Monthly Archives: May 2014

Comment of the week: Why one reader is voting ‘No’ on repeal

The comment below was written by faithful reader and commentor Lynn Willis in response to a story about AOGA’s annual luncheon:

Our elected officials brought us this legislation and they deserve to be solely responsible for the effect of what they did. Only time will tell.

We all hear the claims that passage of SB 21 brought an immediate huge financial loss to the state and counter claims that SB 21 brought immediate capital spending by the producers to increase production. Neither of those claims could possibly be true in the short time since passage of SB 21.

According to the proponents of SB21, state taxes are holding back oil production. If SB21 is repealed and production/state revenues continue to decrease, how will you feel for the next decade when all you will hear from the producers and proponents of SB21 is “I told you so,” because they will then have license to blame all their problems on the repeal?

Therefore, I will vote “NO” and let those who supported this legislation have the time to “put up or shut up” and thereby put myself in a “win-win” position by either benefiting from increased state revenues or by being able to clearly understand that this generation of politicians in the political majority have no idea what they are doing.


Loose Lips: Three Valley amigos, tension in Alaska’s GOP, Dahlstrom leaves and Kohlhaas returns


    • Ay, caramba! In the Valley, they call them the “the Three Amigos,” which for no good reason is particularly funny when you hear Rep. Wes Keller use the term to describe the three Valleyites–Roger Purcell, Steve Jacobson and Verne Rupright—who are running against Reps. Keller, Mark Neuman, Lynn Gattis. Word is that it was a joint decision. ¿Por què? Es un misterio, as are most things among those who drink the Valley water. Purcell and Jacobson have both run in the Republican primaries against Keller and Neuman and have lost big.
    • Ay, caramba, Part II: On Tuesday night, the Mat-Su March of Dimes committee had their first organizational meeting for their August fundraiser, “High Heels For High Hopes” fashion show. Word is that Mat-Su Schools Superintendent Deena Paramo and Rep. Lynn Gattis are two of a slew of models that’ll be walking the fashion show catwalk.
    • This just in: Former chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party Scott Kohlhaas has filed to run for Senate as a Libertarian. He told the online Libertarian Republican that he’ll be running on a “pro-choice, anti-war, and open borders,” which also means that he’ll be digging into Mark Begich’s support. (Addendum: Or at least that’s supposedly what he’s thinking.)
    • Word is there’s some tension between former Alaska GOP Chair Randy Ruedrich, who claims to know all about Alaska’s Republican Party and really does know a lot, and current Chair Peter Goldberg. Then again, Ruedrich, bless his heart, isn’t known to be a tension-free presence.
    • Wonder where Eddie Burke’s been? He’s now with the federal government and he’s here to help! He’s working for the VA and he even belongs to a union! Burke was at the GOP Senate debate on Thursday night sponsored by United for Liberty and the Conservative Patriots group.
    • Former Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom has given her resignation notice from her position as executive director of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board. This will be the third position with the Parnell administration from which she has resigned.
    • Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre has filed a letter of intent to seek re-election.
    • On Tuesday, Linda Leary formerly with Carlisle Trucking and now with ACS hosted a fund-raiser for Governor Parnell’s re-election campaign. The rumored take was somewhere north of $5,000 but south of $10,000.
    • I’ve been told that Providence Hospital has laid off 200 Alaska employees this year with the possibility of more layoffs in the weeks ahead.
    • If you see people walking around the streets of Anchorage this weekend with white teeth and smelling of blind ambition, chances are they’ll be state legislators from places like West Virginia and Minnesota. The National Conference of State Legislatures is having their spring executive committee meeting this weekend in Anchorage. You can thank, or not, Speaker Mike Chenault and his chief of staff Tom Wright for bringing the bunch here.
    • Fundraiser alert: On Wednesday night, Cindy Sims, a force in the administration whose title seems to elude all, held a fundraiser at her home.  It was co-hosted by Parnell’s COS Mike Nizich and nearly the whole of the governor’s cabinet. Conspicuously absent? Head of Alaska’s National Guard Major General Katkus, as well as but a handful of representatives from the private sector. It was, however, crawling with state workers. Also that night Rep. Sam Kito III had one at Sweet Basil Cafe on Northern Lights, and at the Petroleum Club, Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker held a joint event.
    • KTUU-Channel 2’s Sheila Balistreri is retiring. After 38 years in broadcasting and 20 years at KTUU, her last broadcast was Friday morning.
    • The Vote No on Ballot Measure 1 movement got a big boost on Wednesday with the formation of a new independent expenditure committee formed by several Alaska Native corporations including ASRC, NANA, Doyon, CIRI, Bering Straits, and BBNC. Rex Rock from ASRC will chair the newly formed organization that has been named “No One on One.” Get it? Bradley-Reid has been retained as the organization’s ad agency. The group is expected to spend approximately $500,000.
    • The Alaska Women in Resources reception was held Wednesday evening at the Anchorage museum. Muchas amigas in attendance.
    • Event:
    1. June 1, 4:00 p.m. “Repeal the Oil Tax Giveaway Auction,” 159 Kniffen Road, Anchorage Fairbanks.. Hosted by Sen. Hollis French, Rep Scott Kawasaki, Ray Metcalfe, Hal Gazaway, Bill Fikes, Sharon Alden, Sean McGuire, and others. “Bring a potluck dish, an auction item and money to spend.”


