Tag Archives: sean parnell

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker’s campaign report

There must have been something wrong with my eyes last night when I was searching through APOC for campaign report numbers, because I missed independent candidate Bill Walker’s numbers. In any case, Walker raised $202,629, of which $29,000 is his own money. He spent $77,952 leaving him with $124,677, a respectable amount for a non-incumbent independent.

In comparison, the Democrat in the race, Byron Mallott, raised an impressive $234,000. However, $40,000 of that came from the Democratic Party, and he spent $188,136 and owes $9,633. This leaves him with only $36,580 to spend.

Gov. Sean Parnell raised $407,253 and only spent $76,220.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Some surprises in campaign fundraising reports

10349421_mCampaign disclosure reports were due on Tuesday, and there were a few surprises in the money game. For one, GOP lieutenant governor candidate Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire out-raised Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is also running for the seat. On the Democratic side of the aisle for lieutenant governor, relatively unknown Bob Williams sort of out-raised Sen. Hollis French. In the race for governor, Democrat Byron Mallott raised more than expected, but he spent more than expected too. Read on for details.

  • Gov. Sean Parnell raised $407,253 this election cycle. He spent $76,220, leaving him with a hefty amount to spend on the race. Much of his staff so far, like Jerry Gallagher, have been working as volunteers. Such is the luxury of incumbency.
  • Byron Mallott raised an impressive $234,000, which included $40,000 from the Alaska Democratic Party. However, he spent $188,136 and owes $9,633, leaving him with $36,580 to spend. Much of the money he raised went to traveling around the state. A good chunk also went to staff. He spent $27,000 for management expenses to Vantage Point, a consulting firm. He paid his communications director campaign manger Claire Richardson more than $19,000, and thousands went to other staffers.
  • Independent Bill Walker raised $202,629, of which $29,000 is his own money. He spent $77,952 leaving him with $124,677, a respectable amount for a non-incumbent independent.
  • GOP  lieutenant governor candidate Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire raised more than $108,000 and spent about $35,000, leaving her with about $73,000 on hand. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan raised about $91,000, and has $57,000 left to spend.
  • Another surprise: Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bob Williams raised $63,000, about $12,000 more than was reported by Sen. Hollis French. If you compare debts, however, Williams has $41,324 left to spend and French has $51,700. (The numbers are a little tricky because French brought $22,605 to the campaign, about $8,000 of which are funds from a previous state Senate race. The rest came from when he began raising money in August to run for governor. He changed his candidacy to lieutenant governor in October.)
  • In another race that I’m watching, Republican Rep. Lindsey Holmes raised $42,152. She brought $4,800 into the campaign and still has more than $44,200 on hand. One of her Democratic challengers, Clare Ross, raised $31,427, which is pretty impressive for a political neophyte. Ross has $18,717 to spend. Matt Claman, who’s not a political neophyte and who is also running for Holmes’ seat, raised $34,663 and has $21,974 left over.

I’ll have more on these and other numbers on Wednesday.

UPDATED: The story was updated to include Bill Walker’s tally.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Fundraising numbers for statewide candidates dribbling in

Because it’s a holiday, official financial fundraising reports for candidates aren’t due to the Alaska Public Offices Commission until Tuesday. However, as of Monday afternoon, some numbers were dribbling in.

Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, who’s running for lieutenant governor and has already filed with APOC, reported raising $51,328 from Oct. 30, 2014 through Feb. 1, 2014. French brought $22,605 into the campaign, and spent $12,233, leaving him $61,700 cash on hand.

French’s fundraising total isn’t likely going to match the GOP lieutenant governor candidates. Both Sen. Lesil McGuire and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan have said that they raised in the ballpark of $100,000 apiece. However, $61,700 on hand is a pretty good number for French.

As reported earlier, Gov. Sean Parnell raised $407,253, and had over $330,000 on hand.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott beat expectations by raising more than $230,000. However, he hasn’t filed his report yet and it’s unclear how much money he spent raising that amount.

Finally, independent candidate for governor Bill Walker hasn’t released his official report, but he did send out a release on Monday saying that he raised more than $200,000, also beating expectations. According to the release, that number includes $29,000 of his own money.

