Monthly Archives: December 2013

The GOP and women

From Politico:

“Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost women to Barack Obama by 11 percentage points in the 2012 election, and the 2013 campaigns saw a similar trend. A series of recent polls show a continued double-digit lead for Democratic candidates among women, with the margin soaring to much higher levels among single female voters. The GOP — which lost female voters by large margins in every competitive Senate race in the 2012 election — also saw a 10-point increase in its unfavorability rating among women to 63 percent, according to an October ABC/Washington Post poll.”


The race for governor is heating up

It looks like Gov. Sean Parnell’s reelection campaign is slowly waking up. Below is the fundraising email I got today, with direct pleas for money edited out. (My new rule, which I’m making up as I go.) Parnell has been having lots of fundraisers, but this is the first email I’ve seen from his campaign.

The subject of the email was, “Two Peas in the same pod.” The peas are Independent candidate Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott, and the pod is ObamaCare. Parnell says that the support of ObamaCare sacrifices “the financial well-being and future of young Alaskans.”

As far as attacks go, it was relatively tame compared to what the Alaska Democrats sent out today. In advance of Parnell releasing his budget, the Dem’s press release was titled, “Parnell Presides Over Fiscal Disaster.”

Copied below, it attacks him for everything from running the state into deficit spending, taking a raise, and refusing to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, among other things. (If it were my job to do so, I’d advise them to start separating the wheat from the chaff. Cutting office space for state workers might be a little hard for those in the private sector to get worked up about, particularly considering the generous state salaries and benefits package.)

Here’s Parnell’s release:

Only Sean Parnell has a consistent, proven record of making decisions for Alaskans first. Just this month, for example, a new law championed by the governor kept payroll taxes from automatically increasing on Alaskan employees and employers. As a result, Sean helped put $89 million back into the pockets of hard-working Alaskans, rather than into state government’s treasury.

Sean’s record speaks for itself: his commitment to creating economic opportunity for all Alaskans, strengthening our families and communities, improving educational and training opportunities, and wisely managing Alaska’s finances – all have made Alaska a better place to call home.

Sean’s opposition in the election have gone on the attack and begun making oversized promises. If nothing else, Bill Walker and Byron Mallott have already defined themselves as two peas in the same pod.

Both Walker and Mallott support Obamacare. Both have been silent as thousands of Alaskans received insurance cancellation notices, and are forced to pay higher health insurance premiums and higher deductibles. Walker and Mallott appear willing to sacrifice the financial well-being and future of young Alaskans who will have to pay the massive federal debt from Obamacare’s failed promises. Alaskans expect and deserve better leadership.

Help keep the governor in office who fought for Alaska Performance Scholarships for our young people; who leads the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault in our state; and who, at every turn, works to clear paths of opportunity for Alaskans.

Thank you,

Jerry Gallagher

Campaign Manager

Parnell 2014

Here’s the Democrats’ press release:

Tomorrow, Governor Parnell will release his budget for Fiscal Year 2015.  Parnell is likely to emphasize spending cuts rather than the massive deficit caused by his Oil Giveaway.  A careful review of his claims will be warranted.  When Governor Parnell presented his last budget (FY 2014), he claimed it would cut spending and produce $500 million in “surplus revenue.”  In fact, that budget has a $1 billion dollar deficit, which Parnell attempted to mask with a $374.1 million transfer from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

Governor Parnell has presided over the most significant deterioration of state finances in Alaska history, turning a $5 billion surplus into a $1 billion deficit. Last week, the Department of Revenue revealed that the state will take in $2 billion less revenue in FY 2014 than previously anticipated, while oil production will decline.  At this rate, Parnell is poised to draw down all of Alaska’s savings—set aside during the ACES era–within approximately five years.  While administering this transition to deficits, Parnell has taken a $26,000 pay raise for himself and has approved of another pay raise this year.

“With his reckless fiscal policies, Parnell puts the Permanent Fund and the entire Alaska economy at risk,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.  “The only way to clean up Parnell’s fiscal mess is by repealing his Oil Giveaway and electing Byron Mallott.”

Highlights of Gov. Parnell’s Fiscal Disaster:

  • Parnell rejected $2 billion for federally-funded expansion of Medicaid for 41,000 Alaskans, giving up billions of dollars in investment and 4,000 jobs.

  • The Republican legislature is spending $33 million on posh new offices for legislators in Anchorage, increasing monthly lease costs by 500%.

