Friday in the Sun (July 19): The Man Behind the Throne edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Another exhausting week, another Friday and another hastily assembled gossip column to enjoy with your favorite inebriating substance of choice. As always, take everything with a grain of salt and it’s probably also helpful if, in the spirit of the Area 51 raid, you keep your tinfoil hat nearby.

Sweeping Alaska into the trashcan

This section has been updated with additional grumbling at 8 p.m. Friday.

In the seven months that Dunleavy has been governor, we’ve still never really got much of a vision for Alaska beyond “PFD good, criminals bad… also how about everyone works in a mine?”

His vision for a vastly improved education system? Nowhere to be seen. His plan for boosting the economy and making up for the cuts? We’ll see. And that $6,700 PFD? It sounded nice but as you can see on our homepage, still waiting. It’s been more than 228 days.

A lot more of the administration, which was pitched as a restoring trust in government administration, has been marked by broken campaign promises, state-funded political campaigns attacking his enemies and bolstering his allies, policy justifications that ranged from fanciful to nonexistent, sweetheart no-bid contracts, a bunch of appointees pulled from the Facebook comments section of a Lora Reinbold post, and a fair amount of legal fan fiction drummed up by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.

The Senate Finance Committee has spent the week unpacking the administration’s actions with the sweep of funds, a wonky accounting practice that we’re not going to explain here, but it along with the vetoes seem to provide one of the clearest pictures of the Dear Leader’s plans for the 49th State.

Namely, it’s the complete and overnight dismantling of Alaska government—particularly of any services aimed at the poor, the elderly, the young or those living in rural Alaska—in service of what? These sweeps don’t close the deficit and they don’t make the PFD bigger.

They just cause pain, pulling the rug out from under communities and individuals across Alaska. They sow uncertainty and instability.

The community of Noorvik, the hometown of Rose Dunleavy and the site of the governor’s inaugural celebration, can expect to see their energy prices spike by more than $2,000. The administration’s suggestion of restoring money piecemeal would severely underfund the program, leaving the cuts apparently at the discretion of the governor.

Perhaps he’ll spare Noorvik of the pain, but someone will be left out.

This isn’t a case of Alaska no longer being all things to all people because of the deficit. The programs affected by the sweep were supposed to be spared from deficit-driven pain when legislators put aside money years ago.

There’s probably the desire to cast this all as an attempt to gain leverage over the Legislature to get his $3,000 PFD but you’d think there’d be a more overt attempt to tie all of this together. But no, it appears that the plan all along has been to dismantle everything the state has built through phony legal antics and minority rule.

The administration wants to let the sweep stand—something that can be accomplished with the compliance of 11 representatives or 6 senators—and fund the programs that had their funds deleted with piecemeal funding.

The Senate Finance Committee pointed out that the governor’s capital budget carries a roughly $101 million deficit as it currently stands. There’s only about $180 million left in the general fund and the governor’s proposed funding and the shortfalls created by the sweep outpace it.

The power cost equalization program, the scholarship program, the vaccination program would have money, but not enough to cover everything.

It raises the question, then, of what gets funded.

“If there is enough in the general fund,” said Sen. Natasha von Imhof. “I would like to know if it’s first come first serve. Which student are you going to throw overboard, and which student are you going to cover?”

The administration didn’t have an answer, but you could bet its war on the climate change-researching University of Alaska would put scholarships pretty low on the list.

The administration wants the appearance of help being on the way, but this is designed to inflict uncertainty and pain.

It’s one thing to want to dismantle these projects through a reasoned process that takes the input of Alaskans, offers a chance for negotiated compromises and gives plenty of notice for the people who will be on the receiving end of the cuts. It’s quite another for these programs to be dismantled in the dark of the night with no input, no warning and no heart.

In light of all of this, this quote from an April speech Dunleavy gave to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce is getting some new attention:

“I’m going to take us back to the ‘60s. We were a state of 250,000, maybe 300,000, and our budgets back in the mid- to late 60s were about $175 million a year,” Dunleavy said. “Our budget today is $5.7 billion.”

Dunleavy’s Alaska. It’s not for everyone.

In the dark

Also, we heard that the Senate Finance Committee meeting on Thursday was the first that many in state government heard that their funds would be swept up by Dunleavy. Suffice it to say, it was not a welcome surprise. It’s a time off canceled and things thrown kind of unwelcome surprise.

If you’ve listened to (shameless plug) Jeff Landfield and me talk politics on 106.1 KONR on Mondays between 5 and 6 p.m., you’ll probably have heard me harp on it before: There are ways to run a small, conservative, right-sized government responsibly and effectively, but, brotha, this ain’t it.

To Sweep the ERA

Also among the Senate Finance Committee’s talk this week are dire warnings from Legislative Finance Division Director David Teal that if the Dunleavy administration’s thinking on the expanded sweep holds up in court, then it’s almost certain that the Alaska Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account would also be swept up into the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

Meaning zero dividends and zero ways to easily close the deficit.

