Tag Archives: alaska politics

Romney’s money-tree shaker signs on with Treadwell

11196328_mLt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has hired the high-powered D.C.–based Republican fundraiser Lisa Spies to help open up pockets. She has already organized at least nine national fundraisers for him through Nov. 5.

Most recently, Spies was the Director of Women for Romney Victory where, according to her website, she led the effort to raise over $23 million. She also served as the Director of Jewish Outreach for the Romney for President campaign.

Her husband Charlie Spies founded the Restore Our Future super PAC, which raised $153 million throughout the 2012 election cycle. It’s been rumored that he is forming a super PAC for Treadwell.

FEC rules dictate that anyone officially part of the campaign, including the candidate, cannot communicate about the campaign with those who are involved with super PACs.

Treadwell is running in the U.S. Senate Republican primary. So far, Joe Miller is the only other declared candidate. Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan is expected to enter the race and is expected to announce soon after his resignation from that job on Tuesday.

Sullivan will have some catching up to do. Below is a list of Treadwell fundraisers that Lisa Spies has organized.

September 25th
North Dakota
Reception: Captain Freddy’s Riverside Restaurant & Bar in Mandan, North Dakota. Hosted by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

September 26th
Seattle, Washington
Luncheon at the Washington Athletic Club. Hosted by Senator Slade Gorton, The Hon. Rob McKenna, The Hon. George Nethercutt, The Hon. Sam Reed, Chris Bayley, Svend Brandt-Erichsen, Brent Paine, John Stanton, Alan Walker, and Rob Wurm.

September 29th
Lana’I, Hawaii
Reception at the Four Seasons Hotel

October 2nd
Honolulu, Hawaii
Reception at the home of Candes Meijide Gentry and Steve Shropshire. Hosted by Congressman Charles Djou, State House Leader Aaron Ling Johanson, State House Floor Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang, and Hawaii GOP Chair David Chang

November 5th
Denver, Colorado
Reception at the Cherry Hills Country Club

Fundraisers have also been set for Oct. 9, and Oct. 10 in California. Also Oct. 28, and Oct. 29 in D.C. Details are still being worked out for these.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


Politico piece longs for the days of Ted Stevens

Ted StevensA piece in Politico about the fight over the government shut-down waxes nostalgic for the good old days, when there were leaders like former Sen. Ted Stevens in Congress:

“Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had a terrible relationship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and greatly resented the “anti-torture” amendment that McCain added to Stevens’s defense appropriations bill in 2005. But Stevens ultimately decided that he couldn’t rightly use his backroom power to strip the language out in the House-Senate conference. If it were put to a vote, Stevens knew he would lose, and so he allowed McCain’s legislation to become law.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) — who was part of those defense talks — respected Stevens’s handling of the situation so much that he helped the Alaskan use the same bill to get a vote Stevens wanted: opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge more to oil and gas exploration.

Stevens lost ultimately on the Senate floor. But the whole transaction — between two veteran vote-counters who are now both deceased — illustrates something missing in Congress.”


Is Mead Treadwell afraid that Dan Sullivan will eat his lunch?

mayoIn a wide-ranging interview with Politico which took place in Washington D.C., Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is running for U.S. Senate, all but called prospective candidate, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, a carpetbagger.

“I’ve got a jar of mayonnaise in my refrigerator that’s been there longer than Dan Sullivan’s been in Alaska,” Treadwell told Politico.

Sullivan’s partial response, via email: “(A)fter moving to Alaska over 16 years ago, I learned something new today — not to eat any of Mead Treadwell’s sandwiches.”

Sullivan hasn’t officially announced, but has resigned his job effective Sept. 24, and everyone, including Treadwell, knows he’s going to. This will pit him against Treadwell and tea party candidate Joe Miller in a three-way primary race before running against U.S. Sen Mark Begich in the general election.

“Politically, this helps Joe Miller. And most importantly, it helps people who want to help Mark Begich by fomenting division in the Republican Party,” Treadwell said.

Asked about whether or not he would be a better candidate than Sullivan, Treadwell said that he’s “very happy to put my record out there and let the voters decide.”

