It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild, and wonderful world of Alaska politics.
Here we go… It’s Friday in the Sun!
Milestone — Thanks to Greg Giroux of Bloomberg News for pointing out that this week that dandy Don Young recently became the 12th longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history. Congrats.
GLAAD Candidates — In case you were wondering who the LGBT-friendly candidates for local office in Anchorage are, yesterday Alaskans Together for Equality released its list of endorsements. Here they are, the only surprise is no endorsement of anyone in the East Anchorage race:
Anchorage Assembly District 1, Downtown: Christopher Constant (website)
Anchorage Assembly, District 2, Eagle River: Gretchen Wehmhoff (website)
Anchorage Assembly, District 3, West Anchorage: Tim Steele (website)
Anchorage Assembly, District 4, Midtown: Felix Rivera (website)
Anchorage Assembly, District 6, South Anchorage: Suzanne LaFrance (website)
School Board Seat C: James Smallwood (website)
School Board Seat D: Andy Holleman (website)
Days Until The Next State Election — 606
Days Until Muni Election — 26
No Adults In The Leg? — East Anchorage Rep. Lance Pruitt and Sen. Cathy Giessel are having a town hall style event in their district next Saturday to hear from constituents. As part of the event, I’m told, they wanted someone to come and talk about the crime problem in Anchorage, so Pruitt’s staff called Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s staff to ask them to send someone from APD. Berkowitz’s team then called back and let Pruitt’s crew know that they were able to do even better, and got not only an APD spokesman but the Mayor himself to agree to appear and talk about what the city is doing about the crime issue.
Apparently then Team Pruitt said they didn’t need the Mayor there, then Team Ethan said he’d show up anyway, and Pruitt’s team decided having APD there wasn’t worth it and disinvited the Mayor and APD altogether.
Sigh… can’t we all get along?
No Adults In The Leg? Part Deux — Rep. Les Gara posted a pic of Rep. Dan Saddler to Twitter this week, claiming that Saddler had bumped him intentionally to make him spill his coffee. Saddler responded by emailing Les and KTUU reporter Austin Baird this response:
No Adults In The Leg? Part “Whatever French For Three Is” — North Pole Rep. Tammy Wilson got a lot of attention this week for taking hours, and hours, and hours of time offering hundreds of budget amendments that went down in flames.
She was so proud of it she decorated her office door to celebrate just how many doomed amendments she has prepared:
Follow Up — Remember back in January when I told you former Rep. Liz Vazquez was facing a $1.2 million fine from APOC for messing up seemingly everything on her campaign reports?
APOC has now ruled and decided she’s guilty and will face the following penalty:
“The Commission therefore imposes a civil penalty of $8,500. Additionally, the Commission directs Ms. Vazquez (to the extent that she has not already done so) to return all prohibited contributions, amend her 2014 campaign report to accurately reflect its activity, reconcile her 2016 campaign’s reports, and attend a candidate training before running for office in the future.”
The only way an $8,500 fine, plus having to come up with the money to return corporate donations, doesn’t seem bad is when you were originally looking at a $1.2 million fine.
APOC should really consider not reducing one of these fines by 99%, just to send a message.
Debunked — I don’t just report rumors here, sometimes I debunk them as well, though that’s a lot less fun. The folks over at political and PR consulting firm Strategies 360 have been without a big name politico since Ethan Berkowitz got it in his head he could be mayor and left the company.
Rumors were floating around this week that they had recently picked up former State Senator Lesil McGuire to fill the role. I called over and the Strats 360 crew told me that, alas, no, the former lawmaker has only been contracted to work on one project, not hired on permanently. Sorry.
Midnight Sun On The Air!!!! — Master of Morning Radio Rick Rydell (AM 650 KENI) has asked us to come on every week and share Friday in the Sun with his audience. So listen for our inside scoop every Friday morning at 7:35.
P.S. No More Strats — It appears the happy business marriage between Mary Ann Pruitt (wife of Rep. Lance Pruitt) and radio talk show host Dave Stieren in the advertising firm PS Strats has come to an end, and like many divorces, resulted in a nasty legal battle.
