railroad will be meeting on Wednesday in executive session to discuss the hiring of their next president. The board consists of seven members. All are appointed by Gov. Sean Parnell and two of them are from the governor’s cabinet. Sources say that there are almost two hundred applicants who have expressed interest in the job. The same sources say that the board might select one of themselves to be the next president. If that were to happen, the choice would likely be the current chair of the board, Linda Leary. Leary is close to Parnell. She has donated to his campaign, was co-chair of his transition team task force on transportation, and was rumored to have been asked to serve as his DOT commissioner after the election. In other words, the speculation is that she could well be the administration’s choice for this job. Until recently, Leary was the COO of Carlile Transportation Systems which was recently acquired by Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources. Saltchuk also owns several other transportation companies in Alaska including Northern Air Cargo and TOTE Ocean Express. Last week, Leary was telling people that she was leaving the company. The railroad would appear to be a perfect fit, particularly considering that one of its main priorities is to get $40 million in state funding for federally mandated safety upgrades and will need Parnell’s support to get it. We’ll know more on Wednesday.
Oct. 19: The next legislative session is still months away, and already there’s speculation, strategizing, and maneuvering for not only the upcoming session, but the one that will convene in Jan. 2015, after the election, when the leadership will be reorganized. The current Speaker of the House, Mike Chenault, will have served as speaker since 2009 and he might go down in history as one of the best speakers yet. He’s smart, wily and understands when you need to herd the cats and when you need to let them roam. And he has Tom Wright, his chief of staff, who knows where all the bodies are buried. In short, big shoes are needed to fill Chenault’s position, and a few are already trying to convince others that they can fill them. Rules Committee Chair Craig Johnson, who is a Chenault ally, is one of them. There’s also Finance co-Chair Bill Stoltze. The question is will Stoltze go for the job himself, try to put together an organization with someone else in the front seat, or surprise a lot of folks and run for the Senate? Then, there’s Steve Thompson of Fairbanks who some say could well end up as speaker, especially as a compromise candidate if his delegation from the state’s second largest city sticks together for organizational purposes. In any case, I’ll put money on one of them being the next speaker.
Oct. 17: Being the lieutenant governor of Alaska might not be worth a frozen bucket of spit, in a normal term, that is. But if rumors are true, the stakes in the 2014 Republican primary for lieutenant governor are anything but normal. With the exception of Sean Parnell, no Alaska lieutenant governor has ever gone on to be elected to higher office. Some astute political observers think that might change. Some are saying, as if they know, that U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski might not seek reelection when her seat is up in 2016. These rumors are perpetuated by the fact that she isn’t aggressively fundraising, comments made by her inner circle and surprising stands that she has taken on issues that suggest that she isn’t being attentive to her Republican base. Herein lies the importance of this to the 2014 Republican primary for lieutenant governor, assuming that the ticket goes on to win the general: If Murkowski chooses not to run, it’s likely that Gov. Sean Parnell will. (Some say he might challenge her even if she does run.) If he were to win, then the lieutenant governor would assume the governorship mid-term. So far, that race is between Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Oct. 16: The Alaska Democratic Party is on fire. Its headquarters is buzzing with smart young people helping Senator Begich keep his seat and Byron Mallott win the governor’s race. Their press secretary, Zack Fields, is proving to be one of the best flacks in the state, firing off almost daily press releases attacking Republicans. In the past few days, he’s set his sights on former DNR Commish Dan Sullivan, who is running for U.S. Senate, and who the Dems seem to most fear. Meanwhile, the Republican headquarters seems to be asleep. Have they already forfeited the seat to Begich? A few weeks ago in this column, I reported that the Republican National Committee had placed an operative, Michael Shirley, on the ground. Shirley hails from Florida where he has been active in state Republican politics and served as Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Central Florida regional field director in the 2012 presidential campaign. Perry dropped out of the race in large part because of a debate performance in that state. He said too much. Perhaps Shirley took those lessons to heart. Best I can tell, he hasn’t been heard of since arriving.
Oct. 14: It’s going to be a busy week in politics in Alaska. First, although I wouldn’t put money on it, I’ve been told that on Tuesday former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan will at long last announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The announcement is supposed to take place in the morning at the Dena’ina center in Anchorage. He’ll then snake his way north to announce in Wasilla and in Fairbanks. On Wednesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott is scheduled to kick off his campaign at the Alaska Experience Theater. Wondering what Alaska state Sen. Hollis French has been up to? On Wednesday, he’s expected to announce his candidacy to run for lieutenant governor.
Oct 11: The rap on the government is that it’s slow and inefficient. But compared to ExxonMobil—which is larger than some governments in the world–it works at lightning speed. The company has been trying to hire an external affairs manager (that’s fancy talk for an in-house lobbyist) since early summer. Word is they finally got around to picking someone. While there has been no official announcement, reliable chatter on the street says that Hans Neidig is the company’s choice and the announcement will be forthcoming. Heidig is a long time Alaskan. For a short time, he served as the special assistant for Alaska in the Bush Interior Department. He has also held positions with the Alaska state Legislature as a legislative aide, has worked for the Matansuska Telephone Association, ENI Petroleum and has served on the board of directors of the Resource Development Council. He was also one of many deputy campaign treasurers for Sarah Palin’s 2002 campaign, when she ran for lieutenant governor and she held so much promise.
Oct. 8: It’s been more than three weeks since DNR Commish Dan Sullivan, AKA “Afghan Dan,” left his job with the state. After he left, we all thought he was going to jump right in and run for the U.S. Senate. He hasn’t done so yet. Apparently, he needed a nice long break. No one would really blame him. After all, since he joined the Palin administration in 2010, he’s been awfully busy suing the federal government, negotiating big deals with the likes of ExxonMobil, eating sushi with the Japanese, and kimchi with the Koreans. Dealing with those sneaky Canadians, say nothing of our state legislators. Running around the country with an “Alaska is open for business” sign. And if all of that weren’t enough, because he’s a Marine reservist, at the end of July he had to go trek off to Afghanistan to help make the world a safer place. A break is deserved. But to some of his opponents, this delay is beginning to seem too convenient. The country is a mess, in large part due to a Congressional body that he wants to join. Other Republican contenders in the race have had to comment on it. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s waffling answers–which range from a call for cooperation to a promise to stand by those senators who aren’t budging a bit– leave much to be desired. But at least he’s answering. Joe Miller is a lot of things. Waffler isn’t among them. He’d keep the government shut until every last RINO was put to pasture. Dan Sullivan? Who knows? As Miller’s spokesperson recently told Politico, “Apparently he’s just going to vote present.”