Sullivan moved to Alaska in 1997 after getting a Georgetown law degree to clerk for judges, including Chief Justice Warren Matthews. He was in private practice until 2002, when he moved to D.C. to head the International Economics Directorate of the National Economic Council and National Security Council under George W. Bush. He left the White House to become an assistant secretary of state.

In 2009, then Gov. Sarah Palin appointed him to become Alaska’s attorney general. He’s now the commissioner of DNR. Sullivan has also served in the Marine Corps since 1993, both on active duty and in the reserves. He was recently called to active duty to work on a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan.

Treadwell moved to Alaska in 1978 to work on Wally Hickel’s losing gubernatorial run. He returned in 1982 armed with a master’s from Harvard to work for Hickel’s company, Yukon Pacific which tried, but failed, to build a natural gas pipeline that would run from the North Slope to tidewater in Valdez. Hickel ran again for governor and won in 1990 and Treadwell served as his deputy commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

In 2001, Treadwell was appointed to the United States Arctic Research Commission by President George W. Bush. He became president of the commission in 2006. Throughout, he invested in a series of tech companies. He has been the state’s lieutenant governor since 2010, a job that’s been described by this writer, and by a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, as not worthy of a “warm bucket of spit.”

According to Politico, Treadwell has been traveling across the country raising money. He’s recently been in Chicago, Columbus, Ohio and Oklahoma City. It’s unclear if any of these trips involved state business, and if not, whether Treadwell will reimburse the state for the time he has spent traveling for fundraisers.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


State board rules gay partners are ‘family’ over objection of Rep. Lora Reinbold

gay rights State of Alaska employees who are in same sex relationships will now be able to take leave due to a serious health condition of a same-sex partner. Like employees in heterosexual relationships, gay partners of state employees will now be defined as “immediate family,” the state personnel board decided on Thursday.

The rule goes into effect Oct. 16 19.

Gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Alaska. However, in 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that because of the prohibition, it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples benefits that the state provides to heterosexual couples.

The state has mostly complied with the order. But it took the ACLU of Alaska to write a letter on behalf of a corrections officer to bring this to the court-ordered standard.

No matter that the state was complying with a Supreme Court decision, this issue still wrought controversy.

Alaska state Rep. Lora Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River and chair of the Administrative Review Committee, wrote a letter to the board, urging it to delay voting on the issue. She said that the decision would be giving “special privileges to individuals who have in fact made a Life-Style Choice.” It’s a choice, she asserts, that has “no legal standing;” however, she provides no supporting documentation. She appears either unaware of the Supreme Court decision or chooses to disregard it.

She also wrote that calling gay couples “family” is “not in keeping with my interpretation of statue or the legislative intent.”

The State of Alaska Personnel Board is a three member board appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature, which does not oversee the board.

Others wrote in support of the decision. A local medical doctor wrote that the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians all have stated that equal rights for same sex partners and their families “create a more healthy family environment.”

Another wrote that her partner of 13 years has breast cancer, and that this proposal is “not giving any special rights but an equal right to all employees.”

In 2006, Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the state from adopting the court-ordered, same-sex regulations. The law was unconstitutional, she said.

Palin is against same sex marriage. However, she said that “signing his bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Study confirms what all knew: Women are less corrupt than men.

Female politicians do not send electronic photos of their nether regions to strangers on the other side of the country. If they are picking up prostitutes, which they aren’t, they’re pretty discreet about it. And they aren’t as corrupt as men, so says a new paper to be published in an upcoming issue of Politics and Gender by Rice University’s Justin Esarey and Gina Chirillo.

Or at least that’s the case in democratic countries which stigmatize corruption. There isn’t much of a difference, the authors find, between the sexes when corruption is part of a norm. The authors say that this has something to with how the different genders perceive risk.

In Alaska, we knew this. There have only been a few scandals up here, and they have all been male dominated, save one former lawmaker, Bev Masek who traded her vote for $4,000.

In any case, this provides a great case for recruiting more female candidates into business and politics. In 2013 women held 98, or only about 18 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress. Across the country, women held about 24 percent of the seats in state Legislatures.