  • While Republicans expand their own offices, Parnell is squeezing state employees from offices into small cubicles.

  • The Republican legislature spent $74,000 on an enclosed smokers lounge in Juneau that is reserved for use by legislators only.

  • Governor Parnell supports a $6,000 raise for himself, even though he already received a $26,000 pay raise in 2011.

  • Since Governor Parnell last raised his own salary, 600 public school teachers and support staff have been laid off while Base Student Allocation education funding has been cut 7% (inflation-adjusted).

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Book Review ‘What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House,’ by Tevi Troy

book reviewLate in the last year of his presidency, writes Tevi Troy, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a presidential scholar who also worked in the White HouseRichard Nixon gave a speech at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., praising country music. “‘Country music is American, [it] isn’t something that we learned from some other nation, it isn’t something we inherited . It’s as native as anything American we could find.’” Country music, Nixon said, came directly from “‘the heart of America,’” expressing “Americans’ love of country and of religion, two loves that appeared to be in short supply among the countercultural left.”

The first draft of that speech, which had been assigned to me as one of the president’s writers, came back with a note from Nixon in the margin. The speech was fine, he wrote, but we needed “some truck drivers’ language.” I supplied a few bowdlerized faux truck stop phrases, and the president fired off one of the last broadsides in what Mr. Troy calls “the culture war between Nixon and his antagonists within the cultural elite” — a war that didn’t end well, and continues today.

Most presidential musical preferences haven’t been expressions of war. Nor have they always been considered politically significant. Zachary Taylor loved to listen to military bands, and Chester Alan Arthur played the banjo. “But Ulysses S. Grant, who won two presidential elections by overwhelming margins, once admitted, ‘I only know two tunes. One of them is ‘Yankee Doodle.’ The other isn’t.’”

Harry Truman played the piano, and in a memorable moment on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” Bill Clinton, wearing shades, played a version of “Heartbreak Hotel” on the saxophone. Mr. Clinton’s interest in popular music apparently was genuine. “He and Hillary actually named their daughter after the Judy Collins song ‘Chelsea Morning.’”

John F. Kennedy’s interest in music, bolstered by Pablo Casal’s much-publicized White House recital, was apparently much less genuine. Mr. Troy quotes JFK’s arts adviser: “‘It was not that he didn’t particularly enjoy [music], but I think it was really painful . I really don’t think he liked music at all except for a few things he knew.’”

Mr. Troy sets out to explore the relationships between popular culture and our presidents, from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, educated in the classics at a time when leaders were expected to read seriously, and did so, through Abraham Lincoln, who read and reread the Bible and any other book available so frequently that he was criticized by his father for reading too much. John Tyler was a lover of Shakespeare; Theodore Roosevelt read books “at a prodigious pace”; and Woodrow Wilson was partial to mysteries, as was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took 50 detective novels with him to the 1943 Tehran conference, and at the time of his death was reading “The Punch and Judy Murders” by John Dickson Carr.

Although Kennedy “convinced the intellectual elite that he was reading their books and that they mattered,” writes Mr. Troy, his restlessness and brief attention span militated against serious reading. Nixon, on the other hand, loathed by that “intellectual elite,” not only read widely and deeply, but was also capable of writing first-rate literary criticism, as he did in 1952, reviewing Whittaker Chamber’s “Witness” for The Saturday Review of Literature.

And needless to say, that intellectual elite never could believe that George W. Bush was one of our most widely and deeply read presidents. But unlike many of his predecessors, he never attempted to milk it for intellectual favor or political gain.

Other presidential preferences: President Eisenhower liked Western novels, one of the few genuinely American genres, shunned by our own intellectuals but much admired in Europe. Jimmy Carter preferred film. “‘Do you know I can get any movie I want?’ he asked an adviser, and proceeded to do so, watching some 480 movies during his tenure, the first of them being “the film that probably did more than any other to make him president: ‘All the President’s Men.’”

President Obama’s reading habits are hard to pin down, but he’s very conscious of the interest, writes Mr. Troy, “and he matches his reading to the political exigencies of the moment.” There’s no doubt, however, that he’s deep into popular culture, describing in “Dreams From My Father” how intensely he watched TV as a boy and listened to the top tunes on the radio. He continues to watch TV at night, his preferences running to “dark and edgy” shows such as “The Wire,” or, as one of his family’s favorites, the dreadful “Modern Family,” which because of the Obama family’s stated interest is difficult to avoid on cable.