Oct 5: For those who haven’t been in Juneau recently, the front entrance to the Alaska state Capitol building doesn’t exist as you might remember it. In fact, the main entrance is now temporarily on the side of the building. The front steps and roof over the front porch of the capitol are gone as a major repair is underway. Some might remember that during the last legislative session, hunks of concrete were falling from the building. Also, the front steps did a wobbly rocking, which must have felt really weird after a few drinks. Speaking of real estate, rumor has it that J&L Properties, which gets its name from the initials of its principals Jon Rubini and Leonard Hyde, is buying the ConocoPhillips building in downtown Anchorage. If it’s true, it’s a big deal. The building is currently assessed at more than $99 million. Additionally, J&L have put up a sign in South Anchorage, across from the Target and the new Cabelas stores, announcing the development of an outlet mall. CIRI owns the adjacent property and word is that it will likely to be partners in the development.
And if you missed it, Bob Acree, who owns the building in downtown Anchorage that houses the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on 4th Avenue and provides office space to Anchorage legislators, has formed a partnership with Mark Pfeffer, presumably to keep him from poking around and attempting to get the Legislature to look at other office space options around town. In any case, they bought the building beside of the Anchorage LIO, convinced the Legislative Council that they needed more space and got them to approve a new deal that more than quadrupled the legislature’s rent. The state will now spend more than $3.3 million per year once the renovations are complete housing the Anchorage legislators and their staff. Last time I checked, the legislature hasn’t grown and often more doors in the Anchorage LIO remain locked than are open during normal business hours. Oh, and surprise! Mark Pfeffer is a big campaign contributor and the project didn’t go out for competitive bid.
Oct. 2: Here’s the latest political chatter: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, the tea party favorite, is rumored to be considering the possibility of dropping out of the Republican primary and running as an independent. By doing so, he would be bypassing the primary and turning the general election into a three-way race. Miller was traveling on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment, but it might make some sense, and it has some Republicans very nervous. In Joe Miller’s last run in 2010, he got more than 90,000 votes to write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s 102,252. Democratic challenger Scott McAdams, who was a relative unknown and not a significant factor, got 60,000 votes. (Even former state Rep. Sharon Cissna who challenged Rep Don Young pulled down more than 82,000 votes that year). At the time, many thought that Democrats crossed the line to vote for Murkowski to keep the tea party nominee from winning. In the upcoming Senate race, that won’t happen. The Dems will stick with Begich. I don’t have a crystal ball and understand that anything can happen in politics. However, conventional wisdom suggests that an independent Miller makes him a stronger candidate in the general election. Or it could be the political calculus that would give Begich a second term.
Oct. 1: Juneau can feel forlorn this time of year. The cruise ships are sailing towards the sun. The tourists that remain can look dazed, as if they missed the boat. Forever. The Legislature isn’t yet in session. The lobbyists haven’t descended. Legislators aren’t feigning being deep in thought when they are dining with them. Legislative staffers aren’t rushing through the city, pretending that they’re really busy. It was, however, hopping on Tuesday night at Don and Lois Abel’s house. The hardware store owners welcomed at least 100 people into their home in order to raise money for Gov. Sean Parnell. Yes, he had another fundraiser, the zillionth already this political season. The capitol city grand lady of the GOP, Paulette Simpson and her attorney husband Bud of course were there. Likewise, Parnell’s COS Mike Nizich had to be pleased with how many of his cabinet members showed. Commissioners Bell, Hultburg, Blumer, Schmidt, Hanley and Kemp were all there. And probably the award for making the greatest effort to attend would have to go to Russell Dick, who was in Anchorage earlier in the day, elected vice-chair of AIDEA-AEA and made it back to Juneau in time for the evening’s event. Rep. Cathy Munoz and former Rep. Bill Thomas were politic enough to show. Other notables, according to a source, included Sen. Mike Dunleavy staffer Steve Ricci and his wife Emily; Ginger Johnson, Ben Brown and Mike Maher. Anchorage-based sports fishing advocate Bob Penney, who earlier in the year was rumored to be looking for a candidate to run against Parnell, was even there. And what would a political event be without representation from the lobbyists? One of the deans of the Juneau lobbying corp, Kent Dawson, along with Royce Weller and former Palin COS Mike Tibbles made their lobbyist-like appearances. No reports on the take yet, but Democratic candidate Byron Mallott and independent Bill Walker should take note.
Sept. 30: Trying to keep track of government workers moving around could be nearly a full time job. Or at least the kind of full time job that some state workers consider full time. That was a joke. Kind of. Anyway, here’s the latest about some of them: Former state legislator Nancy Dahlstrom used to work in the Anchorage office of Gov. Sean Parnell and then moved to the Department of Commerce’s Serve Alaska program where she served as its director. Starting this week, she’ll be at the Department of Labor as the director of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board. The real question is whether or not she retains her underground parking space below the state office building. Kevin Sweeney, who served as campaign manager for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s successful write-in campaign against Joe Miller, will be taking over as her state director, a post being vacated by Miles Baker. Prior to serving as Murkowski’s state director, Baker served as Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman’s chief of staff. His new job will be working for Dan Fauske at the Alaska Gas Development Corp. where he’ll specialize in government and public affairs. Last session, the awesomely named Brandon Brefczynski worked for Alaska state Rep. Tammy Wilson. After session, he moved over to Alaska state Rep. Doug Isaacsons’ office and just recently accepted a position with DEC where he’ll serve as the department’s special assistant and legislative liaison. Just a few weeks ago, the citizens of Whittier recalled their mayor, Lester Lunceford, seemingly putting an end to his electoral career; however, already he’s back in campaign mode running a write-in campaign for city council. The political dead don’t stay dead long in Whittier. On Tuesday, we’ll see how long they stay dead in Wasilla, where felon and former Rep. Vic Kohring is running for city council.
