Monthly Archives: February 2014

Begich helps deliver $41 million for rural mobil services

U.S. Senator Mark Begich announced today that the FCC will be awarding two Alaska telecom companies $41 million to improve cell phone and broadband service in rural Alaska.

“This is a great day for rural Alaska,” said Begich. “Today’s FCC auction results mean that Alaska companies will now be able to provide sorely needed telecommunication services across our vast state. From Eek, to Nunam Iqua, to Unalaska, several rural communities will soon be better connected.”

The funds came from a program called the FCC Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I Auction, which is part of a larger effort to expand mobile broadband coverage to rural and unserved areas of the country.

All told, $49 million was doled out across the United States under the Tribal Mobility Fund. Alaska’s GCI and Copper Valley were among five companies nationwide that received contracts to provide the services.

Begich is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over the FCC. According to a press release from his office, Begich has been “an active participant in ensuring that the national plan works for Alaska.”

The same press release quotes GCI’s general counsel Tina Pidgeon, who said that Begich’s efforts with the FCC have been “critical to ensuring that rural Alaskans have access to mobile services that are comparable to those available throughout the country.”

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Federal delegation reacts to Pebble Mine announcement

Here’s how the ADN sums up EPA’s announcement regarding Pebble Mine:  “A federal agency announced Friday it is taking steps to protect the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, the largest in the world, under the Clean Water Act. The actions could lead to a virtually unprecedented administrative veto of the proposed Pebble mine even before developers formally submit plans.”

It’s rare for the EPA to take such an action. It’s only done so 13 times since 1972 even though some 80,000 wetlands fill permits are issued each year.

As of 4 p.m Eastern time, Northern Dynasty’s stock fell to $1.00, from an opening of $1.47. Northern Dynasty’s sole asset is Pebble.

As expected, Rep. Don Young called it an “expansive, jurisdictional power grab.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski called it a “terrible precedent,” and Sen. Mark Begich is “skeptical.” The full reactions are below:

Sen. Mark Begich:

While I am a strong supporter of responsible resource development – including mining – I have said the Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place. However, I am skeptical of federal overreach from an administration that has already demonstrated it does not understand Alaska’s unique needs. The residents of Bristol Bay and Alaska Peninsula need certainty to plan their future and I will be making sure the administration does not take any actions that could have unintended consequences down the road for this region or other development projects in Alaska.

Rep. Don Young:

I have always been clear about the severity of the EPA’s unwarranted involvement in the proposed Pebble Mine project, especially this early in the process. This expansive, jurisdictional power grab proposed by the EPA severely jeopardizes not only Alaska’s sovereignty, but the rights of states and all private property owners nationwide.

Today’s announcement for review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act shows an agency corrupted by politics, one with no regard for the state or federal permitting processes found in statute. Instead, the EPA seeks to broaden its reach until their tentacles encumber every aspect of American life.

My concern for this process is much bigger than the Pebble Mine, in my eyes this isn’t even about the Pebble Mine. For the EPA to preemptively oppose a project located entirely on state land, a project already subject to a rigorous state permitting process, is a serious threat to any future projects on State of Alaska, Alaska Native, or even individually owned private land.

Annually, the Army Corps of Engineers issues tens of thousands of 404 permits. These projects range from pipelines, electrical transmission lines, roads, railways, agriculture, renewable energy projects like wind and solar, to commercial construction projects, parking lots, and even home development. I will be very clear, this overstep by the EPA today could mean the loss of our state to the federal government.

From Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

I understand that many in Bristol Bay strongly oppose this potential mine. I have spoken with dozens of local residents, including a large group who traveled all the way to Washington, DC, this week to make their case. It is out of respect for their concerns, livelihoods, and culture that I have reserved judgment on the mine itself – and made a commitment that we will not trade one resource for another. I do understand the importance and value of the fisheries resources that are an integral part of the Bristol Bay region. But even with that in mind, for the sake of sound law and policy, I have no choice but to remain strenuously and unequivocally opposed to a preemptive veto by EPA.