Walker said that unlike Parnell, he has to pay for his own travel.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Gubernatorial candidate Mallott’s $230,000 campaign haul surprises some

According to his campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott raised $233,427 from October 2013 to February 1st, 2014, and received 1,100 individual contributions. Mallott will not file his official fundraising report until the deadline this weekend, but apparently wanted to get something out on the same day that Gov. Sean Parnell filed his report, showing that he had raised $407,253.

Mallott, who hasn’t been overly visible in Anchorage, did better than some pundits in Anchorage had been predicting. Anchorage based political consultant Marc Hellenthal, for one, was surprised and impressed, he said. He said that he didn’t believe that Mallott would raise more than $100,000, mostly because he’s run a relatively low-profile campaign.

Apparently, however, Mallott has been more active outside of Anchorage than many knew. According to his campaign, Mallott has been holding “Conversations with Alaskans” all across the state. His travels have been in keeping with his stump speeches, which have called on the state’s leaders to reach out beyond the power centers and to listen to all Alaskans.

“We’re going to run a spirited campaign that unites Alaskans around common values and common sense, and we’re off to a great start,” Mallott said in a press release.

Mallott is a young 70-year-old and has both business and political experience. If elected, he would be Alaska’s first governor of Alaska Native descent.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s unclear how much money Mallott spent getting those donations. His campaign didn’t immediately answer that question. Parnell still has more than $330,000 cash on hand.
  • As Mallott pointed out in his release, he raised more money than did Parnell during the comparable period when Parnell ran in 2010.
  • Because Mallott got into the race in October, Parnell had a six-moth fundraising advantage on him.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Parnell raises more than $400,000 this election cycle

Gov. Sean Parnell filed his disclosure with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday morning, showing that he has raised $407,253 this election cycle, which ran from April 15, 2013 to Feb. 1 of this year. He spent $76,220, leaving him with a hefty  amount to spend on the race.

Parnell’s campaign said in a press release that about 93 percent of that money came from 1,100 Alaskan donors, who are limited to $500 donations per year.

“I am both grateful and humbled by the incredible amount of support shown by Alaskans,” Parnell said in the release. “Our message of proven leadership and opportunity for all Alaskans is resonating.”

The reports aren’t officially due until Saturday. The other candidates, independent Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott haven’t yet filed their reports. Neither was immediately available for comment.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


The week in Alaska politics: Lily Stevens speaks out, Parnell charms and oilies don’t.

From my column that was published in the Anchorage Daily News on Sunday:

Republicans in their finery gathered a week ago Saturday night at the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage to celebrate Lincoln Day, courtesy of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club. All the usual suspects gathered: Gov. Sean Parnell, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who — with a top hat and a fake beard — looks amazingly like Lincoln. Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mead Treadwell sat with the governor, while his primary opponent, Dan Sullivan, sat with Rev. Jerry Prevo and his lieutenant, Glenn Clary. Even Joe Miller, the third member of the primary faceoff, showed. A certain low-level buzz follows Miller wherever he goes. Blame it on magnetism. Star power. Black helicopters.

Whatever it is, this was the pleasant Joe Miller. And he was well-dressed, more than can be said for at least one other politician in the room. Apparently, someone told mayoral candidate Dan Coffey that because he co-owns the Alaska ACES and was in charge of the ACES auction item, he should dress in ACES super-fan regalia. The gold beads for the games of “heads and tails” rounded out the image.

“This is embarrassing,” he said as someone in a tux walked by.

Parnell introduced Lily Stevens, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as the keynote speaker. Before that, if someone had told me Parnell could melt hearts, I’d have said the pot campaign must be going well. But there was a collective sigh when he quoted Lincoln: “(I)f all that has been said by orators and poets, since the creation of the world, in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice.”

Even Judy Eledge, one of the Alaska GOP’s grande dames, who’s likely heard all the praise and other things that a woman could hear, seemed to flutter.

Then it was Lily’s turn. The room erupted when she said, “I’m not going to mince words, my father should have never lost his seat.”

Another very different kind of fundraiser was held Thursday night at Cafe Del Mundo: This one for Anchorage Assembly candidate Pete Petersen, who used to be a Democratic state representative and doesn’t forget it. You can read all about what he did and what he would do if he were back in the House on his website.

Read the rest here. 

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanamcoyne@yahoo.com


Parnell plays with blunt honesty. Will we let him?