Sept. 25: Most political fundraisers held on Susitna View Court in Anchorage are held at the home of former Gov. Bill Sheffield, and he has a lot of them. On Tuesday evening, the event was held next door at the home of local architect Mark Pfeffer for Gov. Sean Parnell. Pfeffer is the Chair of the State Bond Bank and has made boat-loads of money over the years from designing and building projects funded by state government. He is also part of the new owner group of the Anchorage Legislative Office Building and the building next door, which was closed on last week, which will provide for expanded legislative offices. You can see why Pfeffer would want to hold a successful fundraiser, and from all accounts, it was a success. Approximately 75 people showed up to support the governor’s campaign. While it was the governor’s event, those who were there said that Commissioner Dan Sullivan might have won the night’s popularity contest. He came straight from his office, from his last day at DNR. Other departmental commissioners attending included Larry Hartig from DEC and Diane Bloomer from Labor. The governor’s gas czar, Dan Fauske, was there as were his son and daughter-in-law, D.J. and Gretchen Fauske, who were also co-hosts of the event. Lobbyist Frank Bickford brought his client from Wal-Mart. Cindy Bailey from BP showed. Former Commissioner of Revenue and now AHFC Executive Director Brian Butcher, smartly brought his AHFC board of directors with him. David Lawer, Chuck Spinnelli, and David Marquez, who headed a contingent of NANA executives, were just some of the big names in Alaska business who showed. And it almost goes without saying, since it was a successful Republican money event, that Curtis Thayer was seen grinning a Cheshire grin. Meanwhile, across town at the Petroleum Club, Senate Finance Chair Pete Kelly from Fairbanks along with the legislature’s tallest member, Mike Dunleavey, held a joint event. By all accounts, oilies showed in mass. If the Democrats are raising money, they seem to be keeping it a secret.
Sept. 17: Word is that the Republican National Committee is taking Alaska seriously enough these days that it has already placed one of its political operatives, Michael Shirley, here on the ground through the 2014 election cycle. He arrives with the termination dust, with the weakening sun, in the opposite direction of the geese. He hails from Florida where he has been active in state Republican politics and served as Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Central Florida regional field director in the 2012 presidential campaign, which really isn’t something to highlight on a resume. In any case, Shirley might do better here. Or at least the Republican candidates that he’ll probably be watching for the RNC–Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and DNR Commish Dan Sullivan—likely won’t flame out as did Perry. Perry dropped out before the Florida primary, in part because of a debate performance in that state.
Sept. 12: Former Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Coffey has for what feels like forever told anyone willing to listen that he’s interested in the mayor’s job and is planning on running. Maybe he’d be a good mayor. Maybe not. In any case, it kind of feels too pre-ordained to be exciting. But it does get more interesting when others are thrown in the mix. I’ve heard people talk wistfully about the possibility of either Sens. Kevin Meyer or Johnny Ellis jumping in the race. The name that I’ve heard bandied about most recently is Andrew Halcro. Admittedly, I only heard it once and I heard it from a politician, who, while being purely speculative, speculated that Halcro is interested. I could call him and ask, but he’d likely just deny it and then I wouldn’t have anything to fill this column with. Regardless, it has a certain ring of plausibility to it. The non-partisan race is perfect for Halcro’s demeanor and positions. And for the last year, Halcro has been the president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, a position that at first blush seems so unlikely for a man of big dreams and big ideas who watches Fellini films. It makes perfect sense, however, if he is in fact considering running for mayor. And if he did run and win, he’d be the best dressed mayor our city ever had. Speaking of mayors, North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower, the first female mayor of the North Slope, filed for reelection earlier this week.
Sept. 11: For all you late nighters and early risers: The talk coming out of Japan, where DNR Commish Dan Sullivan is once again doing something or another that’s really important, is that he is resigning his position effective September 24th to run for U.S. Senate. Supposedly Gov. Parnell will make the announcement Thursday morning. Sullivan has been expected to take this step for awhile, but something always seems to get in the way. Most recently it was a deployment as a Marine Corps reservist to Afghanistan to work on a counter-terrorism mission, hence his moniker among some politicos as “Afghan Dan.” Although they are absolutely nothing alike, Alaskans are going to need someway to distinguish him from Mayor Dan Sullivan who is running for lieutenant governor. Mead Treadwell, who is also running for Senate, hasn’t seemed to be able to decide when to officially launch his campaign. He’s having yet another campaign kickoff Thursday. It’s at least his second. His campaign slogan is “Bring decision making home to Alaska.”
Sept. 6: This is way beneath even me, the girl that began a gossip column called “Loose Lips.” This is salacious. This has no news value, and reading it will in no way edify you. That said, I can’t resist. And neither, apparently, could an amorous couple in the state office building in downtown Anchorage. Actions on the first floor of this building, the same building that houses the governor’s Anchorage office, have reportedly been the subject of state workers’ complaints after they heard loud moans and banging coming from the men’s bathroom. Word is that when security investigated, they found a man and woman…. Rumor has it that the noisy couple, who were not state employees but worked in the building, was annoyed with the interruption as they couldn’t go elsewhere. One of them was married and the other a resident of a halfway house. They, like most of us, probably didn’t know about the governor’s new private bathroom in his recently renovated office on the 17th floor, the cost of which requires a freedom on information act to ascertain, according to the governor’s press secretary.