Alaska does a little better when it comes to gender equity in our state Legislature. Out of 60 legislators in Alaska, 17 or about 27 percent are women. Out of 14 total, there are five women in Gov. Sean Parnell’s cabinet.

But our private sector isn’t doing so well, at least if the make-up of boards is any indication. There are four major publicly traded companies based in Alaska with a total of 38 board members. Of these board members only seven are women, four of whom are on the board of First National Bank and three of whom are the chairman’s daughters.

Sen. Lesil McGuire is planning a conference, scheduled in October, about the economic status of women in Alaska and what can be done to raise the status of women in the state.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Keithley: Sticks and stones may break his bones. But politics? We’ll see.

laughAs I previously reported, Brad Keithley is making noises about running for governor. If he does so, he’d likely run as an independent, and he likely would be self-financed. He’s well-educated and cultured. He knows as much about college basketball and more about music than anyone who is running or has talked about running to date. And he’s also proving to be rather unorthodox compared to most politicians.

So far, in front of groups, on talk radio, and on his blog, he has focused on Gov. Sean Parnell’s handling of the state’s fiscal affairs, which could prove to be a major weakness for Parnell.

Under Parnell’s “fiscally conservative” administration, the budget has grown 55 percent. There are all sorts of reasons for this: declining federal funds and ballooning health care costs, to name a few. But there’s been loads of fat in Parnell’s budgets. And he’s done nothing to address what Keithley and others call a looming fiscal crisis. In fact, Parnell doesn’t even talk about it.

Inexplicably, Bill Walker let this one get away from him. Someone was bound to jump into the budget-sized opening. Too bad for Parnell that it increasingly looks like it’s Keithley who’s doing so.

That Keithley might have enough money to be self-financed, and not beholden to anybody, should be enough to make Parnell nervous. But already Keithley is proving that not being beholden also provides the flexibility to say and do what he pleases, and to break the so called “rules” of politics. This should be particularly unnerving for Parnell, who is nothing if not conventional.

Last week, for instance, Keithley posted correspondence on his blog that belittled his own candidacy. Most politicians would have tried to bury it. Keithley highlighted it by republishing the criticism in full, saying that it brought him “humor:”

Meant to tell you, I was recently at a meeting that included several Alaskan republican leaders. It was rumored that you were considering running for governor. When I heard their reactions, I was actually embarrassed for you. Of course democrat friends in JNU and on the hill hope you run, as there’s not a chance in hell you can win, but you will help push the vote in their favor. Best part? Several of those I mention above are people you told me were good friends and who you respect immensely. You are the laughing stock of that town. So gratifying to watch…

Keithley’s pitch-perfect response:

The humor? That ‘Alaskan republican leaders’ are wasting their time talking about personalities. (If you believe the writer, at least.) My recommendation? They spend their time instead talking about things that really matter, starting with ways to reduce the upcoming budget. Otherwise … they won’t be leaders for much longer.

Truth is, some Alaska Republicans, the smart ones, are talking about Keithley. In fact, they seem to be talking more about him than they are about Walker, who has been running for months. And they aren’t laughing.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com

Clarification: As far as I know, Keithley posted the correspondence in full. The author of the email that he published, however, says otherwise. 


Sen. Begich, Koch brothers group in tussle over ads

time to fightSen. Mark Begich and a Koch brothers’ funded group are in a battle over whether or not a television ad falsely characterizes Begich’s position on a carbon tax.

The American Energy Alliance, the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, both of which are funded partly by the Koch brothers, launched an ad recently in Alaska that says that Begich is in support of a carbon tax, something that the AEA is staunchly opposed to.

Begich says he doesn’t support the tax, and now lawyers are involved.

Begich’s lawyer called on station managers to take the ads down, calling them “false and misleading.”

“For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station must immediately cease airing this advertisement,” Begich’s lawyer wrote to the station managers on Sept. 5.

According to the AEA, the station mangers reviewed the ads and declined to remove them.

Begich has said publicly that he opposes a carbon tax. He did, however, vote on a non-binding amendment that said if such a tax were passed, revenue from it would be “returned to the American people in the form of federal deficit reduction, reduced federal tax rates, cost savings or other direct benefits.”

The vote would not have created or defeated a carbon tax, Begich’s lawyer wrote.

