Alaska Politics Blog

This is the place to talk about Alaska politics, state, local, national. Public life in the Last Frontier has rarely been more interesting -- a full slate of federal and state elections, the influence of former Gov. Sarah Palin, the usual hardball Alaska politics. Come here for news, tidbits and information, and join the discussion. We encourage lively debate, but please keep it civil and stay on point. Don't use profanity, make crude comments or attack other posters. Posts that violate the Terms of Use will be deleted. Repeat offenders will lose their ability to post comments.

New Senate organization announced - 11/7/2012 12:48 pm

Homer Revealed - 8/22/2012 2:08 pm

Seven-day countdown - 5/25/2012 8:37 pm

Anchorage city clerk resigns (UPDATED) - 5/23/2012 10:51 am

Gara to seek re-election - 5/2/2012 2:04 pm

For one lawmaker: Good news - 4/27/2012 12:20 pm

Anticipation in the Capitol - 4/26/2012 11:38 am

Election Commission finds 1/2 of precincts ran out of ballots; recommends no investigation - 4/25/2012 5:08 pm

Anti-abortion group backs Miller

From Erika Bolstad in Anchorage –

Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller has picked up an endorsement from the political arm of the anti-abortion Alaska Family Council. Alaska Family Action announced Tuesday it would back Miller.

"We do not take this endorsement lightly. It is the first time our organization has ever endorsed a candidate for any office, and it will most likely occur only rarely again," said AFA Board Chair Dave Bronson. "After much deliberation, our Board determined that there is simply too much at stake not to draw a line in the sand. This race is going to come down to the wire and we simply could not stand on the sidelines anymore."

Abortion has emerged as a defining issue in the Senate race, despite this being an election year defined less by social issues than the economy and federal spending.
The issue perfectly defines all three, with Republican Joe Miller the anti-abortion candidate, Democrat Scott McAdams the pro-choice one and Sen. Lisa Murkowski straddling the middle.

Murkowski, who does not oppose abortion but also declines to describe herself as pro-choice, lost the Republican primary in part because anti-abortion voters turned out in great numbers to support a voter initiative requiring parents to be notified before their teen receives an abortion. Miller came out strongly for the proposal, known as Measure 2.

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Miller won't appeal judge's order to release his employment records

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --

Joe Miller will not appeal the court ruling that the Fairbanks North Star Borough must release his employment records today.

Miller told interviewer Steve Heimel on APRN's "Talk of Alaska" this morning that he wouldn't appeal the ruling by Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Winston Burbank. Miller, repeating what he said in Sunday's debate and an earlier interview, told Heimel he "has not been perfect."

The judge ordered the records released at 4 p.m. today unless Miller appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. Miller indicated on "Talk of Alaska" that some information could be coming out before 4 p.m but he didn't explain what he meant.

Media organizations have been seeking Miller's borough employment records since this summer and sued to get them. The judge said about two dozen documents sought in the suit shouldn't be released for privacy and other reasons. Medical information in some documents will be blacked out.

Former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said earlier this month that Miller used borough computers in a failed 2008 attempt to oust state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. Miller first refused to answer questions from the press about it, then acknowledged he had been disciplined.

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UPDATE: Democrats, Republicans join forces to sue state over write-in lists

From Erika Bolstad in Anchorage –

UPDATE: A judge has given the state Division of Elections and Sen. Lisa Murkowski's campaign until noon Tuesday to submit written briefs outlining why the state should be allowed to continue showing voters who ask for it a list of registered write-in candidates. The Alaska Democratic Party and the Alaska Republican Party have until 4:30 p.m. to respond. The judge is expected to issue an opinion by 9 a.m. Wednesday.


Original post:

Alaska's Democratic and Republican parties may not agree on much, but they do appear to both be of the opinion that Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign could hurt their own candidates' chances at the polls.

The two political parties joined forces today to sue the state Division of Elections for providing a list of write-in candidates to voters who ask for one -- a move both parties say deviates from past election practices. (Read the lawsuit here.)

Democrats initiated the complaint after a voter at an early voting location in Homer reported seeing a list of write-in candidates posted inside a polling booth. Republicans decided they, too, wanted to join the complaint, which will be heard this afternoon in front of judge.

In an act of rare cooperation, Republican Party lawyer, Kenneth Kirk, contacted Tom Daniel, the lawyer for the Democratic Party.

Both parties say the lists, which have been provided to polling places statewide, are a considerable change in the state's standard election practices. They've not gotten a good answer as to why they're being used, Daniel said.