Sept. 5: Wasilla, a place that once captured the imagination of the world. Wasilla, a town of strip malls and gun and pawn shops. Our very own Wasilla, where the bars are open until 5 a.m. and where you can saddle up to one of those bars carrying a gun. A place where one of its residents doesn’t know what she reads and can rise to nearly become the second most powerful person in the United States. A place where one of its citizens can be caught on tape taking bribes from an oil man when he was a state lawmaker, spend a year in prison for such deeds, and be supported by the town’s mayor for a seat on the City Council against a candidate that the mayor himself handpicked. Those are the rumors, anyway. (I should also add that Wasilla is a town replete with rumors, spun while saddling up to the bar at 5 a.m., gun in hand, unless you’re Vic Kohring and can’t own a gun because you’re a felon). So, here’s the buzz: remember when Steve Menard was on the Wasilla City Council and went to the Alaska Municipal League conference in Sitka where he reportedly threw a party, destroyed a room, to put it mildly, and wanted the owner of the hotel to “just bill the city?” Yes, that one. He got recalled and the mayor, Verne Rupright, chose relative political neophyte Brandon Wall to fill the seat. Who was Wall, more seasoned politicos asked? Turns out that he was Rupright’s neighbor and word is that the mayor chose him because he wanted an easy vote. Not so fast. Wall has bucked Rupright on several issues. To teach him a lesson, so it’s said, Rupright is supporting Vic Kohring against Wall. Kohring’s apparently gaining some traction. He’s tirelessly going door-to-door, aligning himself with Ted Stevens and talking to the mountains about being a victim of federal prosecutorial overreach. He has the time for such things. He doesn’t have a job or a car. He lives off his mom and the land, and his phone number is from Kentucky because he is on his sister’s cell phone plan. Wall, on the other hand, works full time and has four children. On paper at least, he lives the kind of life that people want to hold up. The kind of life that even in Wasilla, people want to aspire to. Or at least they say so. On Oct. 2, we’ll see how schizophrenic the town really is or isn’t. Whatever happens, this much is true: Verne Rupright has the best name of any mayor in the country.
Sept. 4: U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has again hired uber pollster Celinda Lake in his reelection campaign. Lake, who is one of the most high powered pollsters in the country, is no stranger to Begich. She helped with both his Anchorage mayoral races in 2003 and 2006 and for him when he first won his seat in 2008. She even worked for Begich’s mother Pegge, who ran and lost against Rep. Don Young in 1984. Lake has worked across the Democratic spectrum, but she’s most well known for her work with female candidates and issues, including, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, Janet Napolitano, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, and many others. As I wrote on Friday, Begich is already good with women and on women’s issues, which candidates often ignore in this state at their peril. About 257,000 men were registered to vote in Alaska’s 2012 general election. Only 147,588 voted. In that same election, about 248,000 women were registered to vote and 152,075 did so. Those are numbers to pay attention to. They could easily make or break a candidate. None of this, however, is news to Lake.
Sept. 3: Republican Rep. Bob Lynn celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary on August 30. I don’t make it a habit of writing about legislators’ wedding anniversaries. However, as someone pointed out to me, how many leggies are ever, or have ever, made it to 60? That’s a lot of years. And how often am I going to get the opportunity to write about Bob Lynn? Too, Lynn has the following cute Facebook post about it: “On Friday, August 30th Marlene and I celebrated our 60th Wedding Anniversary. She was 19 and I was 20 when we married. We met on a blind date at Dexter, Missouri. I was an Aviation Cadet attending basic flight school at nearby Malden, Missouri. We were engaged at Big Springs, Texas, where she pinned on my Air Force wings at Webb AFB at my graduation ceremony from Cadets. We were married after a church service in Valdosta, Georgia nearby Moody AFB where I was checking out in the F94C jet. We’ve lived in 9 different state plus Germany, and have traveled all over the country and the world. We’ve been blessed with 6 children, 21 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Now we’re working on the next 60 years of matrimony!”
Aug 29: Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan is said to be back in the country, safe and sound. Sullivan, who is in the Marine reserves, was called to duty in Afghanistan on July 21, where he was working on an anti-terrorism mission. He reportedly landed in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, and as of this writing, is headed to his hometown of Cleveland to attend his little sister’s wedding. After the wedding, he’s back in Alaska where he’ll resume his commish role, and then to Japan where he’s expected to lead some sort of Japanese trade thing. AFTER all of this, he might announce that he’s running for U.S. Senate. Or he might not. All those Republicans from Alaska to D.C. might have gotten themselves all excited for nothing. One thing is clear: If he does announce that he’s running, he’ll likely be one of the only Senate candidates who recently came back from duty in Afghanistan, and Alaskans will likely hear a lot about it. In the meantime, Sen. Mark Begich is tirelessly crisscrossing the state, talking about everything to everybody. Lt. Mead Treadwell is cultivating strange bedfellows, and Joe Miller is busy spotting Muslim terrorists everywhere.
Aug. 28: Another very prevalent rumor flitting around the state is that prominent Alaska Native leader Byron Mallott is thinking of jumping in the governor’s race. It’s unclear whether Mallott will run as an independent or Democrat, but in either case, his name on the ticket would likely drum up quite a bit of excitement. Mallott’s resume is as long as the state. At 22, he was the mayor of Yakutat. He was commissioner of Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs under Gov. Bill Egan. He spent a year as mayor of Juneau, before becoming the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund. He was the CEO of Sealaska Corp, president of Alaska Federation of Natives, and has served on the board of many corporations. He’s well known and respected in the Alaska Native and business communities, and by both Democrats and Republicans. Watching him debate Gov. Sean Parnell would be double-bowl popcorn interesting.
Aug. 26: Lips were all moving on Monday about Bradford Keithley taking a stab at a run for governor. Keithley is formerly a lawyer for Perkins Coie and now runs a consulting business, and writes a blog that is mostly devoted to fiscal issues and the state’s so called looming fiscal crisis. He’s been involved with oil and gas issues in the state for years, but seems to have emerged on the political scene relatively recently. And somehow, because I guess some people just get to do so, he’s always being invited to testify in front of the Alaska state Legislature. The chatter has turned into such cacophonic levels—women screeching, men bellowing, dogs barking, etc …– that I had to do the unthinkable and go ahead and ask him. Keithley confirmed that if Gov. Sean Parnell doesn’t cut the budget, “some fiscal conservative” will. He doesn’t want to do it, he said, as they all say, but will decide when Parnell’s budget comes out in December. Keithley has been pushing severe budget cuts. It’s pretty clear that if he does run, he’ll do so as an independent. In his answer he cited the tradition of fellow Virginia Law School grads Angus King in Maine, and Lowell Weicker in Connecticut, who have run as independents for governor and won. If Keithley runs, as an independent, it’ll be a four-way race between him, Bill Walker, and likely Sen. Hollis French. And anything can happen in a four-way race.