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Begich, Murkowski and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan respond to Shinseki’s resignation

Below are Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s statements on the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki. I’m including Sullivan’s response because he has made it in an issue in the Senate race. Read background here and here.

From Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

No one can question General Eric Shinseki’s service to our nation or his patriotism.  However, it is fair to ask how entrenched the system-wide bureaucratic problems are that General Shinseki inherited and how best to push to the VA into a more transparent and effective era.

From our state’s vantage point, Secretary Shinseki took a keen interest in reforming the Alaska VA healthcare system – advancing many positive improvements.  He answered my call to ensure that Alaska veterans would receive treatment in Alaska instead of flying to Seattle for care available here. He entered into groundbreaking agreements with the Alaska Native health system to treat rural veterans, bringing an effort I began in 2006 to a successful conclusion. And he supported expansion of the Tribal Veteran Representative program.

Because of his deeply held belief in accountability, General Shinseki submitted his resignation to the President today.  But this structural problem is far larger than one man, and if true reform is to be enacted and felt within the VA, Shinseki should be the first of many, many more to depart the agency.

Our veterans deserve better.  Americans demand more.

From Sen. Mark Begich:

There are few more important responsibilities of the federal government than caring for our nation’s veterans. General Eric Shinseki ably served his nation in war and continued to serve his nation’s veterans as Veterans Affairs secretary.  He has demonstrated a lifelong dedication to our country, his troops and to our veterans.

Secretary Shinseki’s resignation won’t fix the problem various reports have found of poor treatment and care of our veterans.  The VA needs strong leaders now more than ever before.  That’s why I will push to swiftly find a new leader so we can get back to doing the important business of providing veterans the quality care they need and deserve.

Fortunately, my staff and I have a strong and productive relationship with the VA here in Alaska. We have regular meetings to discuss gaps in services and to work on solutions.  As a result of our good relationship with local providers here in Alaska, we got ahead of the issues now coming to light in other states.  For example, when wait lists for care began to grow we partnered with VA to put innovative programs in place to ease the backlog. As a result, over the past year the number of veterans on the waiting list for primary care in Anchorage was reduced from more than 900 to under 20 and wait times to see a primary care provider were reduced from 90 days to just seven days.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee I will be aggressively monitoring the outcomes of the internal reports and demanded answers so that the VA in the Lower 48 can achieve the progress we have seen here in Alaska.

Senate candidate Dan Sullivan:

As I have said before, I thank Secretary Shinseki for his decades of dedicated service in the U.S. Army, but the failures at the VA are disgraceful and a change in leadership was drastically needed,” said Dan Sullivan. “The White House and Congress must act swiftly to install new leadership at the Veterans Administration, and ensure that the next Secretary is properly vetted and capable of addressing the problems the Inspector General has called ‘systemic.’

Despite the numerous calls from both Democrats and Republicans for Secretary Shinseki to step down, Senator Begich has remained on the sidelines, failing to truly acknowledge the problem, instead standing side-by-side with President Obama until the bitter end.  While Secretary Shinseki’s resignation and replacement is a necessary first step, more must be done to properly honor our commitment to our nation’s military men and women. The White House and the Veterans Affairs Committee must act now to better serve Alaska’s 77,000 veterans and their families, by moving the VA Management Accountability Act out of committee for a vote.  I have emphasized the critically important issue of how our country cares for its veterans since day one of my campaign, and I will continue to give it the attention it deserves as a U.S. Senator.

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki resigns

Amid increasing pressure from first Republicans and then Democratic lawmakers, President Barack Obama said Friday that he had accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“I want to reiterate: he is a very good man,” Obama said, but the secretary came to believe that “he could not carry out the next stages of reform without being a distraction.”

Shinseki had been under fire from the VA scandal that left hundreds of veterans waiting for healthcare for hundreds of days. In Alaska, GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan has been pressuring Sen. Mark Begich to call for Shinseki’s resignation after a preliminary report was released this week that detailed problems with the VA.

Begich sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

This week, Sullivan’s campaign put out a series of releases about Begich and Shinseki, calling Begich, among other things, “derelict” for not demanding Shinseki’s resignation.

On Thursday, Begich held a press conference and called the scandal “unacceptable and outrageous,” and said that he was doing everything in his power to fix the situation. However, he said that he was going to wait until a final report was released before deciding whether or not to call for Shinseki’s resignation.

This week also Kark Rove’s super-PAC, Crossroads, had started running ads tying Begich to the scandal.

The pressure on Begich wasn’t likely the sole reason for Shinseki’s resignation, but it probably added to the decision, as did pressure the administration was feeling from other Senate Democrats, some of them up for reelection.