"Fundamentally, there's no authorization under Alaska law for poll workers to provide information about the write-in candidates inside the voting booth," Daniel said.
"So far as we know, they've never done this before."

In a press conference before the hearing, Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins said it opens a door to providing murky so-called "help" to voters, including pointing them in the direction of one candidate or another.

"I think it's in all the voters' best interest to have a fair and legal election," Higgins said. "If you can't trust in that, then everything is in doubt."

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich called it a "flawed decision" to provide the lists, and one that "threatens the integrity of the election process and the legitimacy of every candidate elected."

(We originally posted a shorter story by the AP. Read it, with many reader comments, here.)

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Watch video of last night's U.S. Senate debate; more debates coming this week

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

The election is just over a week away but there are chances left to watch Joe Miller, Lisa Murkowski and Scott McAdams go at it.

The U.S. Senate candidates are having a noon debate in Fairbanks today. Tomorrow they'll be in Anchorage for a Rotary/Alaska World Affairs Council debate from noon to 1:30 p.m. It’s at the Dena’ina Center and the cost for lunch is $23.

Wednesday is the KAKM/KSKA Alaska public television and radio debate that will be broadcast statewide. The Senate candidates will be from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

And if you missed last night’s KTUU debate you can watch below:

 

 

 

 

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Televised debate tonight with candidates for U.S. senator, governor

The candidates for U.S. Senate earlier this month at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. (Bill Roth/ADN)The candidates for U.S. Senate earlier this month at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. (Bill Roth/ADN)

Candidates for governor and U.S. Senate will debate live on KTUU-Channel 2 tonight from 8 to 9:30.

The debate will be at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and is open to the public, with doors opening at 7:30 p.m.

Candidates for governor will go first and debate for 30 minutes, followed by the Senate candidates.

The debate will also be shown live on ktuu.com.

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Miller has more to tell about borough work, lawyer says

From Kyle Hopkins in Fairbanks --

One thing that caught my attention at court today, but I wasn't able to squeeze into the story about a judge ordering the release of Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller’s personnel records:

Miller’s lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, told the judge that the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s refusal to waive its attorney client privilege with Miller is preventing the embattled candidate from defending himself against claims made by the former borough mayor.

The attorney-client privilege question is part of a stand-off between Miller and the borough, which employed Miller as a lawyer from 2002 to 2009. The borough says it’s not standing in the way of releasing Miller’s work records. He just needs to agree.

Miller, meantime, says the borough has to waive attorney-client privilege first.

“Mr. Miller cannot stand up and rebut anything Mr. Whitaker says, about well this happened at the borough, and this,'” Van Flein argued to Superior Court Judge Winston Burbank.

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Murkowski campaign apologizes for mailer saying Berkowitz, other Dems voting for Republican senator

From David Hulen in Anchorage –

The campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski issued apologies after sending out a mailer that incorrectly says Democratic candidate for governor Ethan Berkowitz, and other Democrats, was “voting for Lisa Murkowski.”

The mailer, which the campaign says was sent to 24,500 addresses, has the heading “Alaskan Democrats Who Are Voting for Lisa Murkowski – and not Scott McAdams.”

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Court hearing on Miller borough records suit this afternoon in Fairbanks

Update: The judge ruled today that the borough must release most of the documents being sought. He ordered the release not to occur until 4 p.m. Tuesday in order to allow time for the ruling to be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.


From David Hulen in Anchorage –

An unusual weekend hearing is scheduled in Fairbanks Superior Court this afternoon on the lawsuit brought by news organizations seeking release of certain personnel files of Senate candidate Joe Miller from his time working as a part-time attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The suits, against the borough, were filed separately by Alaska Dispatch and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, were joined by the ADN and Associated Press, then combined into one case. Miller is fighting the release and was added as a party. We posted the lawsuits and some of the initial response here last week.

The essence of the argument is whether public interest in the material, which describes any disciplanary action Miller received while employed by the borough, outweighs his right to privacy.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. before retired Judge Winston Burbank.

A flurry of documents were filed by various parties over the past couple days in preparation for the hearing today. Among them:

> Miller’s opposition to releasing the documents. Miller’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, argues the documents sought are not public under the law.

> A motion filed by Van Flein asking for for expedited discovery that would allow him to take sworn statements from borough employees, ex-Mayor Jim Whitaker, blogger Andrew Halcro and others.

> Miller’s answer to the Dispatch suit with an additional complaint against the borough claiming that information from Miller’s file was illegally leaked. The complaint also accuses Whitaker of making "illegal and unconstitutional disclosures" when he said in interviews that Miller had been disciplined for improper use of borough computers.