Aug. 22: Salmonstock, the grass roots, anti-Pebble mine music festival, provides much opportunity for eye rolling and scorn. Fighting one of the biggest gold mines in the world with tie dye, free spirit, and bands with names such as “Trampled by Turtles” and “Out Of Our Tree,” strikes many as a stereotype-confirming waste of time. Then again, Pebble’s attempt at reaching the “people” through music won’t win any gold pan awards either. The Pebble Partnership is sponsoring the Alaska State Fair concert scheduled for Sunday, September 1 featuring Bret Michaels. The Pebble folks might be too busy to realize that in this case all that glitters is not gold, in fact, it’s poison. Literally. Those of us who were born after the invention of the internal combustion engine know Bret Michaels as the dreamy singer of “Every Rose Has a Thorn,” and others by the glam band “Poison.” It’ll probably amount to little more than a snicker or two, but if those Salmonstock folks weren’t too busy recovering from their Woodstock-like anti corporate, love fest, they could have some fun with the line, “Pebble brings us poison,” etc, etc..
Aug. 20: All has been relatively quiet on the Western senatorial front since DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan has gone and gotten himself flown off to Kabul. It’s is a little odd if you think about it. Here we’ve got a likely candidate for one of the most important Senate races in the country, who as we speak is in some God forsaken desert wearing his Marine garb helping make the world a safer place, and he doesn’t even get buzz for his efforts. Then again, Alaskans can roll their eyes at such gallantry. In fact, my friend Sheila Toomey went as far in the Ear as to make it sound as if Sullivan’s deployment was some political ploy to get Sullivan some attention. (Who has such power, aside from the Democrat who sits in the Oval Office, is beyond me and likely her too.) If Alaska refuses to be impressed, D.C. is ready to step in. First, talk inside the Beltway is that Sullivan will be back at the end of August and will announce shortly thereafter. And a plethora of Republicans are trying to make sure that it actually happens, including, to name a few, Sen. Rob Portman, who is a close family friend; college buddy Mike McFadden who has filed to run against Sen. Al Franken; and C. Boyden Gray, who has a resume as long as my arm, including serving as White House Counsel to President George H. W. Bush, and a stint as ambassador to the European Union. Meanwhile, the announced Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, is having a fundraiser in the Valley on Wednesday night.
Aug. 16: The Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association, or CHARR, has hired Anchorage-based Hackney & Hackney to fight the proposed alcohol tax increase in the Mat-Su Valley slated for this year’s October election. Good luck with that one. As some might have noticed, the Anchorage Daily News has been running a series of stories about the ill effects of alcohol in Alaska. In the paper on Tuesday, a disclaimer on a story about the decline of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving in Alaska made reference to the support that it was getting from a handful of nonprofits for the series. (A disclaimer that hasn’t appeared in other stories about alcohol, nor following its online stories). Regardless of the possible ethical implications of getting support from outside sources for news coverage, the series is likely to give a boost to those who support taxing alcohol. In other agency news, rumors suggest that the Alaska Oil and Gas Association has hired Porcaro Communications to fight the oil tax repeal. MSI was supposedly the shoe-in for the contract. AOGA, the largest oil company trade association in the state, values loyalty, and MSI has worked for the Alaska Support Industry Alliance to lower taxes, and was the parent of Make Alaska Competitive, a coalition that pushed for the tax decrease. On paper at least, Porcaro, though well respected, doesn’t appear to be that loyal. The agency has worked for gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, who is considered by many in the industry to be “anti-oil.”
Aug. 14: Governor Parnell has decided to retain political consultant Jon Lerner to guide his reelection bid. Or at least that’s the inside-the-beltway buzz, and because this is a no-reporting-allowed column, that buzz shall neither be confirmed nor will the buzzers’ names be revealed. But it does make sense. Often times, Parnell likes to work with friends, and hire friends of friends, particularly if they are of like ideological minds. And Parnell has a history with Lerner, who supported him in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Don Young in the 2008 Republican primary. In that race, Parnell was supported by the conservative group Club for Growth, where Lerner guided their activities as their chief political consultant. Lerner also helped Parnell get elected in 2010. Among other candidates, Lerner worked for Arlen Spector, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, and Tim Pawlenty. He was also one of the architects of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s PAC and his political activities.
Aug. 11: There’s a buzz in Republican circles about the future of Sen. President Charlie Huggins. Some people, unhappy with the existing field of candidates for lieutenant governor because they bring too much baggage to the job, are encouraging him to run for lieutenant governor. He certainly does bring some strengths to a Gov. Sean Parnell ticket. For one, he’s from the Mat-Su, and because of the area’s high concentration of Republicans, it’s arguably the most important area in the state in a Republican primary. Second, he’s tough. His military record spans from Alaska to Vietnam and back again, and he can do more one armed push-ups than you. And his wife Becky, a retired major, is maybe even tougher than he is, and certainly lovelier. If he announces, it’ll happen sometime in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
Aug. 9: Former Gov. Bill Sheffield has a nice house in a neighborhood of other nice houses. On most nights, most reasonable people would probably like to live there. But in the past two nights, neighbors would be excused for wishing they were someplace else. Istanbul, maybe. On Tuesday night, Sheffield hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Finance Co-Chair Kevin Meyer and Rep. Mia Costello. And on Wednesday, night Sheffield hosted a political event to raise funds to help re-elect U.S. Rep. Don Young. It was also a celebration of his 80th birthday, which is on Aug. 9. The house was packed. Sheffield’s driveway was packed. The streets leading to his house had cars parked on both sides. All the usual subjects, hundreds of them, showed. All the same people who no doubt showed last year, and the year before and so on. The theme of the party was “Young forever.” And indeed, Young looks remarkable for his age. The house was decorated with blown up pictures of him looking even younger: here on a tractor with his late wife Lu. Here with Ted Stevens. Here standing on a mountain top, staring contemplatively out at his beloved Alaska. Young’s not going to be around forever. A replacement must be found and groomed. But pickings are slim. The political power was found when Alaska was indeed young, and largely remains with many of the people who showed up at Sheffield’s house. But nothing is forever. And they aren’t young anymore.
