Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition best done with a heaping helping of salt. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross (mostly gross), weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics.
You can always get a hold of me with something interesting via email at matt [at] midnightsunak [dot] com.
Wilson a RINO?
Repeated allegations of inappropriate behavior in the halls of the Alaska State Capitol haven’t been enough for the Alaska Republican Party or the Senate Majority to distance themselves from Sen. David Wilson, but something overheard at the Commonwealth North‘s annual meet and greet with legislators might change their opinion.
Wilson was seated at a table with Republican boogeyman and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, and Wasilla Republican was overheard telling the table that he had voted for Begich both as a mayor and as a SENATOR. Perhaps the party needs to be reconsidering its primary ban with such unacceptable behavior being demonstrated by one of its elected members.
On a more serious note
We had planned on only having one Sen. Wilson item in the roundup this week, but this tweet from budget hawk Brad Keithley piqued our interest.
Since MustRead has brought up #akleg leadership blackmail, has anyone else ever wondered why Sen. Wilson voted for FY 2018 #PFD cuts against #all 7 other Valley legislators while #AKsen l’ship considered way forward on two ethics issues involving him. https://t.co/fWmNnNLZWt
— Brad Keithley (@bgkeithley) December 14, 2017
This lines up with things we’ve been hearing about the Senate’s handling of Wilson’s behavior in the capitol.
The Senate has also been slow to act on any of the allegations when they came up, choosing to roll the dice that the evidence would never come out or if they did, they’d clear Wilson (remember, the Senate leadership didn’t have any inside track on the veracity of claims against Wilson). And yes, Wilson has been cleared of legal and ethical wrongdoing for slapping a reporter and getting in the face of a female legislative aide doing her job, but both cases show at the very least spectacularly poor judgement for an elected official that the Senate has seemingly been happy to overlook.
By dragging their heels, everyone has been hurt by this. Wilson’s faced accusations that have turned out to not be entirely accurate (though his behavior still should raise red flags), the legislative aide has been dragged through the mud against her wishes (remember that she never wanted to bring this forward in the first place and never accused Wilson of anything) and confidence in the Legislature’s ability to handle these sorts of complaints appropriately is further diminished.
This could have been resolved without the damage done to everyone if the Senate, as we’ve heard, didn’t block or at least threaten to block a review of the incident in the first place.
Why? Why not have looked into the allegations and conducted a review six months ago when the incident first occurred? (This is something that the House minority is screaming bloody murder over when it comes to the House handling of Rep. Dean Westlake, which has also raised its own problems. Both chambers can be wrong. Though the House has taken a much more dramatic step of calling for Westlake’s resignation after the ironclad reporting of the Anchorage Daily News.)
There’s talk in the capitol that the Senate Majority’s behavior surrounding the incidents is influenced by the fact that Wilson is the lone Mat-Su Senator still willing to play ball with the Senate Majority’s agenda (both Sens. Dunleavy and Hughes departed over the Senate’s budget and handling of the dividend). It’s hard to say whether or not Wilson is voting differently than he would have otherwise as some have considered him to be one of the more moderate Republicans in the building, but the Senate leadership is certainly unwilling to risk losing a dwindling number of allies on budget reserve and permanent fund votes.
This week, it was announced that veteran Alaska political reporter and great thorn in the side of those in power Rich Mauer will be joining KTUU as the station’s political reporter, replacing Austin Baird who left to join the Walker administration. Mauer was let go as part of the reorganization at ADN after the purchase, picked up by KTVA for a week before—as we’ve heard—ownership found out it was THE Rich Mauer on the payroll and let him go. Congratulations to Rich for finding a new job and to KTUU for making an excellent hire (also if there’s anyone we’d like to see take a go at untangling the mess above, it’s Rich).