> The borough’s response to Miller, arguing the borough did nothing to violate his rights.

> A response from the borough asking the court to decide what should be released.

> Alaska Dispatch argument opposing Miller’s request for expedited discovery. The borough also filed an opposition motion to Miller on that.

Our Kyle Hopkins, who has been in Fairbanks covering the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, will be covering the hearing, so check back.

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Murkowski plans to caucus with GOP if re-elected

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press Writer

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A spokesman for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she will "absolutely" caucus with Republicans if she's re-elected.
She's running her write-in campaign as a Republican. And spokesman Steve Wackowski says she fully plans to caucus with Republicans if she wins.

He says she won't change caucuses, adding, "That's just not who she is."

She resigned as vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference when she decided to mount a write-in candidacy following her loss in the GOP primary to tea party supported Joe Miller. Though she lost support from within the Republican establishment in making an outside run, colleagues refused to strip her of her post as the top minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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(UPDATED) AFN canceled Senate forum because Miller 'attacked us,' chairman says

From Kyle Hopkins in Fairbanks --

The chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives Albert Kookesh said today that the AFN canceled today's U.S. Senate candidate forum because the group didn't want to give "air time" at its annual convention to Republican nominee Joe Miller.

Kookesh, also a Democratic state senator from Angoon, said the board made the decision to call off the scheduled Senate forum after Miller's campaign filed an FEC complaint against a political action committee comprised of Alaska Native corporations.

AFN president Julie Kitka told me earlier this week that the event had been canceled to allow people more time to talk about subsistence.

Kookesh says the change, decided upon before the convention began, was a "purely political move."

Here's portions of a conversation I had with Kookesh at the convention today. I was asking about the Senate race, 8(a) contracts and the schedule change:

Sen. Kookesh: The reason we canceled it. There was two reasons. One was because he filed a complaint with FEC against us spending Native money the way we’re spending Native money.

We didn’t feel if he’s going to be firing arrows at us that we should be turning around and inviting him into our house.

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Eagle River candidate sues for recount of primary vote

From Elizabeth Bluemink in Anchorage --

The Republican who lost the primary race for an Eagle River seat in the state House is suing the Alaska Division of Elections in state Superior Court, alleging ballot-counting improprieties.

Bill Cook, a lawyer and former Lower 48 municipal judge, lost the primary election by four votes in August. He wants a judge to toss the 415-411 results and force the division to run a second recount.

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Dead heat in the U.S. Senate race?

From Bill White in Anchorage --

A new CNN/Time poll on the Alaska Senate race sees a dead heat between Republican Joe Miller and write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The poll says they each have 37 percent of the likely voters leaning toward them, with 23 percent leaning toward Democrat Scott McAdams. This is similar to the results of CNN/Time's previous poll in late September. This new one was done Oct. 15-19.

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McAdams claims $1 million in campaign donations

From Bill White in Anchorage --

The Scott McAdams campaign for the U.S. Senate seat says it now has raised $1.01 million in campaign donations.

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Rural newspaper chain endorses Murkowski

From Bill White in Anchorage --

Alaska Newspapers Inc., a chain of rural Alaska newspapers, is endorsing Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her write-in bid for re-election in next month's vote.

"When you’re going through hard times of any sort, the natural reaction is to look for support or advice from someone who’s seasoned, trustworthy, experienced," the newspaper chain said in a press release.

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UPDATED: Miller files an FEC complaint against Alaskans Standing Together

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C --

The money fight in the U.S. Senate race took another turn Wednesday, with Republican Joe Miller filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over an independent political action committee that's backing Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in bid.

In his complaint, Miller argues that several of the Native regional corporations that have donated to Alaskans Standing Together are federal contractors, they're barred from participating in politics.

The FEC sent over this definition of a federal contractor.

Alaskans Standing Together, which supports Murkowski but is working independently from her campaign, is one of the first tests of new campaign finance rules in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited donations to certain types of political action committees from corporations and unions.

Here's a response from Alaskans Standing Together, which said it was "more confident than ever" it had followed the law, and called the complaint "a desperate move to salvage an imploding campaign."

"Joe Miller likes to wrap himself in the U.S. Constitution while trampling on it at the same time," said Will Anderson, the committee's chairman. "First his bodyguards handcuff a reporter for asking questions at a public event. Now he is trying to handcuff the Alaska Native community from having a voice in this campaign while he brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups outside Alaska."

Anderson pointed to a 1998 FEC advisory opinion that found it was acceptable for a parent corporation to make donations to a political action committee if it has other sources of revenue than its subsidiaries that are federal contractors. That and the findings of the Citizens United case give them a solid legal foundation, he said.