Aug. 7: Strategies 360, a Seattle based advertising and public affairs firm with an office in Anchorage, has been known to work mostly for what might be considered Democratic causes, such as their work with labor unions and their BBNC anti-Pebble campaign. However, the firm apparently now is seemingly becoming bi-partisan. Sources say that the firm recently landed an independent expenditure account to elect Mead Treadwell to the U.S. Senate in 2014. Local politicos, sometimes associated with the firm, include former Democratic representative and gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz and Republican operative Taylor Bickford who served as Bill Walker’s campaign manager in 2010 and more recently served as the executive director of the state’s reapportionment board. And, in other news, Dittman Research will be doing some polling for Treadwell.
Aug. 5: Earlier this year, Republican Party officials were encouraging Rep. Mia Costello to consider challenging incumbent Sen. Hollis French. The chant then was “run Mia run.” On Sunday night at a ceremony at the Millennium Hotel, folks were recognizing Costello for the days when folks shouted, “swim Mia swim.” At long last, Costello was inducted into the Alaska High School Sports Hall of Fame. During Costello’s career, she set eight state records and became state champion in two swimming events. She was the first Alaskan to qualify for the Olympic trials. Her husband was the second. Her college alma mater, Harvard University, has already included her into its Hall of Fame. Better late than never, I suppose.
July 31: Palmer, the Mat-Su city founded by Midwestern farmers, isn’t known for its zaniness. Unlike Wasilla, its sister city, Palmer’s downtown looks like a downtown. People wave as you cross the street. Sturdy-legged children play politely on well tended yards. But on Tuesday night, a group of well known, respected women in the community got bit by the Wasilla devil and they got down on it. The mayor, the Senate president’s wife, a school superintendent, a legislator and a host of other prominent women all adorned in black leotards and bright red boas performing a well-choreographed dance to Abracadabra, the Steve Miller Band’s hit from years ago. They did so to honor Rep. Bill Stoltze on his birthday. Stoltze is not known as the zaniest politician, but in their eyes anyway, he’s a magician for all that he’s been able to do for the area.
July 22: While a lot of politicians are scurrying around, contacting big donors and contemplating their political future, two of Alaska’s most vocal Democrats, Alaska state Sen. Hollis French and Rep. Les Gara and their spouses floated down a river last week through ANWR. Both of them say that they support opening the reserve to drilling. Did they talk, among other things, about how great it would be to open the area to wildcatters? Surely they spoke about who was going to step up and run against Gov. Sean Parnell. Gara has already announced, to little fanfare, that he’s content to be a House member for now. French, however, is supposedly considering it. He’s reportedly waiting to see what the other oft quoted Democrat, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, is going to do. Whatever was talked about, they took awesome pics, which you can salivate over on French’s Facebook page.
July 17: Considering how small this state is, and the sieve like nature of those in the political circles, it’s surprising the cloud of mystery Mike Nizich, Gov. Sean Parnell’s chief of staff, has managed to shroud himself in. Most don’t even know how to pronounce his name say nothing of spell it. (Some have resorted to calling him Nietzsche, if only because it’s smoother rolling off the tongue.) This is what we do know about one of the most powerful men in the state: he has worked in the governor’s office under eight different governor’s since 1976. He’s good at stuffing animals, he knows where all the bodies are buried and he knows what to do when a ship is sinking, always a good skill for a chief of staff to have. This weekend, Nizich, a former member of the Coast Guard, proved it. He was said to be boating in the Juneau area when he heard a distress call from a boat that was taking on water. Luckily for the distressed boat, Nizich’s Coastie instincts kicked in and he responded to the call for help. Five hours later, the boat was back in Auke Bay and safely pulled out of the water. You won’t likely hear Nizich talk about any of this, or anything else for that matter. He likely learned all he needs to know about loose lips during the Palin administration.
July 1: Few would peg both former Gov. Bill Sheffield and John Shively as the sensitive, caring, nurturing types. “Life-supporting energies are at the heart of (their) characters, “one of the zillions of astrology sites writes about those born between June 22 – July 23. “You’ll do well in any of the caring professions. This approach is highlighted by your key life phrase, ‘I nurture,”’ the astrologer says. This part of their personalities were on full display this weekend, during both Sheffield’s 85th birthday party on Saturday (see main story for more on that party) and Shively’s 70th at Southside Bistro on Sunday, where hundreds were fed and plied drinks, backs were slapped, and hugs were bestowed. Shively came to Alaska in 1965 as a Vista volunteer, worked for NANA, served as Governor Sheffield’s COS, as Governor Knowles’ DNR Commissioner and currently serves as CEO of the Pebble Partnership. Guests, young and old, from around the state came to pay tribute and celebrate. His lovely wife and daughter, AJ and Natasha, gave him a pair of overalls, which appeared to be a nudge that it was time to start thinking about retirement and spending more time on their farm in Nebraska. His actual birthday is Monday, July 1st (as is my mother’s) so be sure to extend your birthday wishes and ask for some nurturing
June 25: For Republican politicos and political contributors in Anchorage, Tuesday was a double header. Tuesday at noon, Rep. Mia Costello packed a room of $500 contributors at Jens’ restaurant in her bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Hollis French. Gov. Sean Parnell and his wife Sandy stopped by the event for about 15 minutes to support Costello and say hello to her supporters. Later in the day, Costello returned the favor by stopping by Parnell’s first Anchorage-based fund raising event at the Crown Plaza Hotel as did many of her supporters from earlier in the day. Parnell isn’t known to have anything like a cult following, but more people came than expected, and therefore more checks were written. It also begs the irresistible question: où êtes-vous Hollis French. And while we’re getting gratingly cute, where’s Bill Walker been walking?