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API president gives rousing speech on Alaska’s oil and gas industry

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association had its annual luncheon on Thursday. About 1000 people attended. The theme, naturally, was how much the oil and gas business contributes to the state’s economy–see some numbers below–and how important it is to keep a competitive fiscal regime going in the state. You couldn’t toss a stone without hitting a politician. Even Sen. Hollis French showed for the event.

The keynote speaker was Jack Gerard. Gerard is the president of the American Petroleum Institute, and is considered one of the most aggressive oil and gas players in D.C. He has turned API from a relatively sleepy trade association into a political powerhouse.

On Tuesday, he met with Sen. Mark Begich to discuss Alaska’s resources, an event that Begich touted in a release. Begich claimed that he brought Gerard to Alaska, something that people in the know dispute. Begich also listed Gerard as the host to a fundraiser on Tuesday. Shortly after he sent out the email, another invite was sent without Gerard’s name on it. Take from that what you will.

That said, in his speech, Gerard emphasized the importance of Alaska’s bipartisan delegation.

“Alaska’s bipartisan support for Keystone and on other important energy issues sends an important signal that when it comes to energy, there is no place for partisanship or narrow-minded orthodoxy,” he said.

Gerard also talked about the importance of keeping in place the current tax regime, and warned what would happen if it’s repealed. From his speech, as written:

Here in Alaska and around the nation there are those who are of the opinion that no matter what policy or regulation is imposed on our industry we will pay it and we will bear it in order to develop the energy this nation and the world needs. They are wrong. To those who think that policy doesn’t matter when it comes to energy development, I’d suggest that they look at the consequences of that attitude in Alaska. I would remind them that Alaska’s oil and natural gas deposits account for almost 30 percent of the nation’s energy reserves, and yet today the state’s energy production accounts for approximately 7 percent of U.S. production down from a high of 25 percent in 1989. In recent decades, Alaska has been the highest or second highest producing state of crude oil. Today Alaska ranks fourth … slipping behind North Dakota and California. When you look across this U.S. today at this great energy renaissance — every oil and gas producing state except Alaska — has increased production.

  • North Dakota: up 58%.
  • Texas: up 36%.
  • Colorado: up 25%
  • Alaska’s North Slope: Down 6.6%

“Vote No on 1 in August,” he said.

Here’s some numbers on Alaska’s oil and gas industry according to a new study from the McDowell Group:

  • Government spending of oil revenue accounted for 60,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages (direct, indirect and induced) in Alaska’s economy in 2013.
  • The industry accounted for 33 percent of all wage and salary employment in Alaska (111,000 jobs out of total of 335,000 jobs) and 38 percent of all wages ($6.45 billion in wages out of a total of $17.1 billion).
  • Since 1959, 88 percent of all state revenue from natural resource development (including seafood, mining, and timber taxes and royalties, and the applicable portion of state corporate income tax) came from oil and gas development.
  • In FY2013, the oil and gas industry paid $7.4 billion in taxes and royalties to state government.

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Treadwell surprises crowd, Miller wins crowd at conservative Senate debate

Not surprisingly, GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller won a very unscientific exit poll conducted after Wednesday night’s U.S Senate debate sponsored by the Conservative Patriots Group and United for Liberty, two groups associated with the tea party and the libertarians, respectively. What is surprising is that Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is also running in the Republican primary, came in second, in front of Libertarian candidate Mark Fish, who, if nothing else, proved that not all Libertarians are fringe thinkers.

Though Treadwell appeared to have the most volunteers there, the crowd that packed the Wilda Marston Theater in Anchorage was not Treadwell’s crowd. But he seemed to be getting points for showing up and answering the questions as best as he could. From the audience’s reaction, he also probably got points for hammering away on the fact that the supposed front-runner in the race, Dan Sullivan, wasn’t there.

Sullivan had a long-standing commitment in Fairbanks with a group of veterans. Democratic Sen .Mark Begich also wasn’t there. But he was only invited a week before, and his campaign immediately locked down began working on locking down a date for a debate with the two groups in August.

The results were tallied by Mike Chambers, co-founder of United for Liberty. Chambers is also the chair of the Libertarian Party, which under his leadership appears to be experiencing a renaissance. Dave Cuddy moderated the debate. Cuddy is from the First National Bank of Alaska family. Along with Chambers, he co-founded United for Liberty, and he ran against Ted Stevens for Senate in 2008.

The questions came mostly from the audience, and ranged from support for 1) Law of the Sea Treaty, to 2) support for voter ID, to 3) amnesty for illegal aliens.

Treadwell’s answers: 1) Yes with modifications. 2) No. 3) Yes, under some circumstances.

Miller and Fish’s answers: 1) No. 2) Yes. 3) No.

Those were only some of the tricky questions for Treadwell, and have been since elected in 2010 for lieutenant governor. He claims to have been an active conservative in Alaska for 40 years. Most Alaskans know him, however, as a moderate Republican, and many have been surprised that he’s framed himself a tea party conservative.