This well-researched and highly readable book is rich in such material, and Mr. Troy is one of those rare creatures seldom sighted in the wilds of the academic-cultural-literary complex — an accomplished scholar who is also a first-rate writer.

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley). The review was first published in the Washington Times and used here with permission of the author, who is my father. 


Murkowski votes to tip balance of power in U.S. Court of Appeals

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted on Monday to confirm Patricia Millett to join the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The final vote was 56-38. Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine were the only two Republican senators to vote for Millett’s confirmation.

Millett was the first to win confirmation since the Senate weakened the filibuster rules, which now only require a simple majority, instead of a vote of 60 to end a filibuster.

Millett’s approval means that now, among the nine circuit judges, five of them are Democratic appointees. The D.C. Court of Appeals is considered one of the most important courts in the nation because it handles cases regarding federal regulations.

Following Millett’s vote, Murkowski voted against confirming Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to serve as the next head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and federal home loan banks. Watt was confirmed by a vote of  57 to 41.

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Anthony Weiner and Mead Treadwell make Rothenberg’s award list for 2013

Stuart Rothenberg, political fortune teller and Roll Call political blogger, has published his annual “end-of-the-year awards.” The award categories range from the worst political decision of the year, which had Anthony Weiner’s name, or whatever, all over it, to the five most vulnerable incumbents up in 2014. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., made the list. Surprisingly, Sen. Mark Begich didn’t.

Perhaps that’s because Rothenberg doesn’t think much of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, one of Begich’s main challengers, whom he gave an award for the most “interesting” candidate interview. According to Rothenberg, the interview was, “Memorable because the candidate couldn’t get his chip off his shoulder. Never has a candidate spent so much time complaining about an earlier article about him.”

Rothenberg was referring to an interview he conducted with Treadwell, among other GOP Senate hopefuls, in October. It’s unclear what exactly Treadwell’s specific beef was, but here’s what he wrote about Treadwell then:

Of the four,Treadwell was the most difficult to figure out, possibly because he spent so much of his time complaining about an article that my colleague, Nathan Gonzales, had written for my newsletter. No matter what question we asked, Treadwell somehow brought it back to what he regarded as an oversight or mistake in the article. He was clearly peeved, and that made him less affable and likable.

Rothenberg has yet to write anything about Dan Sullivan, the other GOP Senate candidate. Perhaps that’s because, although it’s been two months since he announced, finding Sullivan’s website or his contact information on Google takes about as long as it takes for the Senate to pass a bill, pre-filibusterer reform.

Rothenberg did, however, include GOP Senate candidate Annette Bosworth from South Dakota in his list of most interesting interviews. He called Bosworth charismatic and compelling, with “quite” a personal story. “But did it all add up?” Rothenberg asked. “Plus, I rarely see candidates who have absolutely no clue how to put together a winning campaign,” he wrote about Bosworth.

When you Google “Annette Bosworth for Senate” her website is on the top of the page. Just saying.

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Liberal activists organizing against Young?

From a fundraising letter from U.S. Rep. Don Young:

“It appears I’ve drawn some early and aggressive opposition so I’m reaching out to ask for your immediate assistance. They are vigorously soliciting from liberal activists for what they call long term planning.”

Liberal activists can organize? And they’re doing so to get rid of Young? Maybe sensing the stretch here, the letter goes on to say, “Some might scoff that this is not a formidable threat.” Who’s running against Young again?


Recall of Lindsey Holmes rejected. Will it still hurt?

A group of political activists, who spent a better part of a year collecting signatures while braving the harsh elements of an Alaska winter, were disappointed with the state’s decision to reject their petition to recall Alaska state Rep. Lindsey Holmes.

According to the Division of Elections, the group gathered enough signatures and the application was filed in time for a recall; however, the Department of Law ruled that Holmes’ decision to switch party affiliations from Democrat to Republican doesn’t amount to a “lack of fitness” for the job. Consequently, the recall petition was formally rejected. The repeal group has the option of appealing the decision.

To most political observers, the decision to reject the recall petition came as little or no surprise. Switching parties never appeared to be an offense meeting the legal muster of requirements for a recall.

The practical issue will be what effect, if any, the signature collection, sign waving, yard signs and negative news publicity about Holmes switching parties immediately after the 2012 election will have on her in this election cycle.

Holmes’ district is a relatively politically moderate one. The senator representing her district is Democrat Hollis French and it was one of the few areas in the state where President Obama did well.