However, the AEA says his vote was a vote for the tax. Further, Begich voted against an amendment that would have required a vote of three fifths of the Senate to approve a carbon tax.

“That you felt the need to attempt to suppress the advertisements with threats and intimidation from your lawyers rather than publicly disclaim your past support for a carbon tax is telling,” said President of AEA Tom Pyle in a scathing press release.

“The American Energy Alliance would welcome a public apology to your constituents for your earlier votes in support of carbon taxes and your pledge that going forward your voting record will match your rhetoric on this vitally important issue for Alaska’s economic well-being,” Pyle wrote.

There’s more than a year to go before the 2014 election. Expect much more of this in the future.

Below is the AEA press release in full:

WASHINGTON — The American Energy Alliance responded today to a series of letters from a Washington D.C. law firm representing Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) who complains that a current advertisement sponsored by AEA “mischaracterizes” the senator’s past support for carbon tax legislation and threatens legal action for the continued airing of the ads. On Sept. 5, 2013, attorneys with Perkins Coie, LLP, notified station managers in Alaska that continued airing of AEA’s ad, entitled “Games,” could be cause for “loss of [the] station’s license.” Attorneys for the American Energy Alliance responded to the charges, and the Alaska stations were satisfied that the AEA advertisement did not run afoul of federal laws that prohibit “false, misleading or deceptive advertising.” All Alaska stations continue to run the AEA ad.

In his response letter, AEA President Thomas Pyle addressed two primary claims made by Senator Begich’s attorneys and campaign staff, namely that Begich has not supported a carbon tax and that AEA represents outside interests interfering in the state.

“That you felt the need to attempt to suppress the advertisements with threats and intimidation from your lawyers rather than publicly disclaim your past support for a carbon tax is telling,” Pyle wrote. “The American Energy Alliance will continue our current advertising initiative to inform Alaskans . . . of the impacts of harmful energy policies emanating from Washington and the role you play in shaping them. Moreover, we will seek additional opportunities in the future to do the same.”

Pyle took issue with Begich’s characterization of AEA as an “outsider group,” noting the senator’s willingness to host other “outsiders” who are opposed to economic development in Alaska — so long as those “outsiders” were raising money for the Begich re-election effort.

“Your campaign hosted a recent fundraiser in Fairbanks, charging guests as much as $120 per person to meet Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), [who was there] to help raise money for the Alaska Democratic Party and Alaska’s junior senator . . . Your willingness to invite an ‘outsider’ like Senator Cantwell to help swell your campaign coffers, all the while knowing of her well-documented history of championing legislative efforts to limit the development of Alaska’s vast natural resources and drive up the cost of energy for your constituents, exposes the height of hypocrisy that corrodes our system of representative democracy and always, eventually returns to haunt public officials.”

Pyle pressed further: “You certainly know your record, Senator. And you certainly know that elected officials are held to account more for their recorded votes than for their campaign rhetoric or the threatening missives and petty litigious needles threaded by their Washington-based lawyers. In any event, your record stands, and Alaskans are better informed citizens when organizations like the American Energy Alliance remind them of it.”

Pyle’s letter concludes: “The American Energy Alliance would welcome a public apology to your constituents for your earlier votes in support of carbon taxes and your pledge that going forward your voting record will match your rhetoric on this vitally important issue for Alaska’s economic well-being. Be assured that we will not be intimidated into backing away from our mission to foster an informed electorate of the voting records of their elected officials and call for engaged democratic participation in the American political tradition.”

To read Pyle’s full letter to Begich, click here.

To read the threatening letter from Begich lawyers to Alaska TV stations, click here.

To read the response letter from AEA attorneys, click here.

To view the AEA carbon tax ad currently running in Alaska, click here.

To read the fact sheet supporting the AEA ad, click here.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


DNR Commish Dan Sullivan resigns; sets stage for U.S. Senate campaign

SullivanAs I wrote last night that he would do, Gov. Sean Parnell announced on Thursday morning that Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan submitted his resignation letter. Although he doesn’t say so in his letter, Sullivan is resigning effective Sept. 24 to run for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.