For the past three years, I have urged the agency not to prejudge this potential project before its developers sought permits or presented an official description of it. I have also called on the project’s owners to present their plan so that Alaskans have greater certainty about its expected benefits and impacts. Both parties must respect and abide by the permitting process. Neither should be allowed to subvert or circumvent it.

Today, however, EPA continued to move toward a premature veto based on what it assumes may happen with this project. We already have undeniably grave problems with federal agencies blocking resource production on federal lands in Alaska. Now to see a federal agency overstep its authority and move prematurely to block even the consideration of a permit for potential activity on state lands is something I simply cannot accept.

When and if a permit application is submitted – for Pebble or any other project – an independent scientific review is exactly what happens under the environmental review process that NEPA and the Clean Water Act provide. For any project, Alaskans and all Americans deserve a fair and unbiased environmental review of the project once a project description has been submitted.

If EPA’s action today in effect prejudges this project, the process EPA has outlined could establish a terrible precedent that only further detracts from investors’ willingness to bring capital and jobs to Alaska. It will also open the door to preemptive vetoes on this and other projects, putting development on all of our state’s lands – and both public and private lands across the nation – at risk. EPA asserts that this situation is ‘unique.’ If this action is allowed to stand, where will the next ‘unique’ circumstance arise? EPA’s actions here could have potentially widespread consequences for any development project, including airports and other infrastructure, anywhere in the nation.

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Q&A with Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre

Because the work they do is so important and we know so little about that work, I’ve begun a series of Q&As with mayors across the state, which I’ll be posting periodically as they roll in. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike
Navarre kicks off the series. Navarre started his political career in 1984 when he was elected as a Democrat to the Alaska House of Representatives. He kept that seat until 1996, when he was elected mayor of the Kenai Borough and served one term. He was later elected to his current term. He has served as chair of the Governor’s Oil and Gas Policy Council and president of the Alaskan Conference of Mayors. He serves on numerous community and civic boards. He was born in 1956, is single and graduated from Eastern Washington University.

Q:  What is the biggest challenge you face as mayor of the Kenai Borough?

A: Probably time management.  The Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) is a large area with a relatively small population (55,000).  It’s a strong mayor structure, so the mayor is the full time manager.  In addition to the financial and administrative responsibilities, there is always an additional demand for attendance at community events and meetings.

Q:  Last year, there was some talk about you running for governor. Why did you decide not to run?

A: A variety of reasons but primarily because the demands and responsibilities of the mayor’s job are such that I could not manage both at the same time.

Q: Do you support SB 21 or support repeal and why?

A: Tough question to answer but I’ll give it my best shot… I’m not sure, yet, because I was part of the legislative process for 12 years and I trust the process – with some reservations, of course.  I tried to follow and evaluate SB21 as it was progressing through the legislature but simply did not have the time to devote to fully understand what is a complex change in the tax structure.  In short, I wasn’t there so it’s tough for me to judge.  I think changes to ACES, particularly the progressivity component, were necessary; but, I’m concerned that the wholesale changes in SB21 may be too great.

Q:  Nikiski appears to have been selected to be the terminus of the state’s new proposed gas pipeline. What impact do you see this having on your borough?

A: The potential impacts will be huge.  We will see our population increase with a big spike during construction and more modest long term increase, both of which will create a demand for public services such as education and public safety.  Additionally, there will be social impacts associated with any construction project of this size, including drug use and other crimes.  Of course, there will be opportunity also for residents and businesses.  Depending on how the enabling legislation is structured, the facilities located on the Kenai Peninsula will significantly increase the tax base and revenues of the KPB.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment as borough mayor?

A: Responsibly managing the budget.  The KPB had been using reserves (fund balances) to support the general fund budget and we had a surplus last year (FY13) for the first time since FY09.

Q: As a Democrat, who is your favorite Republican in the Legislature?

A: I’m going to go with Peter Micciche because he is a personal friend and we’ve served together on the KP Boy’s & Girl’s Club Board for nearly 20 years.

Q: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in politics in the last 25 years?

A: The use of technology, including social media.  2)  I think there is far too much polarization in politics and it’s gotten much worse in the last 25 years.  The focus seems to be more on the next election than on the job of governing.

