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

Committee passes cell-phone ban

From Richard Mauer in Juneau --

The House Transportation Committee just passed the bill that bans talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving. The bill exempts drivers who use hands-free devices or headsets, though under an amendment approved before the bill passed, drivers under 18 can’t use a mobile phone at all while driving.

House Transportation Committee Chair Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, makes a point Tuesday. By Richard Mauer.House Transportation Committee Chair Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, makes a point Tuesday. By Richard Mauer.

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Both of Alaska's senators support a two-week spending extension

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

Both Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich voted Wednesday to support a stopgap budget measure that keeps the government running for the next two weeks.

The budget bill, which passed the Senate 91-9, will keep the federal government running until the House and Senate can resolve their differences on a spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year.

The measure "contains spending reductions that help as we deal with overall federal spending," Murkowski said, calling it a "positive development."

"But we still need to make some very tough spending decisions in the coming days, and I am hopeful Congress will put the next two weeks to good use," she said.

Begich said he was pleased Congress could find some consensus that avoids a shutdown, but also said that "two-week budgeting is no way to run a country."

"We need to roll up our sleeves and get to work reducing the deficit while investing in our economy and creating jobs," he said. "Alaskans want to see results, not political games."

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also voted for the two-week extension, which passed the House of Representatives 335-91 Tuesday afternoon.

President Barack Obama, who signed the spending bill Wednesday afternoon, warned Congress "we cannot keep doing business this way." He called on the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to begin meeting with the vice president, as well as his chief of staff and his budget director.

"This agreement should cut spending and reduce deficits without damaging economic growth or gutting investments in education, research and development that will create jobs and secure our future," the president said in a statement issued after the vote. "This agreement should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party’s social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay."

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Parnell: Obama administration "openly hostile" to oil-producing states

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

With the unrest in the Middle East as his springboard, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell lashed out at the Obama administration's stance on domestic oil production, saying it was having a tangible effect on the country's foreign policy.

In a speech at the National Press Club, the Republican governor called the federal government "openly hostile" for red tape in oil-producing states, including the delays in allowing Shell to drill exploratory wells on leases the company purchased in the Arctic in 2008.

"If it looks like a moratorium and walks like a moratorium....maybe it is," said Parnell, who is in Washington this weekend for the National Governor's Association winter meeting.

Parnell said there's a direct link between the economic recovery and the failure to use Alaska's oil reserves as a national security buffer against the uncertainty in Libya and other oil-producing countries in the Middle East. Higher gasoline prices are exactly what's not needed right now for a recovery, Parnell said.

"This is the moment our government must re-examine its 'no new wells' policy when it comes to oil exploration and development here at home," Parnell said. "The U.S. foolishly imports more than 63 percent of our oil. That leaves us vulnerable to the economic shock of disruption of these oil supplies and it drives down that economic recovery."

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Lisa Murkowski complains to TSA over Cissna incident

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

Anchorage Rep. Sharon Cissna’s ferry should be pulling into Juneau about now, while the story of her refusal to submit to a TSA pat-down continues to prompt calls for a policy change.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it inspired her to write TSA Administrator John Pistole asking for “clarification” of the policy.

“This kind of invasive probing should not be the price of travel,” she wrote.

“I appreciate that the TSA has a difficult task in keeping air transportation safe…. However, this incident highlights specific privacy concerns that must be addressed. I am concerned there is an imbalance between safety requirements and overly invasive procedures targeting air travelers who have undergone mastectomy surgeries or use prosthetics.”

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Alaska House: "No one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel.”

From Lisa Demer in Juneau --

The state House took a stand Wednesday in support of Rep. Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage, who was denied a flight from a Seattle airport over the weekend after refusing a pat-down search.

State Rep. Chris Tuck, another Democrat from Anchorage, said Cissna stood up for her rights and “chose respect.”

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Fagan on Facebook: 'My days hosting a show on KFQD are over'

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

KFQD 750 AM radio host Dan Fagan posted this message on his Facebook page late last night:

The rumors are true. My days hosting a show on KFQD are over. My quitting has nothing to do with management. Dennis Bookey and Joe Campbell treated me great and I enjoyed ever year I was on the air there. I doubt I will ever have a more decent, kind, and generous boss than Dennis Bookey. But it is time to move on. Details to follow

Why the change? Rumors aside, it'd be nice to hear something directly from Fagan or KFQD.

