Monthly Archives: January 2014

R.I.P Pebble Mine?

The EPA’s final watershed report on the consequences that a large scale mine could have on Bristol Bay was released on Wednesday. As expected from earlier drafts of the report, its analysis is devastating for a project already on its last legs, as well as for other, potential, large-scale mining projects in the area.

Here’s the kicker:

Up to 94 miles of streams would be destroyed in just the build-out phase of the project, including losses of 5-22 miles of streams known to provide salmon spawning and rearing habitat; up to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes also would be lost due to the mine footprint.

That led the EPA to conclude that, “large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses significant near- and long-term risk to salmon, wildlife and Native Alaska cultures.”

Mining giant Anglo American, perhaps anticipating this report, pulled out of the Pebble Partnership late last year. Now, that partnership only includes Northern Dynasty, whose stock closed on Wednesday afternoon hovered at about $1.37, down from a 52-week high of $4.14. Northern Dynasty’s sole asset is Pebble.

The proposed mining area was estimated to produce 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said that he’s reviewing the report. Begich walked a tightrope on Pebble. On one side was the environmental community, a group that he’s going to need support from in his upcoming reelection race. On the other side was the business community, a group that he couldn’t afford to alienate.

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Loose Lips: Parnell rakes it in, Alectra in the House (!), and other political tidbits

Loose LipsState candidates fundraising reports are due to APOC by mid February and will include all monies raised in 2013 as well as for January 2014. Pundits are guessing that Gov. Parnell will likely report between $300,000 – $400,000 and that his two opponents, Byron Mallott and Bill Walker, combined won’t equal Parnell’s totals. Such is the power of incumbency in a state with $500 per-calendar year campaign limits. The limits were enacted in 1996, when Democrats thought it was a really good idea to handicap their big donors, the one fundraising advantage they had. They were like, we’ll be the party of ethics! Republicans, who were working hard, and succeeding, at building the party’s registration, were like, you take the ethics, we’ll take the money for the people and we’ll win! And they did, and continue to do so.

Voted the best name for incoming legislative staffer: “Alectra,” who reportedly will work for House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt. Speaking of legislative staff comings-and-goings, there’ll be at least one legislative office that has had 100 percent turnover since last year.

And then there’s the true American hero joining the ranks of legislative staffers. Senate President Charlie Huggins, co-chair of the Alaska Legislative Veterans Caucus, recently added Eric Hollen to his staff as a veterans affairs specialist. Hollen was a ranger in the U.S. Army and later, after sustaining a life-altering injury, went on to represent the United States in shooting at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Quote of the day courtesy of Jimmy Fallon:  “Alaska may legalize marijuana. Which would bring a whole new meaning to the term, “Baked Alaska.”  Speaking of pot, Chris Rempert, from the Marijuana Policy Project, has moved to Alaska to run the campaign. Let’s give him a the usual big Alaska welcome by telling him we don’t like Outsiders.

Irony alert of the day: Shalon Harrington, who works for Mayor Dan Sullivan and traveled with him on the now controversial D.C. trip, used to work as Sen. Lesil McGuire’s chief of staff when she was Shalon Szymanski.  Both are vying for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination. Using some mysterious formula, Sullivan recently paid the city back $214 for the trip. He said he was “going the extra mile,” to do things right. $214? 2014? If some opponent can’t make something of that, then we all deserve to remain perpetually baked in Alaska.

Correcting hyperbole: In an earlier version, I called Mayor Dan Sullivan’s trip “infamous.” It’s not infamous yet, as was pointed out. It’s merely controversial.

Correction: An earlier version of this post spelled Alectra’s name as “Electra.” And here I thought it couldn’t get any better. 

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Mayor Dan goes ‘extra mile’ by paying city $214 for fundraisers

15868858_lThe Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan “has paid the city $214 as reimbursement for time he spent at a pair of political fundraisers while on publicly funded trips.”