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Pot makes the ballot

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced today that the campaign to legalize pot received enough qualified signatures and met all the other requirements necessary to be on the primary ballot.

Here’s the press release from the “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska,” or the CTRMLAIA for short:

Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell announced today that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska has met the constitutional and statutory requirements for its initiative to be placed on the 2014 primary ballot. According to the final report provided by the Alaska Division of Elections, the campaign qualified 36,030 signatures with just 30,169 being required.

“A bipartisan tidal wave of public support for regulating marijuana like alcohol in Alaska has pushed this initiative onto the ballot, and we will be running an aggressive campaign designed to build on that momentum,” said Taylor Bickford, a spokesperson for the campaign.

Earlier this month, a major poll was released showing that 55 percent of Alaska voters are in favor of regulating marijuana like alcohol, with just 39 percent opposing the concept.

“Marijuana prohibition has failed and the majority of Alaskans believe it is time for a more sensible approach,” said Bickford.

In summary, the proposed initiative makes possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age or older and establishes a system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.

More information about the campaign, including a summary and full text of the initiative, is available at

Contact Amanda Coyne at 


Loose Lips: Pruitt gets tough, DeVries prays, and Grasser has loose lips!

Loose Lips–There’s a lot of interest in the newly created state Senate district in the Mat-Su Valley. Former legislator and now Palmer city council woman Edna DeVries is running and has even posted on Facebook that she’s praying to find a good campaign manager; however, to date, there have been no indication that prayers have been answered. Other candidates that have expressed interest include Rep. Shelly Hughes, Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson, and possibly even Rep. Bill Stoltze. Many who know the area say that the seat is Stoltze’s for the taking if he wants it. However, rumors have it that a poll is being conducted just in case. Expect some announcements or movements in this race soon.

–Calling all artists: In a time of budget crunches, did you see the 44-page request for proposal from the Alaska’s Department of Military and Veterans, calling for an artist to draw and frame approximately 15 past and present Adjutant Generals of the Alaska National Guard? Artists will be given photos to draw from, presumably ones without lollipops.

–Former Democratic legislator and always upbeat Joe Hays who was UAF Alumni director left the University and has resurfaced as a contract lobbyist for Golden Valley Electric Association.

–The Safari Club raised north of $500,000 at their auction Saturday night. The head count was about 850 people, which has to make it one of the most well attended fundraisers in the state. About 20 legislators showed, as did Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Mayor Sullivan, and DNR Dan Sullivan. Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker was there with running mate Craig Fleener. The biggest auction item? A Cape Buffalo Hunt in Africa that went for $19,000. Rep. Bill Stoltze won a gun, as did Treadwell. Sen. Pete Kelly won a gun and was named Safari Club International Alaska Chapter legislator of the year. His prize? A big, sloppy kiss from Eddie Grasser. Joke! If only!

–More on the Pebble Mine death watch. From a story on from Dillingham public radio station KDLG:

A member of the Northern Dynasty Minerals Board of Directors has resigned. Stephen Scott is the General Manager with Rio Tinto’s copper division and he was appointed to the Northern Dynasty Minerals Board in 2007… It’s unclear if the resignation of Stephen Scott from the Northern Dynasty Minerals Board of Directors is a precursor for Rio Tinto making an announcement about divesting itself of the 19-percent interest in Northern Dynasty.

–From a comment made on this site about the Koch brothers attacking Sen. Mark Begich for hurting the economy following Koch Industry’s announcement that it’s closing its Flint Hills refinery in North Pole, a mainstay of Interior Alaska’s economy:

I own property near North Pole. The sulfolane plume has been expanding from the North Pole Refinery for years so that now it contaminates ground water sources over several square miles. This contaminate has been found as deep as 300 feet. Why was this spill allowed to propagate over such a large area? I understand Flint Hills knew that the contamination existed when they purchased the refinery and that Flint Hills has spent money mitigating the impact; however, purchasing bottled water, treating some water, and handing our water filters will not eliminate significant pollution as long as the source remains. I would like to know why the state utterly failed to protect the residents of the North Pole community over the last several years by demanding that the source be eliminated. Recently Flint Hills has proposed raising the allowable contamination level in the people’s well water from the current 14 parts per billion to 362 parts per billion. That certainly is one way to reduce your responsibility for clean up – increase the allowable level of pollution.

