Americans for Tax Reform, a Grover Norquist group that has suddenly taken a keen interest in the governor’s race, sent out a press release today, accusing Independent candidate Bill Walker of calling for a state income tax in a 2004 Anchorage Daily News letter to the editor. The problem? Walker says that he didn’t write it. Walker’s lawyer, Scott Kendall, is demanding a retraction. In a letter (see below), Kendall called the claim “patently false and defamatory.” As he pointed out, there are at least 20 Bill Walkers listed in the phone book. (Full disclosure: The letter was floated by me a few weeks ago. I asked Walker’s campaign about it then, and Walker’s spokesperson, Lindsay Hobson, said that neither Bill, nor his wife Donna “recognized it as something he had written.”)
In a press release, Walker said that he has never supported an income tax and never “entertained this thought.” He said it was “another attempt by an Outside group to distract voters from Sean Parnell’s troubling fiscal record.”
Kendall said that he sent the letter after East Coast business hours, and after the decision makers had left for the day, which he called ‘unfortunate.” The press release is being spread around social media.
Here’s Kendall’s letter in full:
Americans for Tax Reform
Grover Norquist, President
722 12th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005
Re: Demand to retract, cease publication, and issue correction of patently false and defamatory article
Our File No: 6175-028230
Dear Mr. Norquist
We represent the campaign of Bill Walker, who is running as an Independent candidate for the office of Governor of the State of Alaska. We are writing on the Walker campaign’s behalf to demand that Americans for Tax Reform immediately retract, cease publication, and issue a correction of its patently false and defamatory article dated October 31, entitled “Alaska Governor Candidate Bill Walker Backed Creating State Income Tax.”
This article reprints a decade-old letter to the editor from the Anchorage Daily News, that was authored by a “Bill Walker.” The letter refers to imposing an income tax on Alaskans. The article then goes on to state that “he is the same Bill Walker” that is running for Governor of Alaska. This claim is absolutely, one hundred percent, false.
If the author, Will Upton, had merely bothered to pick up the phone and ask Candidate Walker he would have realized his claims were false. If he had used common sense, he might have realized that “Bill Walker” is not an uncommon name. And, if he had performed the slightest research, he would have realized that there are currently at least twenty individuals named “Bill Walker” residing in Alaska.
As you know, Americans for Tax Reform is a well-respected organization that has been advocating for tax reform for nearly 30 years. Even where ATR has disagreed with candidates or outright opposed them, ATR had a reputation for getting the facts right in service of its mission. In this case, ATR utterly failed to live up to that standard. ATR’s publication of a patently false, 11th-hour attack on Bill Walker is beneath the dignity of the organization and its history.
To the extent Mr. Upton put this story together, he has failed ATR. However, if a 3rd party or surrogate of Mr. Walker’s opponent provided this information to ATR claiming that it was genuine-then ATR has been deceived and its good name has been misused. Given the fact that Mr. Walker’s opponent is currently trailing in the polls, we believe there is a strong chance that the latter occurred.
ATR is entitled to its own opinion-it is entitled to support the incumbent Sean Parnell and to oppose Independent Bill Walker. However, ATR is not entitled to make up its own facts. This letter was not authored by gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, and it does not reflect his views. If ATR is interested in assessing Mr. Walker’s views, then we invite you to visit his website, or review one of the many interviews and debates he has participated in.
Because the article is false and defamatory, the Walker Campaign hereby demands that ATR immediately pull down the article, cease any further publication, and issue a correction stating that the author of the letter is not gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. The Campaign also requests that you contact them for verification prior to publishing any other flimsy and unsubstantiated allegations.
Thank you in advance for your immediate compliance with this letter. Please be advised that any failure to correct and withdraw the article will not be tolerated.
HOLMES WEDDLE & BARCOTT, P.C.
Scott M. Kendall
Counsel to Walker for Alaska