According to court documents, Pruitt, who serves as the firm’s President, fired Stieren, who was Vice-President and Creative Director, in early January for “fraudulent and dishonest acts” and specifically accuses him of “manipulating the corporate finance records” and taking “much more than his salary in compensation without approval.” Because of that Pruitt is asking the court to remove him as a corporate director of the company.
Stieren is countersuing, asking to reinstated with back pay and be allowed to continue in his role as a corporate director so he and Pruitt can break up the company on even footing.
He tells his side of the story in his suit this way:
“On January 4, 2017, at the airport returning home from a family vacation, Stieren was served with a letter from Pruitt’s attorney purporting to terminate his employment in and with the Business and threatening to dissolve the corporation if he did not agree to sell Pruitt all of his interest in the Business on specified terms. Pruitt has provided Stieren with no prior notice of her intent to take such action or her rationale therefore.”
Stieren’s claim goes on to say he has been barred from involvement in the company and that Pruitt has posted a security guard at PS Strats’ offices to prevent him from entering.
Aside from the facts of the case, which will no doubt come out in further court documents, is the question of who gets the kids in the divorce, and by that I mean the clients. If Stieren and Pruitt part ways and both continue to be involved in advertising it will be fascinating to see where some of their past high-profile clients like the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, CH2M Hill, Subway restaurants and the campaigns of Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan end up.
One way or another it sounds like PS Strats will be no more. Unfortunately, the case isn’t scheduled for court until March of next year, so it could take awhile to get it all settled.
FreedomWorks In AK? — It sure doesn’t seem like the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is going well. In fact, President Trump had to bring conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks, to the White House Wednesday night and ask them to stop savaging the bill.
How did it go? Here is part of a FreedomWorks email that went out Thursday afternoon:
For years Paul Ryan and the establishment RINOs lied to you. Since 2010 they promised to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare. They said give them the House, then the Senate, then the White House, and then they’d repeal ObamaCare. BUT THAT WAS A LIE!
And Monday night, they proved it when they announced their plan to pass a watered down version of ObamaCare, RyanCare. Friend, this is unacceptable. That’s why we’re launching a month long campaign hitting Congress with messages demanding the FULL REPEAL of ObamaCare. And, this campaign will take place across the country in states like Arizona, Ohio, Florida, and Alaska.
Now that Republicans are in power, we can’t let them pass RINOcare. We need FULL repeal.
So, could we see FreedomWorks start spending some money in Alaska to stop the bill? That would mean Alaska’s congressional delegation would be hammered from the left AND the right on the issue. It doesn’t seem like a winning formula for such a massive piece of legislation.
Missing In Action — We are over halfway through the 90-day Alaska legislative session and yet when you go to the official Alaska State Legislature website and click on the House Minority’s link you are sent to a “Website Coming Soon” page.
Will they get something up before the end of session? We’ll keep watching.
Appointment Listening — Join the throngs of The Midnight Sun The Podcast listeners who wait eagerly for the latest episode to drop every Sunday morning. If you aren’t already addicted, you soon will be. This week Forrest Dunbar and I will be interviewing Leslie Dach, a former senior counselor to Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who is now leading an effort to try and stop the repeal of key elements of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Dach will be telling us what impacts the repeal of Obamacare could have in Alaska.
In Uber Trouble — I’m told by folks who know better that I do that the Anchorage ordinance opening the doors for transportation network companies (TNCs), a.k.a. Uber and Lyft, in Anchorage is in trouble.
The legislation will be voted on by the Assembly on March 21, when Assemblyman Patrick Flynn will be excused. That will leave the TNCs with four expected “Yes” votes (Amy Demboski, Bill Starr, Bill Evans, and Forrest Dunbar) but the ordinance needs six to pass. I’m hearing Assemblymen Eric Croft and John Weddleton could be swing votes, so the TNCs will need to get both to go their way to get the ordinance passed before the April 4 elections.
Things do appear to going smoothly for the TNCs at the state level either, as I’m hearing that the Alaska Municipal League has gotten in the game to oppose the provision in the state legislation allowing for TNCs that would have the state’s statute preempt local regulations on the matter. Cities and boroughs don’t tend to like that kind of thing.
Bad week for those folks all the way around.
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Here are just some of the other events you can find on our Political Calendar —