Treadwell handled the questions well, though, and spoke with conviction. Conservative firebrand Eddie Burke, who ran against Treadwell in 2010, and who now works for the Veterans Administration, and who ironically enough now belongs to a union, said that Treadwell was “excellent.”

“By doing excellent it means that he did good,” Burke said. “When I walked in I thought Mead would have a tough night. But I was impressed by Mead’s ability to relate to the crowd.”

Cean Stevens, who’s running for state House in East Anchorage as a Libertarian also had good things to say about Treadwell. “I had never heard him speak before and I was very impressed,” she said.

Miller did win most of the applause lines of the night though. One of the most well received lines was when he differentiated himself from Treadwell.

“I genuinely like Mead Treadwell,” he said. “He’s a nice guy. He’s a nicer guy than I am. But I’m not going to vote for Mead because we don’t need nice guys in Washington D.C…Ted Cruz is not a go-along-get-along nice guy.”

But probably the real winner of the night was the two groups that put the event on. It was well attended, lively and well organized, all of which flies in the face of pre-conceived notions about third party groups and the tea party.

Below is what Chambers sent out on Thursday morning:

It was a weighted poll. Each card had the three candidates name and instructions to prioritize choices.  1st place was awarded 3 points. 2nd place was awarded 2 points and third place was awarded 1 point. Additionally, there were ballots that were marked with just one selection (nonconformists ) Each candidate checked received 3 points. The results were:

Joe Miller….221

Mead Treadwell….207

Mark Fish……115

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Reactions to the death of journalist Bob Tkacz

As many in Alaska’s small media and political circles know, journalist Bob Tkacz was found dead in his office in Juneau on Tuesday morning. Foul play is not suspected. Tkacz was a staple in the Capitol building. He had been covering the Legislature for 33 years, most recently for his own newsletter called Laws of the SEA. He was always generous with his time and knowledge to Juneau newbies and he always asked some of the toughest questions at press conferences. Public media KTOO has a full account here. Below are some reactions:

From Coast Alaska News:

We’ve just learned of the death of longtime Southeast Alaska journalist Bob Tkacz. He was a kick-ass reporter who never, ever shied away from asking the hard questions. Bob worked for the Petersburg Pilot newspaper and KTOO radio and published Laws of the Sea, about commercial fishing and the seafood industry. He also freelanced for numerous other fishing publications. His work appeared in Agence France-Presse, the Alaska Journal of Commerce and High Times, among others. He grew up and attended college in Ohio. We’ll miss Bob.

Gov. Sean Parnell:

Sandy and I were sad to hear that Bob Tkacz had passed away earlier this week. As a longtime member of the Capitol press corps, his absence will be felt by many. Bob’s persistence and understanding of Alaska government and issues will be missed. We extend our condolences to Bob’s family and friends, as well as his colleagues in the press.

Sen: Hollis French:

Bob was an institution in the Capitol press corps.  He brought a unique candor and distinctly direct approach to reporting.  He was a friend to Alaska and his presence will be sorely missed,” said Senate Minority Leader Hollis French (D-Anchorage).

Rep. Les Gara:

Bob always cared about getting to the truth and was an absolute – and absolutely fair – bulldog about it. His loss is sad for those who cared about open, accountable government.

Rep. Geran Tarr:

From years as a staffer to my freshman term as a legislator, I admired Bob’s attention to detail and commitment to making sure the public knew what was happening. He will be sorely missed in the Capitol halls.



Crossroads brings VA scandal to Alaska Senate campaign

The ad below by Crossroads GPS, one of the groups founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, brings the Veterans Affairs mess to the Alaska Senate campaign. The ad, which began airing in Alaska on Wednesday, says that Begich, who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, hasn’t done enough to fix the problems with the VA system. The ad was released on the same day as a devastating preliminary report by the Veterans Affairs inspector general which found that vets in Arizona waited on average 115 days, which ran counter to reports that they were getting help sooner.

The inspector general, however, said that it was premature to link allegations that dozens of vets died waiting for care. The probe has expanded from 26 facilities to 42. So far at least, it appears that Alaska’s VA system has been spared from the problems plaguing other systems across the country.

GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan called for the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki earlier this month and again on Wednesday.

“The newly-released Inspector General report further confirms that the disgraceful failures at the Veterans Administration are systemic and require accountability and a change in administration,” he said, noting that none of the Democrats who sit on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs have called for Shinseki’s firing.

In any case, the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told CNN on Wednesday that the Crossroads ad was “not appropriate,” and that the issue was a bipartisan one that shouldn’t be used in campaigns.

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Official says rollout of pot legalization in Colorado ‘extremely smooth’

The campaign to legalize pot in Alaska is highlighting comments made by Ron Kammerzell, deputy senior director of enforcement at the Colorado Department of Revenue, who said in a recent interview that rules governing the state’s recent legalization of pot “have performed pretty well thus far.” Kammerzell told Vox that those who have predicted post-legalization chaos have proven to be wrong.

“(T)he average person would say it was much ado about nothing,” Kammerzel said, referring to pre-legalization concerns. “I would say that the rollout was extremely smooth, the sky hasn’t fallen like some had predicted, and we’re moving forward and trying to fine tune this regulatory model.”

