From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --
Joe Miller’s wife worked as his clerk when he first became a federal magistrate in 2002, a fact that prominent Lisa Murkowski supporter Andrew Halcro is alleging violated nepotism rules.
“According to sources, a few years back, a judicial magistrate hired his wife in violation of nepotism rules. He had to fire his wife, who then went on to claim unemployment benefits,” Halcro, a former state legislator, posted on his blog.
Miller gives a far different description of what happened. He said in a statement sent to the Daily News from his campaign late Monday that “I welcome any and all discussion on nepotism when it pertains to all of the candidates of the U.S. Senate race” (a reference to the fact that Murkowski was originally appointed to her Senate seat by her father.)
Miller went on to say:
“My wife, Kathleen, did work for me as a magistrate judge clerk/secretary while I was a part-time Federal Magistrate judge from 2002 to 2004. Before 2004 there was a long-standing practice, both in Fairbanks as well as other areas in the United States, that due to the time commitments of being a lawyer and a part-time Federal Magistrate judge the same individuals that worked in your private law offices also worked in your federal magistrate office - many of those being family members. Before even applying for the Fairbanks Magistrate judgeship I spoke with members of the federal court concerning the employment of Kathleen. It was confirmed that she could work for me in my office. After leaving my office Kathleen did receive unemployment benefits for a short period of time."
Miller became a federal magistrate on June 21, 2002. A resume his wife submitted when then-Gov. Sarah Palin appointed her to the Alaska Judicial Council said she was a U.S. magistrate part-time judge clerk from June 2002 to December 2002.
Kathleen Miller's resume said she’d actually started working in Miller’s private Fairbanks law office in October of 2002 (after she’d began working in the magistrate’s office), as Miller's part-time office manager/legal secretary and paralegal.
Miller's statement doesn't say why his wife left the magistrate clerk job after seven months. Miller himself remained as a part-time federal magistrate until June of 2004.
Did Miller violate nepotism rules or not? I posed that question this morning to federal court spokesman Dick Carelli. He said late in the afternoon he was still researching the answer.
“I know there are judicial policies in place that would prevent a spouse from being hired by any judge today. I don’t know if those rules existed in 2002 and that’s one of those things I have query in about,” he said.
Carelli said he hoped to have an answer on Tuesday.
Halcro focused on the fact Kathleen Miller has received unemployment benefits, writing on his blog that Miller “stated on national television that unemployment benefits were unconstitutional.”
ABC News asked Miller in July if he favored the extension of federal unemployment benefits being debated in Congress for people who had been jobless for six months or more. "First of all it's not Constitutionally authorized. I think that's the first thing that's got to be looked at. So I do not favor their extension," Miller answered.
Miller was asked on Fox News Sept. 19th about his view that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Miller said the nation has an “entitlement mentality.” He went on to say on Fox that the Constitution has enumerated powers, and if it's not in the Constitution “it's a power that belongs to the states and the people." Miller then told the Daily News he is not proposing to gut unemployment benefits but seeks “transition to the state administration of the program.”
In an interview from Washington, D.C., last week and posted today by ABC News, Miller was again asked about unemployment benefits being unconstitutional.
"Look, this is an issue not whether or not Joe is against unemployment compensation. I’m very much for it. But the issue is who administers that program, who should be in charge of that program. It’s a question of state control or federal control. Who has the power, who has the control, who has the money?"
Alaska, like the other states, has its own unemployment insurance program and the first 26 weeks of benefits are paid from state taxes. The federal government pays the cost to administer the program. In return, the state has to follow federal employment law, like rules on when people can get benefits after quitting a job for cause and making sure they're available for full-time work.