“As I explore new opportunities and challenges in the next phase of my life, I intend to seek ways to continue to serve my fellow Alaskans,” Sullivan wrote.

“As attorney general, Dan played a major role in the Choose Respect initiative and fought hard against federal overreach,” Parnell said in his announcement. “During his tenure as commissioner, Dan led the state’s efforts in resource development and permitting reform, and worked to resolve Pt. Thomson litigation – setting the stage for a natural gas pipeline.”

In his resignation letter Sullivan is more specific about his successes as both Alaska’s AG and as DNR commissioner:

  • Protecting Alaska’s most vulnerable through the Choose Respect Initiative;
  • Spearheading the Cook Inlet energy renaissance;
  • Promoting increased oil production and jobs through the More Alaska Production Act;
  • Accelerating the commercialization of North Slope gas for Alaskans’ benefit;
  • Resolving Point Thomson and jump starting this multi-billion dollar North Slope development;
  • Slashing permitting backlogs and streamlining the State’s regulatory system;
  • Going on offense on ANWR exploration; and
  • Effectively fighting against federal overreach into the lives of Alaskans and our economy.

Sullivan will be running in the primary against current Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Senate candidate Joe Miller. Treadwell is kicking off his campaign today.

Both Sullivan and Treadwell are considered more “establishment” candidates, to the extent there is an “establishment” in Alaska. Miller is, well, Miller.

Because the party makeup of the U.S. Senate might very well rest on this race, people who are watching are nervous that Treadwell and Sullivan will pave the way for Miller to claim victory in a Republican primary, as he did when he ran against U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Between Treadwell and Sullivan, Karl Rove, for one, has deemed Sullivan to be the more winnable and is prepared to put money through at least one super PAC that he spearheaded to help ward off Tea Party candidates such as Miller.

Sullivan looks good on paper. He’s got a Harvard undergraduate degree and a law degree from Georgetown. He’s a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. He’s been in the United States Marine Corps since 1993, and just got back from reservist duty where he was on a counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan. He’s married to Julie Fate, whose mother is a respected Native Alaska leader and whose father is a former Fairbanks lawmaker.

However, unlike Treadwell, Sullivan has never run for office. Treadwell can fight tough and dirty if need be.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Begich appears to be against bombing Syria

syria It appears that U.S. Sen. Begich is leaning against voting for the use of force in Syria. In an hour-long telephonic town hall on Syria on Thursday evening, Begich listened and answered questions about what, until recently, was the United States’ imminent bombing of Syria in retaliation for using chemical weapons on its own citizens.

President Obama recently decided to bring the issue in front of Congress, which is expected to vote on a resolution next week which would authorize military action in Syria.

Begich’s answers to the wide ranging questions did in no way indicate that he was, as of yet, willing to support military action. He said that Americans and Alaskans weren’t “ready to engage” in another war. “Resources are stretched thin,” he said and Alaskans weren’t ready for more loss of life in the Middle East.

Most of the callers on Thursday appeared to be against military action, reflecting the country’s sentiment. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that six in 10 Americans are opposed to using military action in Syria. A Pew Research Center poll also found that 48 percent of adults are against military strikes while only 29 percent support such strikes.

Begich said that he has not yet heard a good argument for why bombing is in our national interest. He doesn’t know how much it would cost. He wasn’t sure that the resolution, drafted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, satisfies his requirements for no ground combat. He said that the country doesn’t have the international support that would justify such action. And he hasn’t been “100 percent” assured that the strike, as planned, prepares for all contingencies.

If he can be convinced of the above, and more, he might be willing to support such action. It seems unlikely however that all of his concerns are going to be allayed.

Begich said that he was “absolutely” getting pressure from his party to vote for military strikes, but said that he “will make this judgment by what I think is right.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been vague about what she’s going to do. Rep. Don Young has not. On his Facebook page he said, “(A)t the current time, I do not support U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war. After a dozen years, the American people are sick and tired of sacrificing lives in foreign wars.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Throwing his hat in the ring: Mallott will run for governor as a Democrat

byron mallottIn an interview on Monday evening, businessman and Alaska Native leader Byron Mallott said that he’s “definitely” putting his hat in the race for governor against Gov. Sean Parnell, and that he will run as a Democrat.