A Quinnipiac University Poll  poll by shows that by a margin of 52 to 38 percent, Colorado voters believe that legalizing marijuana has been good for Colorado.

The poll and the comments by Kammerzel and others in Colorado, including the governor, run counter the narrative being created by the campaign that’s fighting legalization.

The campaign, “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake,” has portrayed Colorado’s experience as a dangerous, chaotic mess that voters regret.

It’s not been all smooth in Colorado, however, There has been an uptick in emergency room visits. So-called “edibles” have been a particular problem. A handful of children have gotten their hands on goods, baked with pot, and two recent deaths have been attributed to them.

The legalization question will be on the general election ballot in November.

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Begich mocks GOP candidate Sullivan in new ad

Of all the ads so far attacking U. S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, this one, from Sen. Mark Begich himself, is the most biting and probably the most effective.

Some background: Sullivan recently released an ad where he stands atop the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center and says that Alaska needs “real results, not just talk.” The issue: the convention center was built while Begich was Anchorage mayor, and Begich touts it as one of his biggest achievements. Hence the ad. Ouch.



Loose Lips: Sullivan officially files for Senate, Featherly files for state House, the Eddie McNally pipeline?

Loose Lips

  • GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan officially filed for office with the Alaska Division of Elections this morning. At noon, he took his wife and three daughters to meet with a group of female business executives at Jens’ restaurant. The event was organized by Betsy Lawer of First National Bank. On Tuesday night, he’s in Fairbanks for a fundraiser and a meet and greet. While there, he’ll be tailed by New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who will be with Sen. Mark Begich on Thursday.
  • Anchorage lawyer Walter Featherly has filed a letter of intent to run against Rep. Mike Hawker, who has gotten some bad press for his role in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office fiasco. Featherly is the managing partner for Patton Boggs’ Anchorage office, got his law degree from Harvard, and is Alaska’s Honorary Consul of the Republic of Croatia.
  • On Memorial Day, hundreds of Alaskans showed up on the Anchorage Park Strip for the re-dedication of the Anchorage Veterans Memorial. You could hear the rolling thunder of the Alaska Vets Motorcycle Club long before it arrived. Local talk show radio host Dave Stieren was the event’s emcee. Mayor Dan Sullivan served as the Honorary Host. Sen. Lisa Murkowski read a poem written by Vietnam veteran Robert “Joker” Lupo who died earlier this year. Begich quoted from Lee Greenwood’s song “I’m Proud To Be An American.” Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell gave the loudest speech. Spotted in the crowd: GOP U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, his wife Julie, and two former Democratic governors, Bill Sheffield and Tony Knowles. State Sen. Kevin Meyer and Rep. Bob Lynn also paid their respects. During the event, a helicopter flew over twice, circling, probably capturing some footage for someone’s political ad.
  • Another Memorial Day event at JBER, another potential political ad: The Republican tracker who’s been following Begich around went so far as to follow him on base for the Memorial Day ceremonies.
  • Mia Costello has hired Alicia Egan, formerly with the Department of Revenue, to run her campaign for the state Senate. Costello is running for the seat currently occupied by Hollis French.
  • Upcoming events:
    1. May 28, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Clare Ross for state Senate at Walter Featherly’s office in the Key Bank Building, 601 W. 5th Avenue, # 700. 
    2. May 29, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Dan Sullivan for lt. governor at Bernies Bungalow, 626 D. Street, Anchorage.
    3. May 29, 4:30 – 7:00 p,m. Hollis French for lt. governor campaign fund-raiser at the home of Nancy Groszek, 2512 St. Elias Drive, Anchorage.
    4. May 29, 5:00 – 7:0 p.m. Dennis Egan campaign kick-off fundraiser at the IBEW Hall, 813 West 12th Street, Juneau.
    5. May 29, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Dan Sullivan for U.S. Senate fundraiser at the home of Matt and Stacey Hellala, 16734 Briarcliff Pointe Circle, Anchorage.
    6. Late addition: May 29, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Bob Williams for lt. governor at the home of Taylor and Gini King-Taylor, 3201 E. Elderberry Drive, Wasilla. Katie Hurley and several others will be co-hosts.
  • The Alaska Republican Assembly convention on Saturday in Wasilla was touted as the freedom-loving event of all freedom-loving events. The masses were expected to show in masses. They didn’t. It wasn’t a flop, but only about 150 people turned out. But it was a holiday, and the day was such a pretty one, and the speeches inside the Wasilla Sports Complex weren’t necessarily uplifting. Socialism. Overreach. Obama. The “homosexual agenda.” Doom. Gloom. Apocalypse. Yikes! Where is Sarah Palin to make you feel good about feeling bad when you need her? The biggest disappointment of the day though had to be that new Republican gubernatorial candidate Russ Millette, who was supposedly the Assembly guy, and served popcorn while there, didn’t win the Straw Poll following the event. Sean Parnell took that one, and he didn’t even have a booth. Other Straw Poll results: For U.S. Senate – Joe Miller; For Congress – John Cox; Lieutenant Governor – Mayor Dan Sullivan. President—Ted Cruz.
  • Did anyone notice that Republican gubernatorial candidate Brad Snowden from Seward was hitchhiking south from the Freedom Festival in Wasilla on Saturday? Did any of you notice that he was driven from the Wasilla Sports Complex to the on-ramp on Trunk Road by a certain blogger who writes and owns Only in Alaska.
  • Speaking of the governor’s race: Now that Russ Millette is in as a Republican, will Bill Walker switch from Independent and make it a three-way? He says, and I quote: “I don’t have any plans to switch at this point.”
  • People are talking about some sort of rift of mysterious origin between architect Mark Pfeffer, most recently known for his role in the Anchorage Legislative Office Building debacle, and his friend and often-times business partner Jerry Neeser of Neeser Construction.
  • My media buyer friends at some local ad agencies tell me that state Senate and House candidates may have some difficulty finding media outlets to sell them time for the upcoming elections. Sounds as if the federal candidates, for whom they are required to make time available, and super PACs are buying everything available. I’ve been told that state House and Senate candidates are being turned away at KTUU – Channel 2 and KTVA – Channel 11. What’s this all mean? It means that politicians are going to be looking for new and creative ways to annoy you.
  • Friendly adversaries: In a New York Times article about Democratic ad producer Mark Putnam, who hails from Anchorage, and is producing Mark Begich’s television ads was complimented by Jon Downs of FP1 Strategies. FP1 is the firm that is doing the ads for Dan Sullivan’s senatorial campaign. It sounds like the two campaign’s ad guys like and respect each other more than the candidates do.
  • Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s campaign is picking up steam. Tom Karako, a political science professor from Kenyon College, has signed on for the summer, and a gaggle of well-dressed volunteers are supposedly arriving in the coming weeks. Where does he find them? Word is that well-connected, former Alaska Deputy Attorney General and Treadwell friend, Eddie McNally, is spreading the word in the small Republican academic circles.