June 14: Unconfirmed rumors report that ConocoPhillips’ Board of Directors is slated to meet in Anchorage this summer. Arguably, it makes sense since about 25 percent of their company’s profits come from the 49th state and it would be a great opportunity to familiarize board members on their North Slope activities and the resource potential of the area. Speaking of CP’s board, until last year all nine members were men. After shareholders began to object, they added two more seats to the board, both of which are filled by women.
June 13: The congressman from the 8th Congressional district of Ohio will be in Anchorage on July 2nd for a fundraiser. At least that’s the rumor from some connected political types. If you’re wondering why in the world would Alaskans give a hoot about some congressman from the Buckeye state, you need to know that he’s also the 61st and current Speaker of the House – – Representative John Boehner. Betcha our Congressman for All Alaska, Don Young, will be close by his side.
In other unrelated news, Sarah Palin is said to be rejoining FOX News as contributor
May 22: Apparently, Alaskans aren’t focusing on the governor’s race quite yet. Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker was reportedly in southeast Alaska visiting Haines and had a small get together at his brother’s house. The operative word was small. Besides the candidate, the candidate’s brother and family, there was one other person at the event. It’s still way early, miles to travel, lots of babies to kiss and fund raising events to tolerate.
May 9: It’s being rumored that wonderkid House Majority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt is contemplating a bid for Lt Governor, a seat currently occupied by Mead Treadwell, who is considering taking a run at U.S. Senate. The source of the rumor appears to be an overheard conversation with well-known Republican political pollster Marc Hellenthal. Pruitt’s elders however, might advise him to stay put. If it’s true as Vice President John Nance Garner once put it that the vice presidency isn’t worth a “warm bucket of spit,” then being lieutenant governor of Alaska certainly isn’t worth a frozen one. The only job that’s constitutionally mandated is being the figurehead for the Division of Elections, whose day-to-day operations are run by a very competent Gail Fenumiai. You do get to travel, however. In fact, in 2012, Treadwell chalked up $56,589 on official state business travel, which was $15,969 more than Governor Sean Parnell spent last year.
May 8: National heavyweight Republican political consultants Mike Dubke and Carl Forti were seen around Anchorage Tuesday smelling the political winds. The two are founding members of the consulting firm, the Black Rock Group, so named after neither race nor rock, but a town in New York that could or should have been the state’s economic hub, or something. Dubke is best known as an operative and consultant with the National Republican Congressional Committee and Forti as a Romney operative.
May 2: Sometimes it feels like a political merry-go-round when it comes to legislative staffers switching jobs. During the 2013 legislative session, Brett Huber served as Sen. Lesil McGuire’s chief of staff. Not so anymore. This week he started work in Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s Valley office. Back in the day, Huber was an aide to former Sen. President Rick Halford and the executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Most recently, and prior to the stint with McGuire, Huber was living in Hawaii. Word has it that he ran a gym there. Whatever he did, he got a tan doing it.
April 29: At least three Alaskans spent an evening last Thursday rubbing shoulders with five living U.S. presidents, as well as the inevitable gaggle of political elite that follow presidents, at the official opening of the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Texas. Among those taking the long trek from Alaska were ad agency executives Art and April Hackney, and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan. Rumor has it that they were even at some of the private A – list invitation only events.
The Hackneys are best known in Alaska for their take-no-prisoners ads, mostly for Republicans and against the Pebble Mine. Outside, the Hackneys are known for their work for Karl Rove’s PAC, American Crossroads, for which he won 23 awards from the American Association of Political Consultants.
It’s said that Rove is on the prowl for a respectable Republican candidate to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, one who will stave off a Joe Miller-type from winning the primary.
Enter Sullivan, who has all the right credentials and who no doubt pressed and impressed the flesh. Although Sullivan himself hasn’t confirmed as much, rumors abound that he’s interested in going for the seat and will announce when Gov. Sean Parnell announces that he’s running for a second term as governor.
April 11: This legislative session has seen some huge bills: pieces of gas lines, oil taxes, guns, abortion, to name a few. But one legislator, Sen. Lesil McGuire was intent that waistlines not expand with them. As Senate Rules Committee chair, McGuire’s got some power. Rules is the last committee to see a bill before it ends up on the floor, and as chair, she’s got the ability to squash it like a bug. That’s some power. But to some, it pales in comparison to her other duties, namely oversight of the Legislative Lounge. As such, she has directed lounge staff to try to serve healthy foods. And it appears to have worked some. Usually by this time this year, the Juneau 15, is causing stretched waistlines and jowls to expand. But this year it’s different. It’s not like politicians are skipping down the aisles of the capitol building (except of course for Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, AKA “The Kid,”) but they do seem a bit more healthy. However, as fast food shops have long known, healthy isn’t necessarily happy. And some have implored McGuire to let them eat their cake and grease during the last week of session. She’s capitulated. So, in the lounge at least, happy days and happy meals are here again.
April 8: Representative Les Gara, as a member of the minority, isn’t known for winning very often in Juneau; however, his luck at the bowling alley is better than it is in the House chambers.This year, Gara led the legislative bowling league and his team to a first place championship where he received the league trophy Saturday night. Folks familiar with the legislative bowling league say that House Speaker Mike Chenault is also one of the best bowlers in the league. It’s worth noting that the entertainment at the end of year bowling party held Saturday evening was the familiar Juneau band, Spank the Dog, which features Rep. Dan Sadler on the bass guitar with Sen. Pete Kelly on drums. The band’s previous drummer, former Rep. Tom Anderson, gave up his position due to unfortunate circumstances.
April 7: By now, most attentive legislative observers have heard about the abortion protest last week across the street from the Alaska state Capitol building and how state owned vehicles were ordered to block the large 4 x 8 foot graphic posters of unborn fetuses.