Due to the restrictive primary system, Mallott, who is 70 years old and lives in Juneau, has been registered as a nonpartisan for 12 years and has worked and supported Republican, independent and Democratic candidates. However, he’s been a Democrat most of his life, he said.

Mallott declined to give specifics about his platform, but he did say that he was born and raised in Alaska, and feels passionately about the state and the place of Alaska in the union. “It’s literally another country in size and richness of resources, but in many ways it’s a small town. The way we deal with one another should reflect that uniqueness,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Hollis French has filed papers to run for statewide office and has said that he was considering running for governor. It’s unclear if the news about Mallott will do anything to dissuade him from running. He couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday evening.

Mallott brings a unique understanding and perspective to both government service and the private sector, as well as to the rural/urban divide that plagues Alaska, and he’s got the resume to prove it. At 22, he was the mayor of Yakutat. He was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs under Gov. Bill Egan. He served as mayor of Juneau before becoming the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund. He was the CEO of Sealaska Corp, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and has served on the board of many corporations, including Alaska Airlines and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

He’s clan leader of the KwaashKiKwaan clan of the Raven tribe of Yakutat. His wife Toni is a retired elementary school teacher. They have five children.

Polls show that Parnell is popular in the state, but they also show that his popularity is rather shallow. In other words, he’s likable enough, but it’s not clear that there’s real commitment behind his support. Mallott is expected to start his campaign with deep pockets of support in Southeast Alaska, the Alaska Native community, and in some business sectors. He’s known to be passionate, tough, and smart and because no Alaska Native has been governor, the race has the potential to be imbued with history-making excitement.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Thank God it’s Friday: In the company of women edition

Thank god it's FridayEarlier this year, Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire, who is also running for lieutenant governor, released a startling study that she had commissioned about the status of women in Alaska. Among other findings, the review found that when both full and part time work is included, Alaska woman make 67 cents on the dollar for each dollar a man earns. Nearly 56 percent of unmarried men with children under the age of 18 own their own home in Alaska. For a single mother, that rate drops to 42 percent. Nearly 62 percent of all adults with children in a shelter were women.

McGuire is planning a conference, scheduled in October, about the economic status of women in Alaska. The list is growing, but the speakers thus far include First Lady Sandy Parnell, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and President of BP Alaska. Janet Weiss.

On Thursday, Sen. Mark Begich joined a group of about 20 women, including representatives from Planned Parenthood, to speak about some of the same issues, and federal laws that he’s pushed and continues to push. (Read more about those here). Begich’s ability to connect in small groups is one of his major strengths. And he’s particularly good with women and comfortable discussing women’s issues.

It’s too cynical for even this cynical writer to say that politics is the sole driver in both McGuire’s and Begich’s focuses on women’s issues. There are real problems here that anybody, public official or not, should be concerned about. And anybody with the ability to do something about it should.

But politics can’t be too far away from either of their minds.

McGuire’s report may point to a sad reality for many women in Alaska. But another reality is that they vote in greater numbers than do men. 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.

Below are some random facts amassed about women in Alaska, facts that any politician worth his or her spit should know on the tops of their heads come election time:

  • According to the 2010 census data, women make up 48.3 percent of Alaska’s population.
  • Two women have won the Iditarod: Libby Riddles was the first and Susan Butcher was the second, who went on to win it four times.
  • Three women have won statewide office: Lt Governor Fran Ulmer, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Gov. Sarah Palin.
  • Two women have served as Alaska Speaker of the House of Representatives: Ramona Barnes and Gail Phillips.
  • Two Three women have served as the president of the Alaska Senate: Jan Faiks, Drue Pearce and Lyda Green.
  • Out of fourteen total, there are five women in Parnell’s cabinet. They are at Commerce, Administration, Labor, Fish and Game, and one is the Acting Commissioner of Revenue.
  • There are 17 women currently serving in the Alaska Legislature: 13 female members of the House of Representatives and four senators.
  • There are four major publically traded companies based in Alaska with a total of 38 board members. Of these board members only seven are women.
  • GCI recently added one woman to its board of nine. ACS’ sole female on a board of seven is Margie Brown. Northrim Bank’s sole female on the board of 12 is Irene Sparks Rowan. First National Bank has nine members, four of whom are women: Betsy Lawer, Margy Johnson, Jane Klopfer, and Lucy Mahan. Not to take anything away from them, but Lawer is the president of the bank and she Klopfer and Mahan are the chairman’s daughters.
  • Klondike Kate, the most famous female performer during the gold rush days in the late 1800s, fell in love with Alexander Pantages. In 1902, the two left Dawson to set up their own theater company in the Pacific Northwest. While in the lower 48, Kate discovered that Pantages was already married and that he had been stealing all of the money she made from her activities in the greatland. Good on her that she never forgave him.
  • In 1927, Marvel Crosson was the first female pilot to ever get a license in Alaska. In 1929 she set a new altitude record for women. She also died in a plane crash in 1929.
  • The first Latin teacher in Alaska was Ruth Schaefer who arrived in Alaska in 1939 and settled in Palmer. She is this writer’s grandmother and died in 2001 in Iowa City, Iowa. She was 92 years old and she is missed.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Syrian sanity from Rep. Don Young

GOP hawks are ratcheting up pressure as the Obama administration weighs the costs of going to war against Syria in response to the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons on insurgents.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, leading the charge in the Senate, took to the Sunday talk shows, calling on the White House to take decisive action against the country. Other members urging action are Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California and former House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King of New York.

All of the above want strikes, but many of them have said that they also want Obama to receive congressional approval before taking such action.

In a Facebook post, Rep. Don Young also called on the administration to get approval from Congress before taking action. However, he made it clear that even with such approval, he doesn’t support intervention.

Here’s the full post:

“As events continue to unfold in Syria, I want to make it very clear to Alaskans that we cannot ignore the unthinkable horror of using chemical weapons; however, at the current time, I do not support U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war. After a dozen years, the American people are sick and tired of sacrificing lives in foreign wars.

Going forward, I believe that President Obama must consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the U.S. military into hostilities with Syria. Rather than the President circumventing Congress, the Founders expected the Congress to share the burden of deciding to deploy our men and women into harm’s way.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


Politics in Alaska: Somewhere between North Pole, Jerusalem and Mead Treadwell’s house

13548052_mA celebration was held at the Westmark Fairbanks on Saturday night in honor of Bishop Otis McCormick, the pastor of New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ in North Pole. McCormick formed his congregation in the area 30 years ago. He was brought to Alaska by the military, and his church offers special outreach to military members and their families. According to one attendee, about 400 people attended the event, including many prominent African American leaders across the state and the country.

It was, to put it in coarse political terms, an event to which any savvy politician should have paid some sort of homage. Apparently, some are savvier than others.

Alaska state Sen. John Coghill and his wife showed. Uber Republican Party activist and former Fairbanks mayor Ronda Boyles was there representing Rep. Don Young. Sen. Lisa Murkowski didn’t show nor bother to write a letter. (Then again, she’s safe until 2016, and she’s acting like it, which itself has been raising eyebrows.) Much to the chagrin of Republican Party activists, Sen. Mark Begich had a letter delivered to the event, and received a standing ovation when it was read. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell had a free ticket, but was was too busy to attend.

Treadwell isn’t too busy to host an Alaska Family Council fundraiser next Saturday at his house for Bob Cornuke, the controversial amateur archaeologist known to some as the Biblical “Indiana Jones,” and to others as a “con artist.”

It’s unclear whether or not Comuke was the original researcher of the biblical match of Biblical Mount Sinai to Jabal al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. Others lay claim to that title and still others say that he forged quotes that did or did not prove something or another.

Nor is it clear if he himself believes that the pile of dark-colored rocks in Iran is really from Noah’s Arc. He does appear to believe that the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion and that contrary to what others believe, the anchors found on the Island of Malta were the anchors from the Biblical shipwreck of the Apostle Saint Paul. The anchors, a fisherman, and a promise got him unsuccessfully sued in federal court by a former U.S. ambassador to the country, who wanted to stop the distribution of a book about the subject. Or something.