Holmes has been laying low lately. Her Facebook page indicates that she’s been traveling and vacationing recently. Last month, during a heated debate in Anchorage over Mayor Dan Sullivan’s controversial tennis court proposal, she sent a text to an Anchorage Daily News reporter that she was unavailable for comment. Holmes might have information that would shed light on the controversy.

Meantime, her opponents were busy organizing their campaigns, holding fundraisers and going door-to-door. One of those candidates, former Anchorage assemblyman and acting mayor, Matt Claman, has already begun leaving campaign materials at doors.

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Super-PAC ad supports Begich on healthcare

Last week, Put Alaska First, a super PAC formed to support Sen. Mark Begich’s 2014 reelection effort, reported to the FEC that it paid D.C. firm Waterfront Strategies $98,000 for ads, one of which is already up. The ad counters a much publicized ad from the Koch brothers’ funded group American’s for Prosperity, featuring an actress from Maryland criticizing Begich’s support for ObamaCare. The pro-Begich ad features Alaskan Megan Collie saying Begich is trying to fix healthcare. Collie is the communications director for the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union in Alaska.


The week in review

15946099_mThings were put on hold there for awhile because of Thanksgiving, but Alaska’s political scene was on the move again this past week. Here are some highlights:

Senate candidate Dan Sullivan started the week off at a reportedly healthy event at the Martinson’s residence on the Hillside. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who isn’t even up for re-election until 2016, held an event to raise campaign bucks at the Bittner’s home closer to downtown. There was a luncheon to benefit the campaign coffers of Rep. Bill Stoltze and Sen. Kevin Meyer. And to round the week out, the Alaska Democratic Party held their annual Holiday Auction on Friday night.

A hatchet-job of an article appeared on a conservative website, implying that Dan Sullivan was responsible for the heinous double murder and rape of a Mountain View family.

Democratic candidate Byron Mallott spoke to the Bartlett Democratic Club, without notes I might add, at its luncheon on Thursday.

On the state government front, the Alaska Gas Development Corp. board met and Gov. Sean Parnell released the fall revenue forecast that showed a scary decline of oil production and less revenue than was previously thought. Parnell also said that he wasn’t, at this time, planning on introducing natural gas tax legislation, which basically delays Alaska getting a natural gas pipeline yet again. Independent candidate Bill Walker reacted viscerally, calling Parnell’s comments “maddening.”

Parnell also proposed spending around $3 billion to buy down some of the debt of the state’s retirement trust system – – something that was talked about back even when former Speaker John Harris was in the legislature. State Sen. Johnny Ellis has been pushing the plan for years.

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday voted on different ways to give Mayor Dan Sullivan his controversial indoor tennis courts. All of the votes failed. The drama continues on this court and we’ll see more volleys in the weeks ahead.

A bunch of Alaskans escaped the frigid Southcentral temperatures this past week. GCI was hosting a board meeting in Florida, while some legislators headed to the nation’s capitol for education meetings. A gaggle of oil types and legislators headed to Calgary for Energy Council, where they were greeted by temperatures pushing 40 below.

This past week was also saw the inaugural of Channel 11 News being on the air under GCI’s ownership. The fight will be over ratings and viewers. Will viewers dump Channel 2’s Maria Downey and Jackie Purcell for other, less familiar faces? The two are like Alaska’s sisters, after all. We’ll see how it works out, particularly if Channel 11 ever comes across a story that makes its owners — the most politically active homegrown phone company in the state – uncomfortable.

Sadly, the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela while closer to home, friends and a loving family were saddened by the passing of former Fairbanks Rep. Niilo Koponen, who was a liberal and a friend of my father’s, who is decidedly not a liberal.

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Error riddled article on Senate candidate Sullivan sensationalizes tragic murders

Thursday began as a very good day for U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan. Roll Call, an inside-the-beltway publication owned by Congressional Quarterly, wrote a story about his campaign, highlighting that he worked for Condoleezza Rice in the Bush administration, his time in Alaska as the state’s attorney general and as the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. It mentioned his service in the Marine Corps, and that he was deployed as a reservist to Afghanistan this summer.

“Sullivan’s résumé reads straight out of a Republican textbook,” Roll Call wrote.

Most importantly for Sullivan’s campaign, the article suggested that Sullivan might be out fundraising Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller, his opponents in the Republican primary.