Like all politicians, and indeed like all of us, Gov. Sean Parnell has made his share of unfortunate comments. Mostly he’s been given a pass for his slip ups. However, one of them caught up with him on Friday, when it came out that he gave Ketchikan reporters a little lecture on realpolitik and appeared to be warning of retribution for a lawsuit that the city is involved in regarding school funding.

“I do want to address this issue of how the lawsuit is viewed by legislators and by me because it does shade or color the reaction to Ketchikan requests,” he told reporters. “When Ketchikan asks for money, but yet the state may be on the hook in the lawsuit for more money, there’s kind of a reluctance, or reticence, to step forward for other projects.”

It wasn’t the wisest thing to say, and it didn’t help that it was a slow news day on Friday, and that it’s an election year. Bill Walker, an independent candidate, jumped.

“Parnell has chosen the wrong time, the wrong issue, and the wrong people to show himself as a bulldog,”  Walker said. “We need a governor who knows when to go to battle and who he should be fighting for. The governor’s comments yesterday are a blatant, public attack on local government.”

On Saturday afternoon, Democratic challenger Byron Mallott, who doesn’t appear to have a rapid response team, also put out a release.

“The merits of the Ketchikan School funding lawsuit, education funding statewide and capital spending deserve careful and informed discussion and debate not threat or intimidation,” he said.

This likely wasn’t Parnell’s intent, but if nothing else comes out of it, it was a gift for Ketchikan. It’ll be awfully difficult now for Parnell to veto funds for the city.

Parnell might be uncurious and sheltered. He’s overly cautious and captive to his right flank. But despite Walker’s characterization, Parnell’s far from a “bulldog.”  And he shouldn’t try to be one, if that’s what he was trying to do, which I doubt.

If he was truly trying to intimidate, he wouldn’t be doing so through the media. Those are the kinds of things that happen in back rooms, through a legislative liaison maybe, or a chief of staff. If he were trying to intimidate, he would be doing so at arm’s length. Think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his bridge. Or, closer to home, Sarah Palin’s jejune hit squad, and the kind of fist thumping that characterized all of Frank Murkowski’s administration.

It seems to me that Parnell was trying to be honest, and for that, he’s paying a price, which is too bad. Rightly or wrongly, lawmakers will look askance at Ketchikan’s request for funds as the city sues for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to be a tough year, and everybody’s looking for excuses to withhold money. That’s just the way it is.

And given his historic abhorrence at budget cutting, this fact likely pains Parnell as much as anyone.

Not withstanding some of his policies—namely denying insurance to tens of thousands of poor Alaskans—Parnell, at his best, is a nice, Christian man who runs as squeaky clean of an administration as such a system allows. Sometimes, he’ll even forget the political ramifications and he’ll open up and be brutally honest. Sometimes we should let him.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Democratic challenger Mallott reacts to Parnell’s State of the State

byron mallottBelow is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott’s press release reacting to Gov. Sean Parnell’s State of the State on Wednesday. Mallott, like Parnell, wants more jobs, greater diversification, safer communities, and a robust investment climate.

The two areas of disagreement are on education and expanding Medicaid.

Late last year, Parnell rejected federal money to expand Medicaid, a joint federal/state insurance program for poor Alaskans. “Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require,” Mallott wrote.

In his State of the State, Parnell called for reform of the state’s educational system, including allowing the public to vote on whether or not public money should go to private and educational institutions.

“Public dollars must go to public schools,” Mallott wrote.

Here’s Mallott’s press release in full:

Alaska is a state of great promise and our future as Alaskans can be bright. But we need leadership to match the challenges and opportunities of today. Alaskans are faced right now with a public education funding crisis that demands immediate legislative action. Governor Parnell wants to divert public dollars to private education when every public education dollar must go to making Alaska’s education system the very best. Public dollars must go to public schools.

Alaskans together must address the challenge of a $2 billion budget revenue deficit that is expected to grow in future years. This session of the Alaska Legislature must focus diligently on reshaping spending to meet the urgent needs faced by every Alaskan, their families, and communities. Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require. Public safety and a justice system that is responsive to the need of every Alaskan must be strengthened. Job creation and economic diversification is crucial. Reducing the cost of energy for electricity, heating and transportation in Alaska must be a priority. A gas pipeline project that meets Alaska’s need for in-state energy, stable long-term export revenue, and jobs for Alaskans must be a priority that all Alaskans can understand and embrace. A stable, durable oil tax that is needed both for vital oil industry investment and robust public revenue must be agreed to by all Alaskans.