Democrat Scott McAdams weighed in, too, calling on all of the candidates to release the names of their donors on their campaign websites. He also said he wouldn't accept corporate money in his own campaign – or money from corporate PACs. Here's a link to his donors.

"There is already a tremendous amount of special interest and corporate money in this Senate race," McAdams said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it is very difficult for voters to find out who is giving to candidate's campaign without the candidates themselves posting the information."

Murkowski posted a copy of her FEC report on her website on Oct. 14. And all three candidates gave me the summary pages of their reports by the Oct. 15 deadline, but McAdams makes a good point about the transparency of Senate campaign financial disclosure reports. They stink.

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AFN board calls off Senate candidate forum

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

The Alaska Federation of Natives board of directors voted today to cancel a U.S. Senate candidates forum that was planned for Friday afternoon in Fairbanks.

The 37-member board, meeting in Fairbanks in advance of the annual AFN convention this week, replaced the candidate face-off with an extra hour for delegates to talk about subsistence, said federation president Julie Kitka.

“People were complaining that there’s just too much jammed into the agenda and not enough open mic time for people to have their say,” she said.

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Alaskans Standing Together: Murkowski's name on their form was a mistake

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

Independent expenditure committees have had a huge role in this year's midterm elections across the country and in the Alaska Senate race, where so far they've contributed $1.9 million.

That money includes $607,000 the Tea Party Express has spent so far on Republican Joe Miller's race. It also includes more than $1 million from Alaskans Standing Together, a so-called "super PAC" made up mostly of Native regional corporations that are backing write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Groups making independent expenditures are prohibited by law from coordinating with the candidates they're backing. So as the Sunlight Foundation pointed out yesterday, it was something of a surprise to see Murkowski's name on the bottom of a Federal Election Commission form that requires Alaskans Standing Together to "avow that it's not working with any candidate or party committee--that it's truly independent."

The Sunlight Foundation, an excellent resource for tracking money in politics and independent expenditures this cycle, asked this question: "How could Murkowski certify their independence without cooperating or consulting, at the very least, with Alaskans Standing Together?"

Miller also brought it up, saying this in a press release: "Just like so many politicians from D.C., Lisa says one thing and does another. She has decried the influence of 'outside groups' in this election but has remained silent while native corporations spend millions trying to pay her back. Now, the group's own forms show that not only are they working together, they're doing so illegally."

Jason Moore, a spokesman for Alaskans Standing Together, had this response today: "Neither Lisa Murkowski nor her campaign is coordinating with Alaskans Standing Together. The form that I believe Joe is referring to was an error that occurred in our initial filing of the report. Lisa Murkowski’s name was supposed to appear on the line that referred to which candidate our group was supporting. Barbara Donatelli, the treasurer of Alaskans Standing Together, is the one that was supposed to sign it. Apparently as the form was being filled out there were problems with the FEC site losing the information so the process had to be repeated multiple times to finally get the filing uploaded and in that process the error was made. We apologize for any confusion. The error has been corrected and the FEC website should reflect the corrected information."

Murkowski, in an interview last week, said Alaskans Standing Together is not coordinating with her campaign. "That is not me," she said, when I asked her about the group's spending.

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McAdams, Murkowski debate without Miller

From Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press --

Joe Miller’s chief rivals in the Alaska Senate race debated without him Monday, a day after an incident at a Miller town hall in which an editor was handcuffed and detained by private security.

Miller couldn’t make the Alaska Dispatch debate due to a long-standing scheduling conflict, his spokesman said.

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Miller: U.S. Should Take Border Lesson from East Germany

Candidate Miller during Sunday's town hall at Central Middle School. (ADN/Bill Roth)Candidate Miller during Sunday's town hall at Central Middle School. (ADN/Bill Roth)

From Rich Mauer in Anchorage --

It seemed noteworthy yesterday that at his town hall meeting Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller said the effectiveness of East German border control should be emulated by the United States. But his thoughts got lost in the shuffle following the arrest at the public gathering of the Alaska Dispatch editor by Miller’s security people.

Since then, Miller's suggestion about this country’s borders has been picked up by media and blogs around the country.

Miller's statement came in response to a supporter who wanted to know his position on illegal immigration (the man said he had already voted absentee for Miller).

Joe Miller answers question about illegal immigration.

Miller said that the way to stop illegal immigration was to build a fence at the border (he didn't say whether he meant Canada, Mexico, or both), citing the effectiveness of East Germany in securing its border with the West.

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Miller on CNN: "I'll admit I'm a man of many flaws"

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."

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