Bookey, market manager for Anchorage Media Group, said in an e-mail that he'll call back. I haven't been able to reach Fagan.

UPDATE: Bookey just e-mailed this short statement from Anchorage Media Group, which includes KFQD and other Southcentral radio stations:

"After 7 years Dan Fagan has chosen to leave KFQD. We wish him well. A new program will be announced very soon." -- Dennis Bookey, General Manager

"As to why Dan left, you'll have to ask him. I wasn't told," Bookey added in the e-mail.

He hasn't responded to additional questions. (Was Fagan's contract up? How were ratings?)

The KFQD Facebook page says Anchorage Assembly member Paul Honeman will host the station's 2 to 5 p.m. show today. "God bless him for stepping in on such short notice," the station says.

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Airport police: Cissna "friendly and jovial" (updated)

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

Rep. Sharon Cissna is on the ferry somewhere between Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and Ketchikan, sailing back to the legislative session after refusing a security pat-down at the Seattle airport.

TSA reported to airport police on Sunday night a “female passenger being uncooperative and refusing screening,” Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman Perry Cooper told me this morning.

A single police officer went out and ran Cissna’s name for a background check, which turned out clean. Cooper said Cissna’s demeanor was described in the report as “friendly and jovial.”

Cooper said that was the only role the police played in the incident. Cissna’s chief of staff, Michelle Scannell, said TSA told Cissna she either had to submit to the pat-down or leave the airport.

The Anchorage Democrat, meanwhile, continues a journey on the Alaska Marine Highway System that will include stops in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake and Sitka.

She’s to arrive in Juneau at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Update from Lisa Demer in Juneau ---

Other Alaska House Democrats on Tuesday morning told reporters that Cissna did what many people want to do.

"I feel really proud of Sharon. I think she stood up for thousands of Americans who are saying why when a woman has had a mastectomy does she have to go through this?' " said state Rep Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat and leader of the House Democrats. "It looks to me like there is something wrong with the way TSA is doing things if this is going to be a continuing pattern, that if you have a mastectomy, you then get to submit to an intrusive search."

State Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, said she was thrilled by Cissna's refusal to submit to a pat-down search.

"We're glad to have somebody stand up," Gardner said.

"We've all fantasized about doing the same thing."
Something is clearly wrong with TSA's focus if people who have mastectomies or who have disabilities get more intrusive screening than others, said state Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks.

Cissna's experience should lead to changes so that others won't have to go through pat-downs if they've had surgery, House Democrats said.

Gov. Sean Parnell said he was sorry for what Cissna went through. He said he didn't know anything more than what he read in the newspaper about the incident but was open to talking to Cissna to see what if anything he could do.

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Cissna: "I refused to submit."

The following statement was issued tonight, via e-mail, by Rep. Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage, who is making news after refusing to go through a TSA pat-down by at SeaTac airport yesterday. We'll be updating our story shortly.


"The evening of the 20th of February 2011 started with relief, as I was anxious to get back to the important work of the Alaskan Legislature. Heading into security after time with the line of passengers, I felt upbeat. I'd blocked out the horror of three months earlier, but after the pleasant TSA agent checked the ticket and ID, I suddenly found myself directed into scanning by the Seattle Airport's full-body imaging scan. The horror began again. A female agent placed herself blocking my passage. Scan results would again display that my breast cancer and the resulting scars pointed a TSA finger of irregularity at my chest. I would require invasive, probing hands of a stranger over my body. Memories of violation would consume my thoughts again."

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Palin reality show receives $1.2 million in tax credits

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

“Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” the TLC reality show starring the former governor in her home state, will receive roughly $1.2 million in tax credits for filming in Alaska, the state says.

Under a state subsidy created by the Legislature in 2008 and signed into law by Palin, Alaska allows film and TV producers to recover 30 percent or more of the money they spend on filming in the state.

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Bailey book: AP story on project, authors

The Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska - One of Sarah Palin's trusted advisers is planning a tell-all memoir, drawing upon thousands of personal e-mails during his time with the former Alaska

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Bailey book: Obsession with punishing Wooten

Bailey writes that Todd Palin recruited him to go after trooper Wooten, saying ‘it’s time to get s—t, done, and it’s us, Frank. You and me.”