I’ve worked alongside Rich while covering the capitol, and his experience and bulldog devotion to getting a story was something to aspire to. But don’t my word for it, it wasn’t that hard to find journalists and folks in the capitol (mostly journalists) to speak glowingly about Mauer. Here’s some of what we’ve heard this week:
“He is tenacious and he is one of the few that will take the long view and take the time to untangle a very complex story.”
“Rich is one of the best journalists in Alaska, period. It would have been a travesty for him to stay without an audience. Now, through a seriees of events that were in a way were unfortunate, he has landed the largest audience in the state.”
“He holds people accountable and I think it sets a high standard for everybody.”
“He was a competent and inquisitive member of the press corps who would push if given BS answers. That’s what we need in Juneau more than ever.”
“Everyone is terrified he’s coming back. It’s hilarious.”
“Mauer is as fierce and knowledgeable as they come. He doesn’t tolerate fools, but he’s also fair.”
“Journalism in Alaska could use six more Rich Mauers–reporters with encyclopedic knowledge of the state’s political history, with no qualms questioning authority and committed to a lifetime of holding powerful people accountable.”
“TV is a different game that is frustrating for anyone who values nuance and detail, but Rich will figure it out. That prospect should make politicians nervous.”
“I think some people knock Rich for occasionally going over the line. But it’s important to have reporters who will walk right up to it and flirt with it, because if everyone played it safe all the time, a lot of important questions would never be asked and answered.”
The Alaska branch of Americans for Prosperity is out campaigning again for school vouchers, according to some mailers that have been showing up in readers’ mailboxes this week.You know, the thing that requires a constitutional amendment to even be considered and was the marquee priority of Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s first year in office? The one that the Senate refused to even bring to the floor for a vote because it was obviously a non-starter? We haven’t heard anything changing on that front, but keep an eye out this next year.
As disappointingly was expected, the FCC voted to dismantle Obama-era Net Neutrality rules in a vote on Thursday. The vote opens the door for internet service providers to treat different web traffic differently, slowing down specific content and locking down others.
Although Alaska’s delegation has been pretty much silent on the issue, we’re glad to see that at least Gov. Bill Walker is taking the matter seriously. In a letter to Congress that Walker posted on the eve of the vote, Walker asked for a delay amid what has become a clear effort to rig the comments with thousands of fake comments in support of the measure. “Having a reliable, free and open Internet is vital for state as vast and geographically remote as ours,” he wrote.
While national internet service providers have been quietly walking back positions supporting Net Neutrality, we’re also glad to see that GCI has pledged to support Net Neutrality, posting: “An open internet means that we do not block, prevent or otherwise impair our customers’ freedom to direct their own online activity. This is a commitment that we stand by unequivocally. And that will not change.” That’s good news considering it owns a television station that’s in a tough media fight for market share in Alaska.
‘Almost Too Perfect’
Congratulations are in order for KTVA political reporter turned anchor Liz Raines who, as a reader pointed out, was named Alaska’s Best Hair in the 2017 annual local newswoman HAIRRYS. Raines has been unfairly dragged through the mud in recent weeks, but the hair product website has nothing but great things to say.
“There’s a lot about Liz Raines that is almost too perfect, and her immaculate hair is clearly on the top of the list. A beautiful brunette rocking long, spiralling locks, Liz reports on politics for KTVA,” the website gushed. “We’re dying to ask Liz about the products she uses to perfect such effortless waves, and shine. If you’re reading this Liz, congrats on your first place HAIRRY! Please tell us your secret!”
This year’s runner up is KTUU’S Caslon Hatch.
Also, in case you’re wondering, there’s also an award category for well-coiffed men on television (MJ Thim and Blake Essig took this year’s awards). We’re hoping for a blogger category next year.
Everyone and then some
While we’ve heard that some Republican gubernatorial hopefuls aren’t doing nearly as they would’ve hoped with fundraising for their gubernatorial bids, it appears that Gov. Bill Walker is having no problem finding supporters for his upcoming fundraiser on Monday. Just like last time, the co-host list is a mile long.