In early December, a firm that has a contract to lobby for the city held a fundraiser for Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor. Sullivan was in D.C. to meet with the congressional delegation. The fundraiser took place in the evening. Another fundraiser took place in the Kenai, after Sullivan addressed the chamber of commerce.

The fundraisers didn’t violate city code, but Sullivan said that APOC advised him to “go the extra mile.”

According to the ADN, the total costs of the trips are unknown. The airfare and the hotel for Sullivan and two aides to travel to D.C. was $3270, which was paid for by the city. The $214 comes out of a calculation that Sullivan devised based on how much time he spent at the events.

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Loose Lips: Rumors of the day

Maybe True rumor: Alaska Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis will be giving up his leadership position to state Sen. Hollis French, who is running for lieutenant governor. If true, The new position will give French much more on-air camera time and a bigger megaphone. (Update: The switch was decided a year ago.)

False rumor: Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s reported $1.25 million haul was largely self-funded. I don’t know where these rumors are coming from but they are false. Sullivan’s spokesperson Mike Anderson said that Sullivan donated $500 to his own campaign.


Early Republican Senate race poll released

A recent poll conducted by Ivan Moore, an Anchorage-based political consultant, shows that among Republican Senate candidates, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has 34.1 percent of the vote, former DNR commissioner Dan Sullivan has 28.5 percent and Joe Miller 19.4 percent. About 18 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted between Dec. 15-22 and sampled 335 voters likely to vote in the 2014 Republican primary race. The respondents are comprised of 55 percent Republican and, 45 percent independents, or those who are registered as nonpartisans. Republican Party rules dictate that registered Democrats can’t vote in the Republican primary.

It’s unclear Moore declined to say who paid for the poll, though he has often worked for Democratic candidates and for unions.

It’s a tough race to poll. Dan Sullivan the Senate candidate shares the same name as Anchorage’s mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor. In the poll, Moore referred to the Senate candidate as the former DNR commissioner. However, it’s likely that some, if not many, respondents sampled are getting the two confused.

What does appear to be clear, however, is that Joe Miller is doing better than many thought. His numbers don’t look good in Anchorage, but he’s doing well in the Mat-Su, Fairbanks and Kenai, where he was strong when he won the primary against U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010.

Senate candidate Dan Sullivan announced on Tuesday that he raised $1.25 million in the last quarter, a number that will likely catapult him to frontrunner status. He also has solid Republican credentials. However it’s not always the case that the biggest fundraiser wins races, particularly in primary races where voters tend to be more ideological and partisan.

Moore said that people don’t like Dan Sullivan much yet. “He can push his qualifications as much as he likes, it’s not going to make people like him,” Moore said. “And that’s what voting for someone is really about.”

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Senate candidate Dan Sullivan amasses big war chest

U.S. Senate candidate and former DNR commissioner Dan Sullivan announced on Tuesday morning that his campaign has raised just over $1.25 million since mid October, when he got into the Senate race.

That’s an impressive enough haul that it will likely catapult Sullivan from a relative unknown to a frontrunner in the three-way Republican primary race, which includes Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Senate candidate Joe Miller. Whoever wins that will take on Sen. Mark Begich in the general election.

Treadwell announced his run in June. As of the end of September, he had only raised $327,000.He hasn’t yet released fundraising numbers for the most recent reporting period. Meanwhile, Miller seems more interested in organizing his base than in raising big money. He raised $32,000 through September and had $288,000 cash on hand.

“I am honored and thankful for the support that I have received from Alaskans and people across the country who believe that America’s best days are ahead,” Sullivan said.  “This is a clear sign that our message on the need to roll back the President Obama-Harry Reid-Mark Begich agenda is resonating.”

Because official FEC reports aren’t due until Jan. 31, it’s unclear who donated to Sullivan. When they are officially released, the reports will likely be combed over by his opponents, who have at various times accused him of being a consummate D.C. insider and a carpetbagger from Ohio.