Todd Palin kept feeding him information on Wooten, Bailey writes, which he passed on to troopers and the state risk management division.

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Bailey book: Making illegal campaign ad

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

In the fall of 2006, Sarah Palin had just trounced former Gov. Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and was fighting a three-way battle in the general election for governor.

Palin’s campaign was rooted in her image as anti-establishment Republican funded by a grassroots campaign.

So when the D.C.-based Republican Governors Association began running ads attacking Democratic candidate Tony Knowles and praising Palin, opponents cried foul, accusing her of being a hypocrite for leaning on outside money.

Critics wondered about one scene in the ad in particular: Palin striding from the Hotel Captain Cook. How did the RGA get that footage, they wondered, if the soft-money group is forbidden from coordinating its campaign with Palin? The Alaska Democratic Party accused Palin of illegally coordinating with the RGA.

In his book, Bailey now says the allegation was true.

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Bailey book: Becoming 'Todd's go-to guy'

Bailey writes that he first heard the name Wooten in October of 2006, suggesting bias in favor of Wooten was the reason the troopers union didn’t endorse her in the governor’s race.

He said Wooten than came up again just days after Palin was elected, when she and Todd met with the head of her trooper security detail. Palin told the department of public safety official that Wooten had tasered his stepson, drove drunk in a patrol car, illegally shot a moose, called her daughter, Bristol, an obscene name, and threatened to kill her father.

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Bailey book: Regretting Troopergate

Bailey was a central figure in the “Troopergate” matter, in which the Legislature investigated whether Palin abused her power and pressed for the firing of state trooper Mike Wooten, her former brother-in-law. In August of 2008, after the Legislature had started its investigation, Palin held a press conference in which she said Bailey had acted out of bounds.

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Bailey book: Rival author provides manuscript

Copies of the Bailey manuscript, almost 500 pages long, are being forwarded all around Alaska political circles today. The Daily News first got a copy last night from author Joe McGinniss, who is working on his own Palin book.

More on what Bailey had to say here.

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Bailey book: Manuscript about Palin leaked

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

The unpublished manuscript of a book by Sarah Palin’s former close aide, Frank Bailey, has been leaked to the press along with an e-mail from a book agent touting dirt Bailey says he has on Palin.

Here’s part of the leaked pitch for the book made by Carol Mann of the Mann Agency in New York:

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House committee OKs 'choose life' license plates

Choose Life license plateChoose Life license plateFrom Lisa Demer in Juneau --

Alaskans against abortion might get a chance to display that message on their license plates.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, to create state “Choose life” license plates cleared its first committee Thursday with not a word of dissent.

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Rep. Gruenberg recovering from surgery

From Lisa Demer in Juneau --

State Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, was recovering Thursday at Providence Alaska Medical Center after undergoing a heart procedure on Wednesday. Gruenberg disclosed the medical developments in a statement sent out Thursday.

He wasn’t feeling well on Wednesday and went to Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, where doctors determined that two stents in his heart were clogged and needed to be cleared, according to a spokesman. They sent him to Anchorage for the procedure.

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Alaska senators to PETA: stay out of the Iditarod

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. –

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, told the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration in a letter Thursday that he was "shocked and disappointed" to learn the agency canceled recruiting efforts in connection with the Iditarod race.

TSA was originally supposed to spend about $85,000 in connection with the race to try to recruit agents for open jobs at Alaska airports, the Washington Post reported. But the agency's plans changed after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals complained about the agency's role in the dog race in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Post reported.

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Senate kills a proposal to end subsidized rural air travel

From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

The Senate just defeated 61-38 a motion that would have gutted $200 million in annual airfare subsidies to rural and hard-to-reach places across the country, particularly Alaska.

Senators voted to kill a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would do away with the Essential Air Service entirely.

Separately, a House committee voted Wednesday to end the program, except in Alaska and Hawaii. About $12 million in subsidies go to airlines to encourage them to fly everywhere from Adak to Yakutat -- among 44 communities airlines say could be too expensive to service in Alaska otherwise.

Both of Alaska's senators took to the floor of the Senate this week to defend Essential Air Service, saying that without the subsidies, air travel in some communities is so prohibitively expensive that their communities would be all but inaccessible. Alaska lawmakers have long argued the program is no different than subsidizing Lower 48 highways.

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