Governor Parnell’s agreement with Alaska democratic legislative leaders’ call for funding Alaska’s pension retirement gap is a step in the right direction to meet both responsible budgeting and a constitutional obligation. I urge the Legislature and Governor in these critical times to reach out to all Alaskans so that together in open, transparent, and responsible dialogue and decision making we can make the best choices for Alaska’s future.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Walker fires back at Parnell over Medicaid. ‘Debate me’ he says.

15526075_mIn a Facebook post, independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker fired back at Gov. Sean Parnell over what Walker said was a misrepresentation of his support of Obamacare. Last week, Parnell’s campaign manager Jerry Gallagher sent out a fundraising email, calling Democrat challenger Byron Mallott and Walker “two peas in a pod” when it comes to supporting Obamacare.

“Two peas in a pod? How about Parnell and Gallagher as two oil industry lobbyists?” Walker wrote. Gallagher worked with Parnell at ConocoPhillips, where they were both lobbyists.

Walker wrote that while Obamacare isn’t the answer to the country’s health care issues, he did support accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid and thereby insuring up to 40,000 Alaskans through federal funds.

“By rejecting the expansion, Parnell in fact, supports ‘Obamacare; by forcing uninsured Alaskans into the ACA exchanges,” Walker wrote. “I continue to have two words for you, Governor Parnell. ‘Debate me.'”

Here’s the Walker’s post:

Not only is Governor Parnell misrepresenting why he has thrust Alaska into deficit spending, in a desperate attempt he is also misrepresenting my position on “Obamacare” (ACA). In Facebook posts and donation letter statements by his fellow ConocoPhillips lobbyist/campaign manager, Jerry Gallagher, Parnell claims Byron Mallot and I are “two peas in a pod” supporting “Obamacare”. (Two peas in a pod? How about Parnell and Gallagher as two oil industry lobbyists?) Parnell is pulling a play from Gov. Hickel’s playbook when he ran a successful “two peas in a pod” campaign against his two opponents in his Independent run for governor. I knew Wally Hickel. Wally Hickel was a friend of mine and Governor Parnell is no Wally Hickel. Hickel always put Alaska’s interests first.

Is our health care system broken? Yes. Is ACA the answer? No. But in agreement with the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and other fiscal conservatives, once ACA became law, I supported Medicaid expansion with the caveat of continued federal funding. My support is due to the sheer economics of Alaskans paying for the expansion in federal taxes and increased premiums if we reject the expansion, the creation of 4,000 new Alaskan jobs, billions of dollars flowing into our communities from the expansion and lower cost coverage for 40,000+ Alaskans. By rejecting the expansion, Parnell in fact, supports “Obamacare” by forcing uninsured Alaskans into the ACA exchanges.

Stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes, Governor. Alaskans are smarter and deserve better than this. I continue to have two words for you, Governor Parnell. ‘Debate me.’

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Glitches in Alaska’s DHSS computer system delay Medicaid payments

Gov. Sean Parnell has certainly had his complaints about ObamaCare, some of them—the disastrous rollout and the problem with the federal exchange website, to name a couple—are nearly universal. He has called it a “boondoggle,” and has used those issues, in part, to justify why he declined federal funds to expand the Medicaid program, the health care program partially funded by the federal government and administered by the state.

However, it appears that while Parnell was criticizing the program, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has been experiencing its own share of computer-related issues with a new system that processes Medicaid payments. In some cases, those glitches have resulted in months-long delays in Medicaid payments to doctors and other medical providers.

In a letter published in the Anchorage Daily News, a long-time Anchorage-based psychiatrist, Aron Wolf, took issue with Parnell for not accepting funds to expand Medicaid and for criticizing the problems with the federal exchange while the state is having very similar problems.

“Gov. Parnell should get his own act together and make payments for services rendered to these needy Alaskans,” he wrote.

DHSS spokeswoman Sarana Schell said that the department is updating its old payment processing system for the first time since 1987, and that with any technology project of this size, “there are bumps in the road.”

The department, Schell said, is working to fix the problems. “We’re not quite halfway through the glitches we’ve identified – about 730 down, 900 to go,” Schell said. “We are, of course, prioritizing as we go, addressing the problems that affect the most providers first.”