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New Sullivan ad touts Cook Inlet gas

Below is U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s latest ad focusing on natural gas production in the Cook Inlet. In the ad, Sullivan is taking credit for helping bring to life what was considered a “dead” basin. “Companies were leaving. Energy production was declining” he says. “But instead of giving up, we stood strong and turned this basin into a source of new energy for Alaska. Creating jobs and opportunity, increasing investment in energy security for Alaskans.”

All of that is true, technically. There is a lot of optimism about future gas supplies, and much of the reason for the optimism results from a bill, penned with Sullivan’s help, in 2010 that gave generous tax incentives to companies to explore for gas in the basin. That said, as of yet, there’s been no overall net increase in the production in the Inlet. In fact, from 2003 to 2010, production has dropped nearly in half, from about 202 million MCF to 130 million MCF, according to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. In 2013, it dropped to a precariously low 107 million MCF. However, there is a tremendous amount of activity in the Cook Inlet that wasn’t there before 2010. And going from exploration to production can take years.


Candidates gather in Wasilla for Alaska Republican Assembly convention

There’s going to be a time, I predict sooner rather than later, when reasonable Republicans aren’t going to be able to sit through a speech like the one given at the Alaska Republican Assembly convention in Wasilla by Assembly President Sharron Angle, the Nevada politician who ran for Senate in 2010.

“One out of every six bundlers on the Democratic side is homosexual,” she told the 150 or so people at the Wasilla Sports Complex on Saturday. “Are you starting to see the trend? If we want to stop their agenda we have to stop their money,” she said.

One day reasonable Republicans in the room will get up and walk out, in the same way they’d walk out if she substituted “black” or “Hispanic” for “homosexual. “

They’re not there yet, however. We’re not there yet. And most of the politicians and want-to-be politicians who showed for the much hyped Assembly meeting on Saturday sat safely behind their tables. Among the attendees: Reps. Bill Stoltze, Lynn Gattis, Shelley Hughes, Wes Keller, and Lora Reinbold. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan worked the room. Sen. Lesil McGuire made an appearance, as did Russ Millette, the former GOP chair who just announced that he was running for governor as a Republican. Bill Walker had a booth, manned by his running mate Craig Fleener. Anand Dubey, who’s running for state House in West Anchorage, and John Cox, a candidate for the U.S. House, were there. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan also had a booth. Mead Treadwell had a presence. Joe Miller was there, getting the most shout-outs from the speakers.

Most of them sat or stood around the edges, chatting with occasional passersby, and occasionally even rolling their eyes at some of the speakers’ more fulsome pronouncements. None of them, however, left. The people in the room represented a slice of the electorate that they’re going to need in in the primary, and they can’t afford to offend them.

The Alaska Republican Assembly is a member of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, a group that’s been around since the 1950s. Its profile has risen with the Tea Party’s profile in the last few years — the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. It considers itself the Republican Wing of the Republican Party.