And then another story appeared about Sullivan. This one was in, an online conservative news site that was founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, who had been a staunch tea party and Sarah Palin supporter. The site has not been known for always getting things right and does not shy from controversies. The headline on this piece read, “Dan Sullivan, Alaska U.S. Senate candidate, ran office that let child molester free.”

An alternative headline read: “Dan Sullivan AK US Senate child molester coddler.” (That alternative headline appears to have been written for search engine optimization purposes, or for getting as many hits as possible. Hit baiting, they call it in the business.)

The article indicates that as attorney general, Sullivan was responsible for the heinous 2013 double murder and rape of a 2-year-old and 92-year-old in Anchorage.

Mike Anderson, Dan Sullivan’s spokesperson, said that the Brietbart article “is riddled with inaccuracies and reads like a political hatchet job.”

Indeed, the author appears to be using the crime to score political points against Sullivan by exploiting the victims and playing loose with the facts.

Jerry Andrew Active is accused of committing the crimes 12 hours after he was released from jail, where he was serving time for a parole violation. An error in the state database system likely was the result in the light sentence he received for a 2009 rape, after which he was let go, sent back to jail, and let go again.

Sullivan was attorney general during the time that Active received his “soft” sentence as a result of a plea deal. However, the initial charge for the 2009 rape happened months before Sullivan took the job, and the problem with the database pre-dated his tenure. According to a report done on the case by the current attorney general, the database error took place on Jan. 30, 2009, when Sullivan was on duty with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Sullivan wasn’t appointed as Alaska’s AG by Sarah Pain until June, 2009, five months after Active was charged, and was the DNR commissioner when Active committed his crimes.

Additionally, it was the database maintained by the Alaska Department of Public Safety that made the error on Active’s record; not the one maintained by the Department of Law, as the article states.

According to the Department of Law, “It is unreasonable to suggest that anyone could have predicted the crimes Mr. Active is presently charged with committing over the Memorial Day weekend in Anchorage this year.”

It’s unclear from whom or where the writer of the article, Charles Johnson, is getting his information. According to Sullivan’s press secretary, they played phone tag in late October or early November, but were never able to touch base.

The piece also appeared on Joe Miller’s website, the content of which is primarily culled from other conservative sources and websites. Miller’s campaign spokesperson did not return a call requesting comment.

Fred Brown, a spokesperson with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s campaign responded to a request for comment via email. “This was a very tragic event,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims families for this senseless and heinous act of violence. I sincerely hope that the policies in the Attorney General’s office that let this criminal out onto the streets have been reviewed and addressed to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

During Sullivan’s time as AG, there were about 47,287 criminal cases handled by the Department of Law. About 12,155 of these cases were felonies, according to the department. His campaign said that his number one priority was “protecting Alaskans, particularly the most vulnerable.”

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BP forced to pay adult escort service for gusher

From the Wall Street Journal:

BP has complained for months it has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses that filed damage claims after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster – even though they weren’t really affected. Now, the court-appointed lawyer supervising those payments has confirmed he approved a $173,000 payout to an ‘adult escort service’ that BP said was filed with unsigned and undated financial documents.”

BP’s fighting back with an ad campaign that reads, “The IRS wouldn’t accept this claim. But the Gulf Settlement Program did.” Maybe it’s just me, but whether or not the IRS would accept the claim seems beside the point.

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Mallott shares his vision for Alaska

byron mallott IIDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott spoke to a friendly crowd of about 30 people on Thursday at the Democratic Bartlett Club in Anchorage. Without using notes, he spoke for about 40 minutes on subjects ranging from education to oil to declining state coffers. With every subject, he was able to weave in the central theme of his campaign: unifying all Alaskans.

Bringing Alaskans together has been Mallott’s theme since he announced he was running for governor in mid-October. He didn’t deliver a tub -thumper, but his stump speech has gotten better over time, and he always talks as if it’s coming from his heart.

Mallott is a young 70-year-old and 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. 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.

One of the biggest applause lines of his talk came when Mallott repeated what he had said before: that he would personally vote to repeal the oil tax bill, or SB 21, that was passed last legislative session and gives oil companies a tax break during times of high oil prices. The repeal is going to figure more prominently as those who support it get more organized, and those who oppose the appeal begin to fight back.

Mallott tempered his statement, however, by saying that his vote for the repeal will be a “nuanced” one. He said that regardless of whether or not the bill is repealed, the state needs to provide a stable climate in which to do business, and it needs to recognize the risks the oil companies take in Alaska.

He also warned the crowd not to demonize those who disagree.