Schell said that DHSS processes roughly 100,000 claims a week, and expects to reimburse medical providers about $25 million a week. However, it’s currently only reimbursing about $20 million a week.

In other words, there are still about $5 million of claims each week that aren’t getting paid by DHSS.

Wolf, the psychiatrist who wrote the letter to the ADN, has a private practice. About 12 percent of his patients are Medicaid recipients. He also consults with nonprofits that are more reliant on Medicaid, all of which have had problems with billing.

“These are nonprofits with very limited budgets,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “This is causing real problems for some of them.”

DHSS is urging providers to call if they are having a problem, and assuring them that the state will make sure they are paid. It takes about two days from the time of reporting to receive a check. It also said that the department is holding regular webcasts to educate providers.

According to providers, the checks that DHSS are cutting are based on historic payments and general good faith. They say that the state is considering it an “advance.” Many providers, according to Wolf, don’t know that this is an option. Others don’t trust such a payment from the state.

Senate Rules Committee Chair Lesil McGuire, who is running for lieutenant governor, said that she has heard complaints from those who haven’t received payment for Medicaid services. She was at a meeting recently of medical professionals, many of whom were complaining about the system. One provider said that she cashed out her IRA in order to continue to stay in business rather than accept money that might be later audited and turned into an accounting nightmare.

McGuire said that the lack of communication between the DHSS and the community was frustrating. “One of the things that Alaskans hate most about government is the lack of communication,” she said. “Government should communicate with all businesses anyway, but it’s most fundamental when you’re talking about caring for the most needy, for someone’s son and daughter.”

Wolf doesn’t blame the Medicaid division for wanting to modernize the system. He also praised the Medicaid division and the people who work there. However, he thinks that it should have communicated better with the providers that there was a problem, particularly as the governor was criticizing the federal government for having similar kinds of issues with its website. He discovered there was an issue only after he hadn’t received four weeks of payments from the state.

The changes and the problems, he said, were “snuck under the rug.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Ad of the day: The governor wishes himself a happy birthday

Gov. Sean Parnell celebrated his 51st  birthday on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, I emailed the governor’s spokesperson, asking what he got for his birthday, if his staff or anybody in the building had a party for him, and what kind of cake he liked. Everyone deserves a nice story on their birthday. I was told that Parnell had been traveling a lot lately. That was it. Later in the evening, someone called my attention to the ad below that the governor’s campaign released.

Happy birthday Parnell


Super-PACs: will they play in the governor’s race?

Citizens United, the seminal Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for so-called super PACs to raise unlimited campaign funds, has been associated with corporate greed and everything else that the political left considers evil. Indeed, in Alaska’s state elections in 2012, the narrative that big oil was going to buy itself a Republican-controlled state Senate as a result of the decision was repeated so often, including by this writer, that it turned into an unassailable truth.

But when the numbers were crunched after the election, it turned out that unions raised twice as much as the combined amount of the two main business oriented super PACs in Alaska.

The narrative has similarly been flipped in the rest of the country. An analysis conducted by the Center for Public Integrity found that during the last election cycle, pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million in 38 states.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who is running for reelection in 2014, should take note. Word is that he’s working hard at fundraising and having success at doing so. However, Alaska’s campaign contribution limits dictate that individuals are only allowed to give $500 to a candidate in a calendar year. per election cycle. In a state as small as Alaska, that makes it nearly impossible to raise the kind of money you need to raise to run a competitive campaign.

Enter super PACs. Though it’s too early to say who, and which ones will get involved, they likely will. And unions will likely take part.

The Parnell administration has never been considered a friend of labor. But neither has it gone out of its way to antagonize it. Parnell might have done so recently, however. Earlier this fall, when he was considering appointment to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., many thought that he would appoint a representative of labor to one of the seats. Whatever you think about unions, they will be involved in the building of the pipeline and having them involved in the groundwork would only make the project go more smoothly. Too, it was the politically smart thing to do. Two labor leaders who submitted expressions of interest were Joey Merrick of the Laborers Union and Rick Boyles from the Teamsters. Either would have made a strong statement to labor. Neither got the nod.

And if it looks like Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is no friend of the unions, is going to be added to the ticket as lieutenant governor, you have the dynamic and motivation for labor to fund a super PAC.