The precursor to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies was formed in California in the 1930s and spread to Arizona, claiming success in getting both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater elected in those states. In those years they were known as the “Young Turks.” Still Turks today, perhaps. But young, not quite so applicable these days, as anyone who has recently attended a Tea Party rally can attest.

At any rate, it was certainly a greying crowd at the Wasilla Sports Complex, with the exception of Mead Treadwell’s volunteers. Somehow Treadwell manages to attract a kind of young, well-groomed volunteer who calls to mind tennis matches and 5 o’clock cocktails on the porch overlooking an emerald green lawn.

But on Saturday, they weren’t on that porch. They were in Wasilla, wearing neon reflective shirts with Treadwell’s name written across them, listening to Sharron Angle talk about the gay agenda, and the profitable “baby killing industries,” which she continually repeated, and which, because the acoustics weren’t good, came out as ‘baby killing in the streets.”

You can say a lot about Sharron Angle, but at least she doesn’t yell. Two of the other keynote speakers did a lot of that. For hours. God. Guns. Socialism. Obama.

Richard Mack, a sheriff from Arizona, yelled about how Alaska should be able to elect sheriffs. Right now!!!

“Are you a David?” he yelled. “Do you have the courage to go against the Goliath?… Did you know that gun control is against the law?… How many God given rights are in the First Amendment?”

“Five!” he yelled.

Ted Cruz’s father Pastor Rafael rounded out the afternoon. Like the sheriff, the senior Cruz’s voice rose. But the sheriff’s shouts seemed aimed at hitting you, individually, in your gut. The senior Cruz’s voice was the voice of stern pastors everywhere, the one that rips right through you, through the walls, into some land beyond that only they envision.

“Nobody is taking my gun or my bible,” he shouted. “Vote according to principle.”

He talked about his son Ted, and how Ted went to Washington “not to compromise but to fight for our freedoms.”

While in Alaska, he was going to visit other men of God, to try to enlist them in the effort to “wake up pastors that are hiding behind their pulpits,” and won’t tell their people the truth. He’s going to tell them that much like the frog in the warm pot of water, “You’re being boiled to death because of your complacency.”

A straw poll was taken at the end of the day. The winners: Gov. Sean Parnell for governor. Joe Miller for Senate. John Cox for Congress. Mayor Dan Sullivan for lieutenant governor. Ted Cruz for president.

Alaska Republican Assembly will officially endorse sometime before the primary.

Contact Amanda Coyne at

Correction: The initial post misspelled Sharron Angle’s name. 


Loose Lips: Kissing Stoltze’s ring, Mayor Dan’s got signs, Treadwell got wind?


