Friday in the Sun (Nov. 15): The Math is Simple edition

Friday in the Sun is here

Welcome to the latest and sometimes greatest Friday column that attempts to catch up and make sense of all most some the political news, gossip and rumor from the Alaska political world.

As always, remember that Alaska politics is best enjoyed as a recreational activity and beware that we do some to no vetting on many of these rumors (just like the spelling and grammar in this column).

Take nothing too seriously and, as always, keep watching the skies.

Recall Dunleavy

Recall Dunleavy got its first day in court on Thursday, where the parties argued between a 30-day, a 60-day and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ for a resolution on the lawsuit. Judge Eric Aarseth ended up going with the 60-day route that puts oral arguments for the case on Jan. 10 with a resolution expected in mid-January.

It’ll still be quite a while before you need to get out your petition-signing pens as no matter the outcome in the Superior Court, everyone expects it’ll go onto the Supreme Court.

The other notable development of the day was the entrance of what appeared to be a less-than-prepared Stand Tall With Mike legal team of former Attorney General Craig Richards (who also happens to be the chair of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s Board of Trustees, an issue for another day) and commercial lawyer Brewster Jamieson. They joined as an intervenor, serving the Recall Dunleavy team at the meeting.

In a meeting that appeared to be all about efforts to slow the recall effort, the team’s appearance certainly appeared to be an attempt at that.

They didn’t come with a prepared motion in hand to intervene, didn’t know how their clients felt about Aarseth’s disclosure that Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer went to a ceremony for Aarseth’s military service (after a 10-minute break, they were fine) and said they need at the very least two weeks to decide whether or not there are 20,000-some signatures they can invalidate to nullify the entire application.

Almost everything they said seemed to come with a potential delay, whether it be a few hours, days or weeks, which Recall Dunleavy attorney Susan Orlansky told the judge appeared to the point.

“The answers are formalities,” she said. “They’re just going to deny, deny, deny so we don’t think we need to wait for the answers.”

She said that the issues to the case have been known for months and it shouldn’t require a lengthy trial scheduled that would reach well into February or March, as suggested by Jamieson.

Judge Aarseth generally agreed for the need of a faster resolution to the case, specifically going out of his way to reject any claims that any decision would be rushed. He said judges and the courts are all well-versed in working hard under tight deadlines and through the holidays.

Many of the apparent delay tactics put forward by the Stand Tall With Mike legal team were pretty much sidestepped when the Recall Dunleavy group simply agreed with the team’s efforts to join the case without a proper filing in hand.

Still, Thursday was just a scheduling hearing and the schedule they set can be changed, if needed. Stay tuned.


From a friend of the blog, “How Trumpian is it to have a lawyer named Brewster Jamieson?”

By the way, it’s probably purely coincidence that Jamieson is also the hired attorney defending the state on the loyalty pledge lawsuits.

Tangeman out

In a surprise announcement this afternoon, the state announced that Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman is resigning. He published an editorial in the Anchorage Daily News discussing his departure that has plenty to unpack, particularly the following sections about taxes, government spending and the PFD.

“The math is simple, but unfortunately does not balance despite the governor’s best efforts: Government spending/services plus the PFD does not equal currently available revenue,” he writes.

“As the Commissioner of Revenue, I look at any potential tax implementation and its interaction with the current revenue streams and budget expenditures as a fairly simple exercise. The politics and policy are extremely difficult, but the math is simple. A new tax means the department I’m responsible for will have to stand up a bureaucracy in order to extract revenue from the private sector. Or, in the case of an oil tax change, it will take more money from the companies that are willing to invest the billions we as a state do not have, yet is required to monetize our resources. Any new tax will be used to sustain this unsustainable budget, as well as provide the revenue to distribute PFD checks every October, as the Department of Revenue has done for 38 years.