In any case, Treadwell, the self professed big advocate of sound science and international treaties, is opening up his doors to Comuke in hopes of raising money for the Family Council, and, in coarse political terms, to cozy up to the right wing of his party. For his part, Comuke’s raising funds to get him back to Ethiopia, to save the Ark from the Nazis, or those ungodly Dems, with Karen Allen at his side.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Hill reports Begich super-PAC off to ‘slow start’

The Hill is reporting that the new pro-Mark Begich super-PAC is off to a “slow start.”  The Put Alaska First Political Action Committee, run by Anchorage lobbyist Jim Lottsfeldt, received a warning letter from the Federal Elections Commission because it had failed to report how much money it had raised through July 1.

“The failure to timely file a complete report may result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action,” the letter says and warns of penalties which begin the day the report is due.

Lottsfeldt told The Hill that he didn’t know about the rules and assumed that because the group had yet to raise any money, it didn’t need to file a report.

When the super-PAC was announced, the goal was to raise between $3 to $5 million. Lottsfeldt seems less than certain about that number, however. When asked if that was still the goal, he said, “I guess so,” and told the newspaper that he was “confident” that he would raise money, but because he was new to the super-PAC world, “(h)ow it all gets quantified in the end is a little bit of a mystery to me”

It probably need not be emphasized, but this may well be one of the most significant races in Alaska’s political history.The makeup of the U.S. Senate might very well rest in the state’s hands. Donors are going to be looking for a good investment. And whoever is running one of the many super-PACs that will likely spring up to support any of the candidates, probably should keep it to him or herself if that the process is a mystery.

Correction: The original story said that Jim Lottsfeldt was a democratic lobbyist. He’s in fact non-partisan.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com



State Sen. Hollis French has filed to run for governor

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French has announced his intentions to run for governor against Gov. Sean Parnell. French filed papers with the Division of Elections on Tuesday. He’s “strongly leaning towards it,” but as of yet it’s a preliminary move to see how deep his support runs in the state, French said.

If he does run, he’ll cede his Senate seat, which is up in 2014. So far, only Republican Rep. Mia Costello has filed to run for that seat.

French, a former oil field worker and Anchorage prosecutor, has been a legislator since 2002. In the field of ever-shrinking Democratic lawmakers, he’s been known to be one of the most outspoken. He played a large role in the Sarah Palin saga known as “troopergate.”  Since, he’s been particularly critical of Parnell’s oil tax break. As a member of what was formerly a bipartisan majority in the Senate, French did support oil tax reform, but fought hard against Parnell’s attempts at cutting taxes for the big three oil companies in the legacy fields.

With a Republican majority in the Senate, Parnell got his bill passed during the last legislative session, cutting taxes up to $650 million to more than $1 billion a year at current projected prices and at current production. The companies have said that such relief will help stem the decline of Alaska’s largest oil fields and incentivize production of the smaller fields.

French, however, sees it as a give away. If he runs and is elected, that’s the first thing he will try to undo.

“There’s a way to reform oil taxes that benefits both the state and industry in a business-like manner,” he said. He’s particularly critical of doing away with the windfall tax, commonly called progressivity, which increased taxes based on the price of oil.

“It was an enormous give for what we got in exchange,” he said. “We got nothing.”

French would also forward fund education, and accept federal money to expand Medicaid, something that Parnell has been on the fence about. Not accepting the money, is “as wrong as wrong can be,” French said, citing the harmful effects that not accepting the funds could have on Alaskans and particularly on small businesses.

“There are tens of millions of free dollars to the state that he’s turned his back on,” French said.

It’s unclear what effect French’s move will have on the nascent movement to draft the other outspoken Democratic senator, Bill Wielechowski, to run with independent candidate Bill Walker. Pollster Ivan Moore has been pushing the ticket, and has warned that it’s all but doomed if a Democrat runs.

French declined to comment on Wielechowski’s role in the race, but he did say that he thinks an independent running helps him. He pointed to 1994, when former Gov. Knowles squeaked with a win, beating the Republican candidate Jim Campbell by only 536 votes. In that race, Lt. Governor Jack Coghill ran on the Alaskan Independence Party ticket and received 13 percent of the vote. Had Coghill not been in the race, many of those votes would have likely gone to Campbell.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com