–From a statement that Rep. Lance Pruitt made during a House committee hearing on Flint Hills and possible legal avenues available to the state to make the refinery clean up the sulfolane plume:

I am very pro-development, but you’re not going to come to my state, rape the land and then leave.  If they’re responsible, we need to go after them.

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Rail link from Point MacKenzie to Houston well underway

As the state is struggling with declining budgets, as social services and teachers are being cut, the 32-mile rail extension between Point MacKenzie to Houston is well underway and rails are being laid on the track. The port is envisioned to serve hypothetical mines, a hypothetical natural gasline and a hypothetical cement plant in Fairbanks. According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, the work is over two-thirds funded and under construction. The Mat-Su borough has already received $171 million for the work, and but still needs $101.5 million to finish it. “The project includes six bridges and crosses enough trails that a $600,000 contract was awarded for just to work on trails,” the paper reports. The borough asked for $60 million in the next state budget. Parnell’s budget contains $5 million for the project. Continue reading


Quote of the day: Coghill on family planning

“Is the government the only one that can ever council people and would Planned Parenthood be the place we would want to send them for planning purposes? Seeing as how their main goal is both family planning for contraception and abortions which to me heads in the direction of population control rather than family planning.”–Sen. John Coghill in the House Finances Committee on Tuesday, responding to a question about family planning money that was stripped out of a bill that would limit funding of abortions for poor women.

The money that was stripped would expand access to low-income men and women in order to prevent pregnancies. According to APRN, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the money but the state would have to chip in $1.4 million in the next two years. Continue reading


Parnell misses bipartisan ObamaCare talk at NGA

Gov. Sean Parnell skipped the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington D.C. held this past weekend. Had he been there, he would have heard governors from both sides of the aisle saying that although many have problems with ObamaCare, it’s the law of the land and is here to stay.

According to the AP:

(G)overnors from both parties say a full repeal of the law would be complicated at best, if not impossible, as states move forward with implementation and begin covering millions of people — both by expanding Medicaid rolls for lower-income residents or through state or federal exchanges that offer federal subsidies to those who qualify… Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, said many governors still have concerns about the program, but outright repeal would be “complicated.”

The meeting wrapped up on Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that more than 4 million Americans have signed up for ObamaCare since October. Continue reading


Koch brothers continue attack on Begich after North Pole refinery shutdown

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ funded political group, pulled a $100,000 ad buy against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich after it was announced that Koch Industries was closing the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole Alaska earlier this month. Perhaps attacking Begich for hurting the economy after it announced it was shuttering a mainstay of Alaska’s Interior economy didn’t make for good optics.

The refinery has left about 300 households and businesses with tainted water, and a sulfolane plume that’s 3 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. About 80 people who worked at the refinery are losing their jobs, and other entities, including the Alaska Railroad, also relied heavily on the refinery and are now considering layoffs.

Apparently, AFP is counting on the short memory of Alaskans, because the ads are back. This one, like a prior ad, first goes after Begich on healthcare and then jumps into the meat: his alleged support of a carbon tax. According to AFP, such a tax would cost the average family $2,000 a year and cost thousands of Alaskans their jobs.

Let’s get this straight: Begich has said publicly that he opposes a carbon tax. He did, however, vote on a non-binding amendment that said if such a tax were passed, revenue from it would be “returned to the American people in the form of federal deficit reduction, reduced federal tax rates, cost savings or other direct benefits.” The vote would not have created or defeated a carbon tax. Begich also voted against an amendment that would have required a vote of three fifths of the Senate to approve a carbon tax. That, vote, however, was intended to send a message to Republicans about procedure. It was not about the carbon tax.