“It will not serve us to continue a divisive debate,” he said. “We can all speak to issues and can come away with the sense that we are all in this together.”

Indeed, support to repeal the oil tax bill is turning into a Democratic litmus test, much like support to repeal ObamaCare has turned into a litmus test for Republicans.

But the bulk of Mallott’s speech was spent laying out a vision for an Alaska as a “place that cares,” as a place that encourages diversity and visionaries, as a place that reaches out to businesses to come to Alaska, and a place that has the most vibrant university system in the country.

If we don’t create such a place, he said, “the least among us loses, and we can’t have that in Alaska.”

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Parnell’s plan to delay gas taxes also delays pipeline. Walker calls it all ‘maddening.’

To the surprise of some, and maybe the amusement of others, Gov. Sean Parnell announced on Tuesday that he’s not planning to introduce natural gas tax legislation to be considered in the upcoming legislative session. Currently, natural gas is taxed at roughly the same rate as is oil, but it’s only worth a fraction of what oil is.

Parnell says he’s not doing so because the companies that have the lease rights to the natural gas, and who would build the line that would carry the gas from the North Slope to tidewater, haven’t met all of the benchmarks he set out for them in his 2013 state of the state address.

Apparently, Parnell’s refusal to introduce gas taxes signals some sort of punishment. What kind of punishment, however, is unclear. What is clear is that the world is awash in natural gas, and other projects —  potentially more profitable projects —  await the companies.

Another thing that’s clear: Parnell’s announcement signals another delay in the decades-long dream of getting a large diameter natural gas pipeline.

Bill Walker, who is running as an independent candidate for governor, had a visceral reaction to Parnell’s statement. He said that Parnell is just playing into the hands of the producers. “It’s perfect for them,” Walker said. He has been an advocate for an LNG project for more than a quarter of a century, and has long advocated that the state get tough on the companies by either building the line itself or negotiating with the companies that are willing to do it.

“Parnell is trying to get tough. He’s trying to be a negotiator. But they’re just laughing at us,” Walker said. “They’re just on the floor rolling.” He said that the producers want the delay so that they can work on other projects and wait out Alaska as oil production declines, as the state’s coffers shrink, and as the state becomes increasingly desperate and increasingly willing to negotiate.

Walker ran for governor in 2010. He came in second place in the Republican primary, winning more than 33 percent of the vote on a campaign primarily advocating the construction of a gas pipeline project.

Since the 1970s, Alaska has tried to entice, and at various times demand, that the lease holders of the vast reserves of natural gas on the North Slope build a pipeline to get the gas to market.

The market for natural gas is a fickle one, however, say nothing of Alaska’s political climate. And throughout the years, every time it looked like it might actually begin to materialize, the market either crashes, or the political winds change, or a governor tries to flex his or her muscles and punish the companies, which happen to be the among the largest, most powerful, private companies in the world.

“It’s maddening,” Walker said, expressing a sentiment shared by many who have followed the long, illusive gas line story.

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Former legislator Niilo Koponen passes

nilloFormer Alaska legislator Niilo Koponen died peacefully at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home on Tuesday. As one person put it on his Facebook page, “(t)hey don’t seem to make Alaska legislators these days like Niilo Koponen.” There will be a memorial gathering to honor his life at Pioneer Park Civic Center in the afternoon of Jan. 5, 2014. More information will be posted on the family blog here.

Here’s a short remembrance written by a grandson, Max, republished below with permission of the family:

“He was born in 1928. He grew up in the Bronx, the son of Finnish immigrants, attending the NY School of Music and Art. He was the first white student at the historically black Wilberforce University. He met my grandmother folk dancing and they homesteaded in Fairbanks, Alaska and they raised five children. He left Alaska a few times, to earn degrees from Harvard’s Ed School and from the London School of Economics. He was a principal, fire fighter, and later Representative to the State House for 10 years. He helped found the local Head Start, credit union, and Quakers. He always seemed to inspire those around him.

The Sunday sauna at my grandparents’ place has been running for more than 50 years. The ways I think of Sunday sauna are similar to how I think of him: Open and welcoming to all. Without pretense. Full of conversation on endless topics. Quiet, rousing, bold, rugged, and sophisticated. Intense. Without parallel.

He was, in my experience, many things I aspire to be, among them kind, caring, and welcoming of every person, no matter their background or beliefs, and interested in making a better world, one individual action (and one individual) at a time. He believed a better world was possible and worked to make that vision a reality.”

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