From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. –
Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller told CNN's John King today that he was disciplined for using borough computers to engage in political activity, but that it had "absolutely nothing" to do with his departure from the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
In the wide-ranging interview, King asked Miller about his employment record, why he doesn't think his employment record at a public agency is fair game, and what justification he has for his security team's detainment of a reporter who pressed Miller for answers Sunday night. Miller, who called President Barack Obama "bad for America," and responsible for "expanding the entitlement state," in an earlier interview with King. That gave King an opening to ask about the public health care benefits Miller's own family accepted.
But King spent much of the time on Miller's job as the part-time Fairbanks North Star Borough attorney in 2008, when he led an attempt to oust state Republican Party chief Randy Ruedrich. Jim Whitaker, the mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller was the borough's part-time attorney, said Miller got in trouble in March 2008 for misusing borough computers. Miller was the Interior regional chairman of the Republican Party at the time and, along with then-Gov. Sarah Palin, was trying have Ruedrich replaced as party chair at the annual GOP convention.
Miller spent seven years as part-time borough attorney before leaving in September of last year, a day before Whitaker said he was to be fired over a separate issue.
Miller told CNN his record speaks for itself: "The work that I did as a veteran, a combat vet of Desert Storm speaks for itself. The work I did as a judge speaks for itself. And, again, those records are reflected not just on our website, but also in the public record."
Throughout the interview, Miller repeatedly maintained that voters lose in the end when reporters focus on "petty issues" in his record rather than the bigger issues facing Alaska and the country.
"And I think that's the critical thing, is to evaluate what is happening with the debate, what's happening with the dialogue? Is this a discussion that is designed to inform voters or is it a discussion that is designed to deceive voters?" he said.
Miller also said that he's concerned people have connected the disciplinary action against him over the computer use with his departure a year later on a separate matter. It's not the case, Miller said in the interview.
"The fact of the matter is the performance of the borough at the time that I left had absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened, you know, two years before then," he said. "And this is an attempt, again, to take away from the voters an opportunity to see where we're at as a state, an opportunity to take a choice that's not based on the past, which is the Scott McAdams/Lisa Murkowski path, but one that's designed to look at these petty issues and say, that really is what matters to voters. And I don't think it's fair to Alaskans."
King pressed Miller, saying that if he took issue with Sen. Lisa Murkowski's voting record as a taxpayer-paid member of the United States Senate, "is it not fair game to look at your history as a taxpayer-paid attorney, anything and everything you did, while you were on a public payroll as a public servant?"
"Well, the event in question is something that happened on my time off. So it was during the lunch hour," Miller said. "So, frankly, there is not a direct correlation to that," Miller said. "But I would tell you that when we talk about the record, we don't look at her past and make scurrilous allegations, whether sourced or not, about things that she may have done that don't relate to the issues that are before this state. And I think that when you look at, for example, a voting record, absolutely fair game."
Miller added this: "John, I'll admit I'm a man of many flaws. I'm not going to sit back and say that I've conducted my life perfectly. I will tell you that anything that I've done that's not right, it's been accounted for and it's been taken care of and I move on and I learn from mistakes."
Miller also defended the actions of his security team, which on Sunday night detained
Tony Hopfinger of the Alaska Dispatch as he attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school. Miller told King he was "hounded" on his way out the door, and that he felt as though the behavior he encountered "invaded personal space" as he was leaving the event.
"I answered a question, but continued to get in the way of -- us as we were trying to leave," he said. "And I ended up turning around and going the other way. There was a -- a private security team that was required. We had to hire them because the school required that as a term in their lease. And after I had left, apparently, he shoved somebody. And -- and then they -- they arrested him."
When pressed on whether it was "over the top" to have a private security team detain a reporter, and in handcuffs no less, Miller again said he felt hounded and that he felt Hopfinger's behavior was "certainly over the top."
"There's no question that that hounding was something that shouldn't have happened. And it was unfortunate," Miller said. "But, you know, this was a professional team that was hired according to the contract that we had and -- and I'm sure that they did the right thing."