Parnell also hasn’t made friends recently with another potentially politically powerful force in Alaska: the Alaska Native community. His administration seems to have gone after tribal sovereignty with a vengeance. Most recently, the state announced that it is seeking to overturn a decision regarding subsistence made recently by the Interior Department that involves the landmark Katie John case. The state is fighting the feds, and the Alaska Natives, over who controls navigable waterways.

The Alaska Federation of Natives co-chair, Tara Sweeney, called the state’s action “an assault upon the people of Alaska who depend upon hunting, fishing and gathering to feed their families.”

Those are words not spoken lightly and they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Then there was Parnell’s decision not to expand Medicaid. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium lobbied hard for Medicaid expansion, which would have provided much needed funds to the Alaska tribal health systems at a time of sequestration and federal budget cuts.

That he decided not to accept the funds was seen as yet another slap.

The Alaska Native community, along with its moneyed corporations, were able to rally around a politician only one time in recent memory. In 2010, when Joe Miller beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, the corporations got together to form a super PAC to support Murkowski’s write-in ticket. It was the first one in the country to test the Citizens United decision, and it won. So did she.

Democrat Byron Mallott is running against Gov. Sean Parnell. Mallott is an Alaska Native leader, and is union friendly compared to Parnell. He also has deep ties to the business community in Alaska, notwithstanding his support to repeal SB 21, the oil tax reform bill. And, his lieutenant governor will likely be Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, a good friend to the unions.

It’s unclear if Mallott is making efforts to rally unions and the Alaska Native community.

If those two interests end up combining, they’d provide the foundations for a formidable super PAC force.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Parnell turns his back on Medicaid expansion and Alaska’s uninsured

Gov. Sean Parnell announced at a press conference that he would for the time being decline federal funds that could provide more than 40,000 Alaskans health insurance.

That’s more people than live in Fairbanks, the state’s second largest city.

He said that although those who currently don’t have insurance are “real people and their health matters,” providing them such would only create a “culture of federal dependency.” Too, and this seemed his larger point, he did not want to be part of a system that could be viewed as supporting ObamaCare, which he called a “hot mess.”

Although it’s hard to argue that it’s not a “hot mess,” it’s also pretty clear that it’s going to be a hot mess with or without Alaska’s involvement. In fact, the money that we would receive from the feds –about $2.5 billion in additional economic activity and 4,000 new jobs in the next seven years –will just go to other states.

There will not be any savings to our federal treasury.

As the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, which supported expansion, put it:  “As taxpayers, all Alaskans are subject to the increased federal taxes established to fund the new national healthcare law. If Alaska does not expand Medicaid, Alaskan’s taxes will pay for the uninsured in other states.”

Then again, not accepting the funds might make a nice campaign slogan as Parnell eyes a future federal office and as he knocks on the door of conservative political groups like Club for Growth, as he did in 2008.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on the governor. Perhaps he denied as many as 40,000 Alaskans health insurance out of real conviction and of real fear for Alaska’s financial future and for increasing government dependence. But if that’s the case, then I would challenge him to refuse other federal funds, like money for highways that will continue to be upgraded, or any number of other federal dollars that pour into the state.

Or, perhaps, he could take a hard look at the increasing number of state workers he’s hired since being elected, and the more than $700 million the state is paying for those health care costs.

Alaska is one of only four states where many of its state workers, including the governor and the legislators, don’t have to pay any monthly premiums, premiums that cost about $1400 per person a month. I’ve not once heard Parnell address this issue.

During the press conference, Parnell promised to work on solutions to address the healthcare needs of the poor. One of those solutions was to convene a commission to study the issue. That commission has a year to report back. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which has also supported expansion, said that it was “skeptical that the Governor’s promised solutions can be developed and implemented soon enough to avoid further suffering for uninsured Alaskans.”

Aside from this, and a few other releases It’s unclear if the groups that have advocated expanding Medicaid, have any fight in them aside from issuing press releases expressing “disappointment.” The hospitals, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, and numerous other groups, including Alaska Native groups, have all lobbied hard to expand the program, and I’ve been told that many of them feel defeated.