Is it magical thinking that’s blinded the third floor to the impacts of its creative reinterpretations of the law? Short-sightedness?

Or maybe, just maybe, that’s been the plan all along.

Could it be the man behind the man behind the man behind the throne?

Speaking of the big picture, the Alaska Landmine this week published an exposé accusing Dunleavy Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock of forcing Amy Demboski to destroy an investigative report into Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price in the lead up to her narrow and controversial confirmation. The report was apparently at the request of Dunleavy, but Babcock, “a big proponent of Price,” allegedly intervened and ordered the documents to be destroyed.

Demboski was later reassigned to the Department of Commerce.

We heard rumblings that Demboski’s days might be numbered after the story, which would be weird given the fact that she declined (at least according to the Landmine) to comment on the story. At least according to one source, that rumor doesn’t appear to be true (though it doesn’t sound like she would be missed).

Those accusations alone should be cause for alarm, but it’s lower down in the story that gives some greater insight into the kind of control that Babcock apparently wields over the 6’7” governor.

“One person in the administration described Babcock as ‘Running a shadow government,’” Jeff Landfield writes of the story. “For example, recently the Russian Ambassador to the United States visited Alaska. During a meeting with Russians living in Alaska, the Ambassador told the group that he had requested several times to meet with Dunleavy, to no avail. Multiple sources confirmed that the request had gone to Babcock, who did not pass it along to Dunleavy. … By the time Dunleavy did become aware of the meeting request from the Ambassador it was too late to meet.”

And there’s also Lt. Gov. Kevin “Next in Line in the Case of a Successful Recall” Meyer’s meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

This whole bit of information should raise alarm bells. Just how much control does Dunleavy actually wield and how much of it has been handed off to the Chief of Partisanship? And why? Is the governor disinterested in doing his job? Was this the plan all along? Or does he wield some kind of leverage over the governor?

Earlier in the session, we heard the third floor of Juneau described as a pissing match between Babcock, Americans for Prosperity alumni Deputy Chief of Staff Jeremy Price and campaign manager-turned-senior policy adviser Brett Huber. Our source said to watch for the interim when some of these battles would be won out and people would either be sent packing (or possibly reassigned to the Department of Commerce).

Guess we’ll see how it shakes out.

Ratio’d

ratioed

  1. modified or multiplied by a ratio
  2. (neologism, Internet) Of a tweet on Twitter, having significantly more replies than retweets or likes, indicating popular dislike for the tweet in question.

Let’s just sit back and enjoy the most epic ratio-ing of this tweet by Rep. Sara Rasmussen, whose loyalty to Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy helped ensure the vetoes will stand, attempting to drum up “cups, plates, napkins, utensils, toilet paper, and coffee” for Bean’s Cafe.

And also this

We were sent this last week, but in our haze we forgot to post it. Anyways, so much to unpack here.

Social services

Catholic Social Services CEO Lisa Aquino sent a letter this week outlining the cuts driven by the vetoes. The Clare House was a 24-hour emergency shelter for women with children and expectant mothers, and thanks to the cuts that Rasmussen and company helped preserve it will be a evening-hours-only emergency shelter:

Hey, Sara, it’s not just Bean’s Cafe that needs sporks!

$10,000

That’s how much Liz Snyder raised in the first four days of fundraising after she announced that she’d be going after Rep. Lance Pruitt.

Guttersnipes vs. Shitgoblins

If the liberals/moderates/antifas/conservatives/businesses that have dared to be critical of Dunleavy are Guttersnipes, we think Libby Bakalar has also coined a fine name for the other side: Shitgoblins.

Bakalar, the former ace attorney for Alaska who was canned by Babcock and company, wrote a blistering piece on her blog One Hot Mess that delves into the brewing legal onslaught that the administration is staring down on everything from education funding and court system vetoes to the privatization of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and, oh yeah, the firing of Bakalar.

“They could have had me there, working quietly and diligently to defend their shitty policies to the best of my abilities within the bounds of the constitution,” she writes. “But because they violated the constitution immediately upon taking office and continue to, I will joyfully use my substantial and highly effective platform and all of the intellectual and educational privileges available to me to call out their egregious malfeasance every single fucking day of this disastrous administration.”

Go read: “They Should Not Have Come for Me.”

“So let me be clear: I worked in government for over 12 years, and I am not afraid of you amateur hour shitgoblins,” she writes. “I did not come to play with you trifling hos. If you come for me, you’d better come correct.”

Litigation corner

It seems like everyone’s suing everyone… well more accurately it seems like everyone’s suing Dunleavy.

Does the Alaska Supreme Court have a frequent visitors card?

House Profane Guttersnipe

All around cool guy and trustee to the gutted Alaska State Council on the Arts trustee Pat Race is at it again:

Alaska Summer ‘19

Also, a reminder that there’s more to Alaska Twitter than #akleg.

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