Sullivan was born and raised in Ohio. He moved to Alaska in 1997 after getting a Georgetown law degree to clerk for various judges. He left in 2002 to work under President George W. Bush. He returned to the state in 2009 to be Alaska’s attorney general and then the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Sullivan has also served in the Marine Corps since 1993, both on active duty and in the reserves. In July he was called to active duty to work on a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan.

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Murkowski delivers for tribal health centers across the state

On Monday evening, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office announced that after year-long negotiations with the administration and Congress, the Interior Department’s budget includes full funding for six new tribal health facilities across Alaska and $66.2 million to staff these facilities.

“Murkowski is the top Republican on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, and was able to leverage her position to assure the government will fulfill the Nation’s trust responsibility with its first peoples in the delivery of health care,” a press release said.

Murkowski is one of the few Republicans in the Senate who is open to negotiate and to occasionally compromise with her Democratic colleagues and with the Obama administration. Although she gets criticized for doing so, it can also lead to results.

Here’s a list of who got what:

  • Southcentral Foundation, $11.2
  • Norton Sound, $8.4M
  • Tanana Chiefs, $20.1M
  • Barrow, $12.5M
  • Copper River, $3.5M
  • Kenaitze, $10.6M

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Go Kikkan!

Somethings, like Kikkan Randall’s amazing talent and perseverance, fly above politics. That said, if I were a politician in Alaska, I’d be sporting some Kikkan-endorsed L.L Bean anywhere I could.


Ed Gillespie enters the Virginia Senate race, and why it’s important

From NBC:

(Republicans) have a strong candidate in Michigan; they might get Scott Brown to run in New Hampshire; and now they have (Ed) Gillespie in Virginia, who at the least will make Warner and the Democrats have to spend money in Virginia this year. We’re not saying VA or NH or MI are suddenly toss-ups. But they aren’t run-aways anymore for the Dems. That’s more resources and more incumbents (toss in Colorado and Minnesota to boot) asking the DSCC for help. By comparison, the only two Republican seats Democrats have put in play are Georgia and Kentucky…


Weekly roundup: Aloha moderate malarkey flu

aloha It’s still very early in the election season. The sun is still low and coy, objects hidden under the snow haven’t even begun to think of stirring, and most Alaskans haven’t even begun to think about who they’re going to vote for in the upcoming elections.

It feels a lot like Joe Miller time.

I know that many of you common-sense conservatives have written Miller off. But common-sense conservatives have never been accused of being commonly sensitive enough to feel the fury of that small group of primary voters, the ones that Sarah Palin awoke from their long slumber and the ones that are now gathering during these long winter nights to plan for a Miller win, much like they did in the early days of 2010.

Word is that the meetings are happening with increasing frequency, particularly in the Mat-Su Valley, where there’s something in the water which makes everyone feel dispossessed. The meetings are revivalesque, I’m told. In other words: those people vote.

In the meantime, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell , who also tries really hard to act like he’s dispossessed, is plugging along, sending out press releases accusing Begich of being soft on energy and not “enthusiastically” supporting Murkowski’s bid to end exports on oil. I say be careful of what you wish for. Any more enthusiasm from Begich and he’ll be knocking at your door, using that soon-to-be-grating,  folksy voice to try and convince you that he’s as “independent as Alaska.”

And he’ll keep going until you agree.

Speaking of Begich. How’s this for his new moniker, a la Art Hackney: “Malarkey Mark.” And isn’t it interesting that the national Republicans are bashing him giving a speech in Hawaii rather than being in D.C., voting to extend unemployment benefits? Maybe they’ve been employed for so long that those same Republicans forgot they don’t like the bill?