It’s also unclear which, if any, politicians are going to make this a serious issue in their campaigns. Sen. Mark Begich sent out a release that seemed to lack any fire. Bill Walker, who is running as an independent against Parnell, was reading the state issued report when I called and wasn’t ready for comment. No word yet from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallot, who has been for expansion, though his campaign said he is working on it.

I’ll be publishing responses to Parnell’s decision later this evening.

So far, the only very clear voice of condemnation belongs to the chair of the Democratic Party, Mike Wenstrup, who called the decision “unconscionable.”

Then again, Wenstrup has nothing to lose.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


French questions Parnell about allegations of abuse in National Guard

Democratic Alaska state Sen. Hollis French sent a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell on Tuesday asking for more information about allegations of sexual misconduct within Alaska’s National Guard. Among other things, French is asking for information about prosecution rates, procedures and the number of cases that have been referred to law enforcement.

French is running for lieutenant governor with Byron Mallott, who’s running for governor.

The questions were in response to an article published on Oct. 27 in the Anchorage Daily News detailing what appears to be a culture within the Guard of abuse and of the lack of local law enforcement to do anything about it. Since 2009, 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. So far, no one has yet to be prosecuted, nor has Gov. Sean Parnell, who has made ridding the state of sexual abuse a hallmark of his campaign, spoken out about the issue or the culture that seemingly exists in the Guard.

Numerous people were quoted in ADN’s article about the problems, including two chaplains who say that women have been coming to them for years and that nothing has been done about it. They also say that Parnell, who oversees the Guard, was aware of the problems as far back as 2010.

One member of the guard, Lt. Col. Ken Blalock had about 15 victims come to him. He said that he told Parnell and the Anchorage Police about the issues, and got his “butt chewed” for going above his chain of command by the head of the Guard Gen. Tom Katkus.

Following the article, Katkus issued a statement and wrote a column in the ADN assuring the public that the Guard takes these issues seriously. In the ADN piece, Katkus answers many of the questions that French poses. Among other things, he wrote that “the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers, was (sic) contacted in 21 cases, and for reasons specific to each case, these law enforcement agencies did not open investigations.”

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, has also not addressed these issues publicly.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Get your meatballs here! This week in fundraising fun.

15163349_mAre there more fundraisers in Alaska than elsewhere? It sure feels that we’re awash in them and that if you really wanted to, you could spend all your evenings, for eternity, eating meatballs and celery sticks while men who use hair products talk about how they’re going to redecorate their new Anchorage legislative offices that they never use while bureaucrats discuss their ever-bulging mileage accounts.

Sound fun? Welcome to my world. Anyway, there may be others, but here’s  what’s going on just this week:

On Monday night, Gov. Sean Parnell attended a campaign event in Kenai held at a private residence. More than 50 people showed. Tuesday at noon, Parnell will be attending a fundraising luncheon in Anchorage that is reportedly already over-subscribed. And in case you’re just coming fresh from a root canal, on Tuesday night, Parnell will be having a fundraiser at the appropriately named Advanced Pain Centers on Abbott Road from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The public is welcome.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker will be having an event on Tuesday evening as well. It is hosted by, among many others, Wayne Anthony Ross. WAR doesn’t use hair products or talk about redecorating anything, except perhaps his own private shooting range. (P.S. I’ve missed that guy.)

Also on Tuesday evening Dan Coffey is expected to announce his candidacy for mayor of Anchorage at the residence of Bill and Michelle Bittner, and that election isn’t until 2015.

If you’re in D.C. and feeling left out of the fun, DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan will be attending an early evening event supporting his candidacy with several prominent and well-known hosts from the Bush White House. And Mead Treadwell is in D.C. at a fundraiseron Monday night hosted by tea party braintrust Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.

On Wednesday evening, the Alaska Senate Democrats in conjunction with the Alaska Young Democrats are hosting their Fall Fiesta and Chili Cook Off from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at 3333 Denali Street. Everyone is welcome and anyone can participate in the contest. Bring your best chili. The chili judges are Senator Bettye Davis, Anchorage Assembly members Pat Flynn and Tim Steele, and AK Young Democrats’ president Joe Samaniego. The price tag for this event is whatever you’d like to give all the way up to $5000.00.

And if you still have any interest or money left in your checkbook, there is an event Thursday evening at La Mex off Diamond for Speaker of the House Mike Chenault and uber fundraiser Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux who are both seeking reelection.

If you know of others, email me at the address below.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com