UPDATE: Sarah Palin came to Fagan's defense tonight on Facebook. (This is becoming a KTUU reunion, with Fagan, Tracy and Palin all station alumni.)
From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
A day after urging Alaskans to sign up as write-in candidates in the U.S. Senate race as an act of “civil disobedience,” a popular Anchorage talk show host was pulled from the air today.
KFQD 750 AM host Dan Fagan said he returned from lunch to learn that his 2 to 5 p.m. show had been canceled after a representative of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign called to complain. Fagan said he’s not fired and that the status of the show will be “re-evaluated” on Monday.
The caller said “that I should be punished for electioneering and that I may have violated electioneering laws,” Fagan said.
Listen to a clip from yesterday's show
The conservative radio host, a supporter of Republican nominee Joe Miller, rallied voters to register as write-in candidates to protest an order by the Alaska Supreme Court that allows election workers to show voters a list of write-in candidates.
The decision was expected to help Murkowski’s write-in bid by making it easier for people to get her name right at the voting booth. Fagan argues that it amounts to illegal electioneering on behalf of the state by promoting a candidate who failed to win a spot on the ballot in the primary elections.
"Some people might criticize throwing tea in the Boston harbor and some people might criticize having all these people register as a write-in candidate," he said. "But when the government acts illegally, you have to stand up to it."
Dennis Bookey, general manager for Morris Communications' Anchorage Media Group, could not be reached for comment this afternoon. The company includes six Anchorage radio stations such as KFQD and KWHL 106.5 FM.
John Tracy, president of public advertising and public relations firm that makes commercials for the Murkowski campaign, said he called Bookey upset about Fagan’s show early in the day.
Tracy said he first called someone at the Murkowski campaign – he wouldn’t say who – to tell them he was making the complaint. The campaign person didn’t object, he said.
“I told Dennis that I felt a suspension was in order. That I felt that what Dan had done was serious enough," Tracy said.
Tracy is the chief executive for Anchorage-based Bradley Reid. The company is working for Murkowski and -- Tracy assumes -- is an advertiser on Morris Communications stations.
Tracy said he made the call as a former broadcaster – he was the longtime news director at KTUU Channel 2 – who thought Fagan “crossed a line from being inflammatory to doing something that actually tries to manipulate an election.”
“I’m not claiming that what (Fagan) did was illegal. I simply feel it was wrong,” Tracy said. “I feel it was wrong as a broadcaster to try and rig an election in this way by offering prizes.”
During the show, Fagan had talked about giving a prize such as a Dan Fagan coffee mug to the person with the name closest to Murkowski's who registered as a write-in candidate. "I may even kick in a trip to Hawaii. We'll see," he said.
An Anchorage financial adviser and Murkowski supporter, Branch Haymans, said he also called KFQD to complain today. Haymans said he told the station’s program director that Fagan was trying to reward listeners for creating chaos in the elections.
Fagan described Haymans as a Murkowski staffer. Murkowski spokesman Steve Wackowski said Haymans is a friend of Murkowski but not a volunteer or worker on the campaign.
Haymans said he doesn’t think his phone call caused Fagan’s show to be canceled Friday.
“I would be surprised if a single caller had anything to do with his suspension," Haymans said.
Meantime, lawyers for Morris Communications are reviewing the Thursday broadcast, Fagan said.
The effort to sign up as many people as possible as write-in candidates for the Senate race was meant to flood the write-in lists with names, making Murkowski’s name harder to find.
About 150 people have signed up for the Senate race, according to a Division of Elections tally. Almost all filed paperwork yesterday, ballooning the list of write-ins that will be available at polling places from a single page to about eight pages, said elections director Gail Fenumiai.
Fagan said that while the write-in movement wasn’t his idea, he wishes he’d started encouraging people to register even sooner.
“It was one of the most exciting shows I’ve ever done. People really felt like they were making a difference,” Fagan said.
He accused Murkowski of trying to silence one of her chief critics on the Friday before the election.
Wackowski said the complaint to the radio station did not come from within the campaign or from Murkowski herself.
Fagan said he told his boss not to expect any apologies if he returns to the air Monday. "I will speak freely and I will in no way whitewash this or justify this decision that you're making," he said he told Bookey. "So he knows that going in."
To hear the entire show, download the podcast here.