The one thing that appears to be true in this whole situation is that Flint Hills was repeatedly warned about the sulfolane plume throughout the years. It failed to do anything about it. Now, hundreds of North Pole residents can’t drink from their faucets and at least 80 people are out of a job. And it’s unclear if Flint Hills or the state will shoulder the costs of the cleanup.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Bill gives private businesses a 15 percent raise paid for with state funds

A bill introduced by Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel would give private businesses which expedite Department of Motor Vehicle services a pay raise of 15 percent from state revenues. If it passes, SB 127 would cost the state at least $1.2 million a year.

The companies say they need the extra money to process credit cards and to expand their businesses. Critics say that the state would be giving additional money to businesses for doing work that’s already profitable. The state DMV is neutral on the bill. Currently, there are eleven businesses that contract with the state for this service in Alaska, not all of whom appear to have valid Alaska business licenses.

Since 2000, the state has allowed private companies to provide titles, transfer of titles, and commercial services historically done through DMV. They set up offices away from DMVs and the lines are much shorter. The companies provide the paper work, but DMV still does the processing.

Such services provide convenience for consumers. In exchange, the companies have been allowed to charge whatever the market will bear for the convenience, above and beyond the standard DMV fees. They’re also allowed to charge for things, like handicap license plates, that the state doesn’t charge for.

In fiscal year 2013, they collected more than $11.4 million in fees from 193,697 transactions.

Fees charged to the consumers can vary dramatically depending on the business and the service. One of the largest of such businesses, Alaska Tags & Titles, processed 341,000 transactions from 2004 until 2013. According to legislative testimony, the company charges consumers $20 for a registration renewal, $2 for a transfer of title, and $30 for commercial fees.

This is a service fee above and beyond what the state charges.

If the bill is passed, in addition to those service fees, companies will get an additional $2 for a duplicate registration, $5 for a duplicate tag or plate, and $115 for a registration for transfer of title from the state, according to Melissa Cucullu, the general manager of Alaska Title and Transfer.

That money will come from the general fund.

Giessel said that it would encourage more private sector involvement and would save the state money, though she has not offered any documentation for the latter claim.

The bill passed out of State Affairs Committee and was referred to Finance.

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Quote of the Day: Gay marriage ban is ‘blot’ on state constitution

“We have a blot, a stain upon our state constitution, a blot that [this resolution] seeks to erase. We can wait, if you wish for the day, and I think the day is coming soon when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that state prohibitions on same sex marriage are inconsistent with freedom, with justice, with liberty and equality. Better yet I believe it should be erased by our own actions, by passing this resolution and submitting it to the voters.” –Alaska state Sen. Hollis French on the Senate floor, speaking on a Senate Joint Resolution to allow voters to vote on amending the state constitution to allow for same sex marriage. Continue reading


Loose Lips: Fundraisers for the politically confused, speed-dating and the six year itch

Loose LipsMark your calendars: next Friday is the perfect evening for the politically confused. Neighbors Bill Sheffield, former governor and current Railroad board member, and Mark Pfeffer, the politically active developer most recently known for his role in the Anchorage legislative office deal, are hosting side-by-side fundraisers for Alaska’s junior and senior senators. Begich’s event has a pay-for-access hour for the deep pocketed followed by an event for everyone else at $100 each. The hosts are planning a snow shoveled walkway between the houses for those guests interested in making it a bipartisan evening.

Politico is calling Jim Messina the Democratic version of Karl Rove. Messina, former campaign manager to President Barack Obama, is using his long ties to the Democratic Party, political operatives and donors to build “a political fiefdom.” Some Alaskans will remember Messina from the time he spent in the state in 2004 trying to get former Gov. Tony Knowles elected to the U.S. Senate. It was a tight race, but U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski ultimately prevailed, despite the fact that she had been appointed to her seat by her increasingly unpopular senator-turned-governor father. According to an interview with High Country News, Messina still has “nightmares about that loss. I have replayed it several hundred times in my head,” he said.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has four commissioners that need to be confirmed before the adjournment of this year’s legislative session. Consequently, those commissioners from Revenue, Public Safety, Administration and Natural Resources are spending considerable time in the Capitol going door-to-door visiting legislators to make nice and insure their confirmations. Around the Capitol it’s called speed dating.