Then there was the video of the incident posted on former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller’s website along with an admonishment to Gov. Sean Parnell criticizing him for his lack of support for the Right to Life movement. Parnell’s long time trusted adviser and friend Cindy Sims wrote a letter expressing displeasure with Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg, and then wrote a letter to Miller’s people apologizing. Many thought that this was an ill conceived move, for all sorts of reasons, the least of which is that you once you engage with the Miller folks it never ends.
Next, the blame game starts with folks pointing more fingers at each other than Carter’s has liver pills.
Now, the Legislature plans to get to the bottom of the matter by having a special investigation headed by Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna ) and Rep. Mike Hawker ( R-Anchorage). The rumor mill suggests that the Legislative Affairs Agency might be far more culpable than originally thought. Will the investigation get to the bottom of the matter? Will a report be issued and made public? Will heads rolls? Will Parnell continue to capitulate to Miller? Stay tuned.
April 6: Hundreds of political operatives descended onto the already consultant-saturated nation’s capital this weekend for the American Association of Political Consultants awards ceremony. The awards, called the Pollies, are to the consulting business what Oscars are to the movies. Among the suave, the black suites, the increasingly well paid thanks to Citizens United, was long-time Alaska political consultant Art Hackney, who was, until this weekend, vice chairman of the organization and is now chair. Hackney is known in Alaska for his take-no-prisoners ads, mostly for Republicans and against the Pebble Mine. Last year, Hackney was busy producing ads for Karl Rove’s PAC, American Crossroads. For his efforts, Hackney won 23 awards with eight of them being at the top of their class.
During a bathroom break on Saturday night during the House Finance Committee’s hearing on SB 21 (oil tax reform), a lobbyist asked Democratic Rep. Gara as he walked by if “they” were going to put a muzzle on him to keep him from talking. Without missing a beat and without stopping, Gara responded that “nobody can shut me up!” Indeed, for all their power and engineering ingenuity, the oil companies haven’t been able to design a Gara-sized muzzle. He proved it to be a fact, asking the harried consultants who testified until late into the evening Saturday as many questions as House Finance Chair Bill Stoltze would allow. It’s unclear to what end, however. The chattering class in Juneau, the handful who are still bothering to chat about oil taxes, say that the bill will leave House Finance pretty well as it left the Senate last month. In any case, after a interrogation by Gara, the consultants, who are clearly more comfortable with numbers than with politics, left House finance looking thoroughly spent. The hearings continue…
April 4. Lips are flapping about: The House member who’s getting a reputation for firing their staff and for yelling at other people’s staff. And the other House member who’s so unpleasant in that uniquely annoying smarty pants way that he or she can’t get their pro-oil amendments passed through their pro-oil party…And a senator who wears kick-ass shoes and is fixin’ to employ them in Rules.
April 3: The rather staid Juneau abortion protest rally across from the Alaska state Capitol building gained a little public relations boost from the state’s attempt to block the street ( or maybe the large posters featuring photos of aborted fetus ) with at Department of Administration vehicles. Now, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller has a video of such on his blog, and he is chastising the state for violating the protesters’ First Amendment rights and calling on the Gov. Sean Parnell to investigate who was responsible for this wrong doing. Rumors have it that the Governor’s office was all a flutter trying to assure its right to life supporters that they were not part of or condoned such activities. Maybe a latter day Warren Commission will be forthcoming. Miller could come to Juneau himself and testify. And bring his bodyguards.
Former Senator Tom Wagoner (R – Kenai) wasn’t complaining about not being in Alaska’s capitol city today, where budgets are being hashed, sausage is being cased and tongues are protruding. Apparently he’s in Palm Springs, with others who winter there, others who are different than you and me, celebrating his hole-in-one at the Mission Hills Country Club.
March 30: Being a legislative page can be arduous work, according to 11-year-old guest page Matthew Thayer, son of Curtis Thayer, who is the deputy commissioner for the Department of Administration. First, the younger Thayer said that you have to stand a lot. Thayer stood for five hours on Thursday when he was the Senate page, and then two hours on Friday. “My feet were hurting like crazy” he said.
Secondly, it can actually be hard work just standing there and watch while government officials engage in government waste. In this particular case, a waste of effort and imagination. Like, Rep. Wes Keller, why go through the trouble of shooting rubber bands while in session when you could do so much better? Why settle for so little when the possibilities are endless?
That’s what Thayer wanted to know after he saw a rubber band sail in the air, and land on the House Speaker Mike Chenault’s desk. And then another one…
Why not use Silly String? Thayer asked Keller during an at ease. Confetti guns? And then there’s these real cool remote control helicopters equipped with water guns. (Yes, guns Keller!) Why settle for a measly rubber band when you could do so much better? Why do adults limit themselves so?
Anyway, Thayer said that Keller listened with great interest and was really nice. He also said that “the tall one”, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, was also really nice, and that Rep. Bill Stoltz knew his name without prompting, which is a good lesson for an 11 year old, who, knowing his father, is no doubt already planning his first campaign.
March 21: On St. Paddy’s Day, Gov. Frank Murkowski celebrated his 80th birthday in sunny Palm Springs, the place where many Alaskans who are different than you and me winter. Murkowski served 21 years as a U.S. senator before passing his seat down to his daughter Lisa and becoming the state’s governor.
Murkowski had big plans for the state: roads and railroad tracks, a big natural gas pipeline and a re-write of the state’s tax laws. But many remember him as the grumpy governor who became increasingly grumpier as he realized that he couldn’t break that logjam of Alaska political intransigence. The fact that the FBI arrived wearing suits and brandishing search warrants, and Sarah Palin nipping at his heels didn’t help his mood any.
These days Frank is grandfatherly and sunkissed and those who were invited to the party—those who are different than you and me—report that Frank is happy, salmon was the dish of the day, the cake was a St. Paddy’s Day green and Fran Rose, wife of money manager David Rose, wore a “beautiful” cocktail dress. About 50 in all showed, including his daughter, former Washington state Gov. Daniel Evans and his wife, Dan Coffey, Bill Bittner and “know your furrier” Perry Green and his wife Gloria. Carl Brady, former owner of Alaska Sales and Service, arrived via golf cart.