Besides, in addition to attending fundraisers and giving a speech, Begich likely spent the rest of his waking hours in Hawaii convincing Alaskans that he’s as independent as they are. Indeed, you can’t throw a stone this time of year in Hawaii without hitting an Alaskan. Former Mayor Tom Fink is reportedly there, giving lectures to anyone who will listen on laissez faire economics and school choice. Rep. Les Gara is riding a girl’s 10 speed bike around Oahu. It was the affordable one available, he said.

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

Speaking of throwing stones, neither of the two Republican candidates running for lieutenant governor showed at the first state-wide candidate forum in Anchorage on Tuesday night. Mayor Dan Sullivan had other plans, so he declined immediately. Sen. Lesil McGuire called in sick right before it started. Malarkey? Who can blame her? I’d be sick too if I were a moderate Republican in that crowd, in this state, where to win statewide office, you have to get at least a handful of those Valley folks to cast their vote for you. Maybe the remedy is in the Valley water.

Anyway, because no Republican showed, the show was left to Democrats Sen. Hollis French and Palmer teacher Bob Williams, and independent Craig Fleener. As expected, Gov. Sean Parnell took a beating.

Sen. Hollis French, as usual, was like, “au contraire Parnell!” He was like, “Oil companies j’en peux plus!”

I don’t know Craig Fleener well enough to poke fun at him. He seems really nice, smart. Besides, he’s a former Marine.

But the line of the night belonged to Bob Williams.

Bob Williams? I hadn’t heard of him either, and yet he has blue eyes and even comes with props! On Tuesday night, there was a red cup, yellow cup and green cup, and some sort of piece of cloth all of which represented something important enough to warrant them. I can’t remember what it was, however. (My dog ate my notes, and then I suddenly came down with the moderate malarkey Republican flu.)

What I do remember, perhaps the only thing I remember, is when Blue Eyes called Parnell a wimp.

That got the requisite, snide, liberal chuckle. But Williams wasn’t done. Because it’s so uncool in school to call anybody a name, he went on to explain what he meant was that Parnell is “Wildly Inaccurate, Misleading, and Partisan.” It doesn’t quite work as an acrostic, but nobody, least of all Parnell, is going to challenge him.

What else is going on out there? Mayor Dan hired his buddy, high school friend and chief-of-staff Dan Kendall to run ML&P. His qualifications for running one of the state’s largest electrical utilities? For 30 years he was a corrosion technician for ENSTAR. For 30 years, he did nothing but drive around in his truck, getting a big union paycheck to check for cronyism. Oops! I mean corrosion.

Whispers of Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold, and Valley Rep. Wes Keller organizing what’s being called a “conservative caucus” in the House to push out the moderates. Because, you know, Alaska’s Republican dominated House is so full of moderates. Must be something in the water.

And there’s lots of talk about the good bureaucrats at Revenue and DNR, who could probably use a chug or two of Valley water, trying to untangle the state from the very last vestige of the Palin regime. Next session, the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, will be likely be a goner, taking its hundreds of millions with it, and one of the countless big dreams of a big natural gasline. Aloha AGIA.

As William’s might put it: “Alaska Gets It in the….Abdomen again.”

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Begich skips unemployment benefits vote for Hawaii

As the Hill first reported, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich skipped a procedural vote on unemployment benefits to give a speech on Wednesday morning to the American Association of Airport Executives. The vote was tight and he was the only Democrat to miss it. Even so, skipping the vote might not have provided fodder to those seeking to unseat him, had not the speech been in Hawaii.

Cue conservative outrage.

According to Begich aides, plans were made for the speech long before the vote was scheduled. While in Hawaii, he attended two fundraisers and met with Hawaiian governor Neil Abercrombie.

Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s campaign sent out the following:

“While Mark Begich was off in Hawaii, raising money for his campaign, the Senate was voting on extending unemployment benefits and considering job creating amendments. But unfortunately for Alaska, Begich was the only democrat to skip that vote and his boss Harry Reid has blocked any amendments that would create jobs. It was reported today that only 62% of adults are participating in the workforce – the lowest number since 1968. It is abundantly clear to everyone but Harry Reid that our country needs more jobs today. Now that Begich is refreshed from his trip to Hawaii, maybe he could leverage all the support he has provided Harry Reid over the last five years to support creating jobs for Alaska.”