Senate candidate Mead Treadwell gave a long, four part interview to a reporter writing for a publication called State of Reform, where he talks about repealing Obamacare, his support of Gov. Sean Parnell’s decision not to expand Medicaid, the death of his father, and lackluster fundraising compared to another GOP candidate Dan Sullivan, who is from Ohio. “The fact of the matter is, we certainly have a lead on him at home.  I haven’t done as well with the business community in Ohio as Dan Sullivan has, but I have done very well with the business community in Alaska.” In the last FEC report, Treadwell had about $95,000 cash on hand. His campaign debts totaled more than $141,000, including money that Treadwell lent his campaign. So it appears that he was operating in the red. Sullivan’s campaign says that it has about $1.1 million cash on hand. Begich has $2.8 million.

According to Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Democrats are headed toward a tough midterm election this fall — and nowhere will it be worse than at the state legislative level. Political junkies are familiar with the so-called “six year itch” effect in federal elections. If you’re not, it goes like this: The party of a re-elected president tends to get walloped in the following midterm election.

A new lobbying firm with deep Alaska roots was recently formed in D.C. Capitol Strategies, headed up by longtime former Fairbanks resident and former Ted Stevens staffer Wally Burnett, appears to be starting off strong. It already boasts 18 clients, including Boeing, Cook Inlet Region Inc, Raytheon Missile Systems and Washington State Department of Transportation, to name a few.

The National Organization for Marriage, the group that’s fighting same sex marriage, has been using Alaska’s Attorney General Michael Gheraty as a model for AGs who are standing up to“judges across the country.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Geraghty said that although other AG’s across the country are calling a ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional, he will continue to support Alaska’s Constitution, which forbids same sex marriage. The organization is calling on its members to send a ‘thank you’ note to Gheraty “for his commitment to the rule of law and the sovereign voice of the people of Alaska.”

 Contact Amanda Coyne at 


State campaign restriction being questioned by both sides

A law restricting gubernatorial candidates from soliciting or accepting campaign donations from anybody who lives or happens to be in Juneau during the legislative session is being questioned by gubernatorial candidates from both sides of the aisle.

The law was written in 1996, along with a host of other laws that restricted campaign finances, including limiting donations from individuals from $1000 to $500 a year, limiting party donations, restricting lobbyists’ contributions, and banning union and businesses from directly contributing to a candidate.

Juneau-based lawyer Bruce Botelho, who is campaigning for Democratic candidate Byron Mallott, wrote to the Alaska Public Offices Commission that given the Alaska state Supreme Court’s ruling in another part of the law, the law as it pertained to Mallott appeared to be unconstitutional. Given that other ruling, he asked for an advisory opinion as to whether or not the law was going to be enforced.

Botelho was the Alaska state Attorney General under then Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles when the campaign finance laws were passed. Knowles supported the laws.

The Commission is expected to issue its opinion this week.

Since the legislative session began, it appears that about 15 Juneau residents have contributed to Mallot’s campaign, giving a total of about $3,000. The campaign said that all such donations were forwarded to Anchorage and that the campaign had not asked for donations in Juneau since the session.

Still, the Commission could rule that the donations have to be returned.

Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, had a gathering in Juneau earlier this session. He was not aware of the law. He said he received about three contributions during that gathering and that he would return those contributions.

Campaign restrictions already make it daunting for non-incumbents to build the kind of war chest they need to compete, and this law makes it all the more challenging, particularly for Mallott, who is from Juneau and presumably has a deep bench of support there.

The law also makes it tough for incumbents. In an electronic age with the regular use of Facebook and email solicitations, how do you keep track of who is contributing from Juneau?

In order to try and comply with the law, Jerry Gallagher, who is Gov. Sean Parnell’s campaign manager, posed this and other questions to APOC. In the meantime, Parnell’s campaign has included the following disclosure on its email solicitations:

Under recent advice from the Alaska Public Offices Commission, we are required to tell you that if you receive this email, and you are in the City and Borough of Juneau, you may not contribute in Juneau while the Legislature is in session.

