My favorite stories from 2014

From the Sarah Palin family brawl, to profiles of Alaska’s first ladies, from oil taxes to the natural gas pipeline, from the Senate race to politicians sharing childhood Christmas memories, here are my top 11 favorite stories on this blog from 2014. If you click on any of the links below, make sure to scroll down to read the comments. To the extent that I’m proud of what I’ve done, it’s that I’ve attracted some really smart people on this site who put a lot of time into trying to inform the public, me included. Thanks so much for that. Happy New Year to all.

Here they are, in no particular order:

“Yes or No on Repeal: Alaska’s got a big government problem.” In the heat of the oil tax repeal fight, I argued that the real problem Alaska has is not oil taxes so much, but its huge percentage of government workers.


But the public union endorsements add to my suspicion that at its heart, the most recent incarnation of the fight over oil taxes—a fight that the state has been having since Prudhoe was discovered in 1968—is really more simple than all of this. When you get down to it, the biggest elephant in the room lives in the state coffers, where it involves, among other weighty things, public employee versus private sector jobs. And that’s an elephant that few, at least in government, want to talk about.

“Meet some of the political operatives behind the candidates.” Here was a behind the curtain look at who was running the campaigns in Alaska.


 He could have stepped out of a film featuring a high-strung campaign manager. He paces. He smokes. He can be foul-mouthed. He wears cowboy boots and blue jeans. Everything’s a crisis and a disaster until it’s not. He yells a lot, until he can’t help himself and he laughs. And just when you think you’ve pegged him as an ironically-detached, Machiavellian gun-for-hire, he gets very serious and talks about how lucky he has been to work for such great men like Chris Christie and Dan Sullivan. So, a simple party hack? Not so fast. He’s also a graduate of St. John’s College, where they study ancient Greek and read Plutarch and Aristotle.

“Meet Sandy Parnell, the first lady you wished you had met sooner.” Here I briefly profiled the first lady, which then-Gov. Sean Parnell’s campaign was beginning to use on the trail.


(T)he interview I had with her, which lasted an hour and a half, did not focus…on oil tax policy. Healthcare. The federal government. The pipeline. I suspected that on these issues, I wouldn’t get much more from her than I would from her husband.I was more interested in the personal. Who is our governor’s wife. Who is Sandy Parnell herself? What makes her tick?

“Meet First Lady Donna Walker”. I sat down with the first lady for more than an hour, and learned a lot about her interesting background.


We’ve heard a lot about Bill Walker, but I wanted to hear more about his wife Donna. I wanted to meet her. I hardly knew anything about her. And if I didn’t, chances are I’m not alone. Most who have seen her on television, say, or on the campaign trail, would likely describe her as a strong, independent woman. And she is. She’s the first First Lady of Alaska with a law degree. Ask anybody who was involved in the campaign and they’ll tell you how involved she was, how keenly smart she is and how she kept everything organized and kept the wheels running.

“A new day in Alaska politics, or back to the future?” This is a piece I wrote shortly after the Unity ticket was announced. I said that the energy surrounding the ticket felt a lot like the energy surrounding Sarah Palin when she was running.


It all felt familiar. Déjà vu for the politico in you. Scott Heyworth, a former Palin disciple, said to me, “This feels like when Sarah Palin won, but better!” Indeed it did feel like 2005, when Palin won her party’s nomination for governor. Her message then was largely centered around creating a bi-partisan team that was going to do what was right for Alaska, party politics be damned.

“Would a Walker win put the pipeline in peril?” My take on what the Walker administration could mean for the fate of the natural gas pipeline.


Walker’s saying that his plan does not entail a wholesale re-write of the contract. While I respect him, he’s either being naive or simply not being straight here. The 25 percent state interest is one of the key components of the current contract. A greater ownership means that all the parties are back at the table, and it means that it has to, once again, pass through the Legislature… It might be worth it. Walker can be persuasive when he talks about taking back the state and about controlling our destiny. But we should all be aware of the risks: And the risks in this case are that what we have now will all be undone.

“Begich releases most inflammatory attack on Sullivan yet.” I was able to publish this story a few hours after Mark Begich’s campaign released the now-infamous Jerry Active ad, because I had earlier reported on the issue when an Outside blogger friend of Mead Treadwell’s also tried to smear Sullivan with the Active case months earlier.


Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign released the most inflammatory ad of this campaign on Friday going into the holiday weekend. The ad features former Anchorage Police Department officer Bob Glen, who, among other things, blames GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan for the heinous 2013 rape of a 2-year-old and the murder of her elderly relatives.

Senate candidate Sullivan shows a fundamental lack of understanding about healthcare.” One of Sullivan’s main platforms was repealing ObamaCare, and he repeatedly complained that lawmakers didn’t know the full extent of the law when they passed it. In an interview with the ADN, he displayed how little he himself knew:


He doesn’t even known how much he, a vet, pays in monthly premiums. He doesn’t seem to know anything about high risk pools. He talks about tort reform being a panacea, but he, a state’s rights guy, appears not to be aware that most states have enacted tort reform. Alaska signed significant tort reform into law in 1997. It hasn’t done much good…But most galling was that Sullivan wasn’t even aware that women were routinely charged more than men for health insurance, just because they are women.

“How much does Begich support and listen to women? Ask Murkowski.” To say that Mark Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s relationship was strained is putting it mildly.


I’ve always admired Begich’s seemingly unequivocal support for women and for women’s issues…But Begich’s recent comments about Murkowski are more than a little disturbing. Within them are the misogynistic seeds that have done women, including this one and nearly everyone I know, great harm throughout the ages: You shouldn’t be ashamed. We work well together. I know you better than you know yourself.

“Even politicians were once children. They remember the magic of Christmas.” If I can  say so myself, this is a really sweet story about politicians remembering their favorite childhood Christmas gifts. An excerpt doesn’t do it justice.

The dishy Loose Lips columns are the most popular columns on this site. Read here and here for the most popular this year. This Loose Lips, which contained the first account of the Sarah Palin brawl, went everywhere.


Hell hath no fury like a Palin family visit:  Just when I was about to give up on them, the Gods of gossip came visiting this week, and as they’ve done in the past, they beckoned me to look towards Wasilla, towards the fortress of Our Lady of the North, the woman who was almost a heartbeat away from the presidency, whose family had a dramatic weekend, Wasilla style!

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4 thoughts on “My favorite stories from 2014

  1. John Q. Public

    Hard not to mention in the top 10 of 2014 the slow and painful political suicide committed by Parnell, Nizich, et al in their completely inept handling of the National Guard scandal.

    Parnell snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

  2. AH HA

    @Amanda: looking back on all the stories, I still get the biggest kick out of this one…. It’s short but in hindsight. exceedingly ironic.

    AFL-CIO endorses French for lt. gov.

    The Alaska AFL-CIO, the state’s largest largest labor organization, has endorsed outgoing Democratic Alaska state senator and lieutenant governor candidate Hollis French. Bob Williams, a teacher in Wasilla, is also running for that seat. AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said that although the union likes Williams, French has been supporting labor for 14 years and “we don’t turn our backs on old friends for new friends. ” Among other thing, the endorsement will now allow the AFL-CIO to write PAC checks to French. Other unions will likely follow the AFL-CIO’s lead.

  3. Lynn Willis

    Nice trip down memory lane Amanda. I would bet the upcoming legislative session alone will provide a bounty of memories (nightmares?) for this time next year. Thanks again for your efforts and for this forum. Happy New Year!

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