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Alaska-based super-PAC hits Begich

The Alaska based super-PAC supporting former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan for U.S. Senate has released the first of three radio ads attacking Sen. Mark Begich, which will run in Anchorage and the Mat-Su. The super-PAC, Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values, is run by Art Hackney, who has worked on many Republican campaigns throughout the years and who does work for Karl Rove.

In various ways, the three ads, which you can click on below, go after Begich for, among other things, his vote on ObamaCare, his vote to confirm Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and his time serving as mayor of Anchorage. One ad questioning Begich’s self-proclaimed independent streak, dubs him “Malarkey Mark,” a moniker that could very well stick. Another says he’s trying to “duck and hide” over “the biggest jobs issue” facing the state. The ad is referring to SB 21, the oil tax bill break passed last legislative session and facing a repeal initiative, which Democrats in the state generally support.

All of the ads tie Begich to President Obama, which is likely going to be Begich’s biggest vulnerability as he runs for reelection.

In response to his stance on the repeal of SB 21, Begich’s campaign said that “Alaskans will vote and Sen. Begich will respect their decision.”

According to Hackney, Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values is spending $12,000 on radio placement. “This is just the start,” he said. Listen to them by clicking on them here:

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Treadwell goes after Begich for lack of enthusiasm to end oil export ban

partisanshipU.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s campaign has been churning out the press releases in the past few days, most of them attacking Sen. Mark Begich for being both soft on energy and for taking money from the national Democratic Party, which is taking money from former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is fighting for stricter gun control.

Both charges are a stretch, but the last one is particularly elastic. Begich was one of a handful of Democratic senators who broke with the party to vote against gun control, incurring the wrath of gun control groups everywhere, including one funded by Bloomberg.

On energy, Treadwell accused Begich of failing to lend his enthusiastic support for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s fight to end the 1970-era oil export ban.

Murkowski is leading the charge to do away with ban, with the support of the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The ban was issued in 1975, following the Arab oil embargo, and was meant to protect American consumers from an unstable market and widely vacillating gasoline prices.

It does not apply to all oil produced in Alaska. However, demand has been high enough that no Alaska oil has been exported since 2004, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As more domestic oil is produced, it’s likely to be one of the biggest energy issues in the coming years.

Although Begich considers a higher priority making sure that Alaska can sell its natural gas to Asia, he does support lifting the ban.

“Alaskans know Mark Begich’s strong record of supporting Alaska’s energy industry and his work to create quality energy jobs for middle class families including his support of exporting Alaska crude oil and natural gas,” a Begich campaign press spokesperson said.

But some top Democrats say that because oil companies will try to sell oil more expensively to other countries, lifting the ban will translate into higher prices for consumers at the pump. Refiners, such as Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refiner by capacity, also opposes lifting the ban, according to Bloomberg News.

“Yesterday, Mark Begich had the opportunity to enthusiastically support Alaskan energy by supporting Lisa Murkowski’s bid to end the oil export ban but he failed to do so. Mark Begich and the Obama Administration cannot claim to support free trade in energy on one hand without reversing policies to produce Alaska energy on the other,” Treadwell said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is willing to consider lifting the ban.

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Quote of the day: Here’s the beef

“Today, when you buy a Big Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the cost is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the government hands over to a private trade group called the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The NCBA in turn uses this public money to buy ads encouraging you to eat more beef, while also lobbying to derail animal rights and other agricultural reform activists, defeat meat labeling requirements, and defend the ongoing consolidation of the industry.”

Siddhartha Mahanta, in the Washington Monthly, writing about the $45 million of tax-payer money that goes to the NCBA.