Mallott’s campaign said that it will also include that disclosure in its campaign solicitations.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


The weekly wrap in Alaska politics: School of hard knocks, sucker punches, and Colorado cigarettes

Below is an excerpt from my weekly column in the Anchorage Daily News:

Are advocates of changing our constitution to allow for vouchers getting a lesson in the school of hard knocks? “Kids not Cuts” signs are sprouting like weeds. Protests all across the state are being organized. Supporters are working the phones, hard.

But fear not: The education privateers have a plan, says a trusted source who overheard two of them discussing the issue at a Midtown sandwich shop. The plan involves using capital projects to land the vote of a certain rural Democratic lawmaker.

Vouchers might not be a bad thing, and no doubt for democratic reasons we should allow the vote and the conversation. But if the people who’d talk loudly in a Midtown sandwich shop are involved, I’d rather entrust the education of our youths to any number of tenured, burned-out, atheistic teachers.

Frankly, the kids seem plenty all right to me, at least if UAA’s debate team is any kind of barometer. On Tuesday, the team took on the thorny gas line issue before Commonwealth North at the Hilton Anchorage, schooling about 100 community and business leaders on whether or not the state should invest in the line. Wiley Cason, the future governor of Alaska, and Matthieu Ostrander argued against investment. Amy Parrent and Jonathan Taylor argued for it.

Legislators have spent countless hours and millions of dollars with consultants trying to explain the pros and the cons of a state investment in the pipeline. Who knew that all they needed was the UAA debate team?

Judy Brady, Karen Hunt and Fran Ulmer were the judges. By a very slight margin, the no-investment team won. What probably cinched it was Cason’s line that the state spending its saving trying to get into the gas business “fills me with dread,” particularly given the state’s history of trying to act like the private sector.

Well, now that you put it that way, you could hear the crowd thinking.

Read the rest here.



It’s Kito!

Surprising some, including me, Gov., Sean Parnell picked Sam Kito III to fill Rep. Beth Kerttula’s Juneau seat. Kito is currently a lobbyist working with his father Sam Kito, who is the longest serving lobbyist in Alaska. He has also worked as a civil engineer in the past.

The choice was between Kito, Jesse Kiehl, and Catherine Reardon. Kiehl currently serves on the Juneau Assembly and is an aide to Sen. Dennis Egan. Reardon is also a legislative aide to Rep. Andy Josephson and has served in the past as vice chair of the Alaska Democratic Party and as a division director in the Department of Commerce.

In an earlier column, I had predicted that Parnell would choose Reardon. Not to take anything away from the other two, but I had heard that Kiehl was probably the first choice of the Democrats and considered to be the most popular with the electorate. That, I said, was exactly the reason why Parnell would reject him.

And despite what others said, I didn’t believe that Parnell would chose a lobbyist, if nothing else but because one of Parnell’s major strengths is that he’s perceived as an ethical leader. Appointing a lobbyist to the Legislature undercuts that perception, however unfair it might be. Kitto is known as smart and capable. But the optics just aren’t good. Expect a fierce primary battle, and expect Parnelll’s name to get some mud on it in the process.

Here’s Parnell’s press release in full.

Governor Sean Parnell today appointed Sam Kito III to fill the House District 32 seat that was held by Representative Beth Kerttula.

“Sam has a positive vision for creating a long-term future in Alaska for our children,” Governor Parnell said. “He also has a wealth of experience in transportation planning and economic development that will allow him to hit the ground running. I am pleased he has accepted the position.”

Kito is a lifelong Alaskan with more than 24 years of experience in engineering, planning, commercial fishing, and government relations. He has worked throughout Alaska on engineering, transportation and community planning projects. Kito is the owner of KCS, LLC. He previously served as a facilities engineer for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, and as a transportation development manager for the City and Borough of Juneau. He also worked for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities as a special assistant and legislative liaison.

Kito received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with a minor in mathematics from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a registered professional engineer in Alaska and Washington.

Governor Parnell expressed his appreciation for the many qualified applicants who put their names forward in the interest of serving the State of Alaska and the constituents of House District 32.

Kito must be confirmed by a majority of House Democrats.

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