  • I wasn’t there, but I hear that more than 150 of the Valley’s political elite and community activists turned out for Rep. Bill Stoltze’s Senate campaign kick-off on Thursday night in Wasilla. Valley politicians who didn’t come sent emissaries. Ben Sparks, who is the campaign manager for GOP Senate contender Dan Sullivan was there. The new RNC operatives, the Mat-Su Field Coordinator Paul Cason was there, straight from wherever RNC operatives come. Local hockey legend Steve MacSwain was there. Palmer councilwoman Edna DeVries Armstrong, who has endorsed Stoltze, showed. Noel Woods. Benny Cottle. A whole gaggle of businessmen came to kiss the ring. Sen. Lesil McGuire was there and she brought with her all of her personal political magnetism. Stoltze doesn’t have that kind of magnetism. But he makes up for it by tirelessly working for his constituents and through sheer Valley-type ruthlessness. Expect a bruising battle between him and Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson, whom he campaigned for in her mayoral run. Word is that he feels betrayed because she knew he was eyeing the seat.
  • Speaking of McGuire: Word is that her former husband Tom Anderson is no longer working with her. Hackney & Hackney have taken over.
  • Signs of the election. Large 4 x 8 signs touting Dan Sullivan for Lt. Governor are sprouting. Expect to see a lot more. Rumor has it that the mayor is working with the best GOP sign guy in the state, Joe Law, who’s been the GOP’s go-to sign guy for years and has a great reputation for securing locations, getting the signs up and keeping them up. Word is that he’ll be putting up 250 of these large signs throughout Southcentral.
  • DNR Dan Sullivan is off somewhere this weekend as a Marine reservist, kicking down doors. It’s got something to do with urban warfare, which might put him in good stead for campaigning in Anchorage. If he ever gets around to campaigning in Anchorage.
  • New Sullivan staffers: Thomas Reiker has joined the Sullivan for Senate campaign’s communications team. Prior to joining Sullivan’s campaign, he worked in the NRCC’s general counsel’s office. He has also worked as a legislative aide in Juneau. Long time Juneau school teacher, recently retired, Ken Kelsch is slated to be the coordinator for the campaign’s Juneau operation.
  • Mead Treadwell is heading to the Kodiak Crabfest to talk fish. Anyone else feel a second wind coming from his campaign? Or is he just filling the vacuum that nature abhors?
  • Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker will also be in Kodiak eating with the fishes, not sleeping with them, like Luca Brasi.
  • Meanwhile, Mark Begich is ubiquitous. Close your eyes. Count to three. Open them. Hello Senator! Women for Begich. Vets for Begich. Alaska Natives for Begich. Pilots for Begich. I won’t be surprised before it’s over that there will be Bike Riders for Begich. Peony Lovers for Begich. Lapidarians for Begich. This weekend, he’s having two BBQs. See below.
  • Upcoming Events:
    1. May 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Geran Tarr’s Campaign Kick-off Event at the home of Beth Nordlund, 3230 W. 31st Ave., Anchorage.
    2. May 24, 11:30 – 1 p.m. Begich BBQ. Russian Jack Springs Park.
    3. May 26, 3:00– 5:00 p.m. Begich Memorial Day BBQ. Jewel Lake Park, 4401 W. Dimond Blvd.  
    4. May 28, 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Fundraiser for Sam Kito III at the Sweet Basil Restaurant, 1021 West Northern Lights Blvd., Anchorage.
    5. May 28, 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Parnell for Governor Fundraiser at the home of Cindy Sims, 8345 Skyhills Drive, Anchorage. If you’ve never gotten the chance to talk to a commissioner, this is the place to be. They’ll all be there. Just bring your checkbook!
  • Today Friday, is Shirley Cote’s last day at work as the Director of Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The former Soldotna police chief was appointed to the position by Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008.
  • NHL Enforcer Joins Parnell Team: When Governor Parnell stood up for Alaska’s hockey community last year, little did he know how warmly some of the town’s hockey players would respond. Justin Johnson, affectionately known in the hockey community as “JJ”, had a long road from UAA, then the Alaska Aces along with a couple other ECHL teams, followed by a couple of different jerseys in the AHL and finally in April 2014, at the age of 32, suited up as a New York Islander for his first NHL game. Now, he’s back home and is volunteering with Parnell’s campaign.
  • State senators NOT up for election this cycle include: John Coghill, Charlie Huggins, Johnny Ellis, Lesil McGuire, Bill Wielechowski, and Bert Stedman.
  • I couldn’t find any on Friday, but on Thursday night at least, nestled in the news on KTUU’s website, were sponsored-content stories about cell phone service, paid for by Verizon. It’s a controversial editorial practice, though lots of other websites are doing it and the stories were labeled.
  • Did you see Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s cute new haircut?
  • Six couples filed a legal challenge in South Dakota on Thursday to the state’s ban on gay marriage, making it state number 30 with pending legal challenges to gay marriage bans. That leaves North Dakota as the only state in the country with an unchallenged ban on same-sex marriage.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


Former Alaska GOP chair running for governor. Wants to give every Alaskan $35,000.

Russ Millette.jpg II
Russ Millette, the former controversial chair of the Republican Party, has filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to run for governor on the Republican ticket. Millette will be facing Gov. Sean Parnell in the primary. He’ll be running on fiscal discipline and has a plan to give half of the Permanent Fund back to the people before it gets raided by the Legislature, he said in an interview on Friday.

Millette was a relative unknown until he was elected party chair in 2012 by a loose coalition of Ron Paul and Joe Miller supporters. Shortly thereafter, the Republican “establishment” basically booted him, and put his second in command in charge. Shortly after that, she too was booted. Before she left, she locked the party headquarters’ door behind her, hid the key and left a note that trespassers would be prosecuted.

This is all to say that Millette and his supporters—which aren’t as few as some would like to believe—aren’t loved by the Republican establishment, who consider them less Republican than a dangerous fringe group. Indeed, that “fringe group” even has a name. They call themselves the Alaska Republican Assembly, and say that they are fighting for the “soul” of Alaska’s GOP.

Some Republicans aren’t buying it. “Russ Millette is no more a Republican than I’m a ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet,” Alaska GOP Vice Chair Frank McQueary said when told about Millette’s plans.

But Millette, who is 68 years old, says he wears the party mantle as proudly as any of them and says he’s been a Republican nearly his whole adult life, with a slice of time off as an Independent. He boasts that he volunteered for both Barry Goldwater and for Ronald Reagan.

There are all sorts of ways to be a Republican, he said. His way is the “anti-establishment” way.

“I usually find that candidate who the Republican establishment is against, and I support that person,” he said.

Millette’s platform and his plan will likely grate many, who will call it a populist ploy. But if he plays it right, it might be a very smart populist ploy. He wants to take half of the Permanent Fund—roughly $25 billion–and give it to the people. That would amount to a check of about $35,000 to every man, woman and child in Alaska.

He says it’s either that or let the Legislature spend it on growing state government, “They’re going to come after that money,” he said. “It was created for the people,” he said and it should go to the people.

As for oil taxes, the other big issue, he said that he’s for a flat tax. Both SB 21, and ACES, are too confusing, Millette said. With a flat tax “we’d know what’s coming in and what’s going out.”

He also plans on focusing on deregulation in order to open the door to independents who want to drill on the North Slope.

“The incumbent Governor has become a lobbyist for foreign oil companies and that has to stop,” he said.

Contact Amanda Coyne at