“When I accepted the job of Revenue Commissioner, I did so based on a path forward in which the math equation allowed for the available revenues to be split between a healthy but reduced government and provide net-positive revenue to Alaskans through the PFD. It is apparent that many have not accepted the realization that our three decades of spending patterns cannot continue.”

In his conclusion, he writes “My department will be at the heart of all discussions this session as it usually is and I want the Governor to have someone who is 100% aligned with his vision.”

Of course, this should all be judged against the backdrop that the governor is reportedly shopping around an oil tax bill with a multi-pronged goal of cozying up to the oil industry as he hopes to stave off a recall by bumping the initiative while also getting an extra billion bucks to help finally deliver on his dividends. There’s also been some rumblings that an income tax could be an alternative.

Asking around after the news of the resignation, we’ve heard that Tangeman was not thrilled about the prospect of carrying water on any tax, particularly an oil tax. You don’t really have to even read between the lines of Tangeman’s editorial to see that.

Tangeman was a key figure in the Dunleavy administration early in the legislative session, but eventually his appearances diminished as the administration’s appearances dwindled to stonewalling by OMB Director Donna Arduin. In some of those limited appearances, he conceded that broad-based taxes would be needed eventually and later said that someone—we have no idea to this date—“should know better” than to put up a ticking time clock on his blog keeping track of Dunleavy’s time in office without handing over the $6,700 PFD he promised on the campaign trail.

Who knows what’s next. Will he return to the Senate? Join the Stand Tall With Mike campaign? Stay on with a cushy contract to study oil taxes?

And, hey, the Legislative Finance Division is in need of a director.

ACLU on Department of Corrections

The state got around to fulfilling the ACLU’s records request on the Department of Corrections. There’s some interesting information out of the document dump, particularly that the state’s corrections system has regularly exceeded their maximum limits over the last year and mostly with unsentenced prisoners awaiting trial.

“An alarming detail revealed in these records, is that the institutions most plagued by the prison housing crisis most commonly care for some of Alaska’s most vulnerable populations, such as: youth, elderly, mentally ill, addicted, disabled, non-criminal holds (Title 47s), Alaska Natives, and homeless individuals. Importantly, between September 2018 and September 2019, the data point to a 20 percent increase in unsentenced individuals, including large numbers of Alaskans who are jailed while awaiting trial, incarcerated without having been convicted of a crime.”

Read about it over on the ACLU’s blog post.

John F. Kawasaki?

Yes, everyone, we have seen Ceezar Martinson’s op-ed in the Anchorage Press entitled “The JFK of Fairbanks?” in which Martinson makes the case that Fairbanks Democratic Sen. Scott Kawasaki is a person Republicans need to keep their eyes on for a potential 2022 gubernatorial run.

We’re not really sure what to say about it. It’s a pretty decent rundown of Kawasaki’s political career—highlighted by his numerous wins in Fairbanks and big win in knocking off Republican Senate President Pete Kelly in 2018—while being light on all the normal mud conservatives like to sling at Kawasaki.

The article takes a sharp turn into vision board/wish fulfillment territory when it makes the case that the best candidate for a running mate for Kawasaki’s gubernatorial run would be none other than Anchorage Republican Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux… (Because she’s pro-PFD, but so is the JFK of Fairbanks.)

Is that really a winning combination? Perhaps for the Republican ticket.

They’re running

There’s been several election filings in the past month—which gives candidates time to hit up donors for the max contribution limits in both 2019 and 2020—with names like incumbent Reps. Chris Tuck, Andi Story, Bart LeBon, Jennifer Johnston, Sara Hannan, Mark Neuman; incumbent Sens. John Coghill, Josh Revak (still weird to write), Natasha von Imhof, Bert Stedman and Cathy Giessel.

Several challengers have joined the race already, but the one that grabbed our attention is the letter of intent filing by Homer’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblywoman Assembly President Kelly Cooper.

We’ve already heard some buzz behind Cooper, which is notable on its own because it’s Kenai and we hear from there about three times a year. Cooper has been on the assembly for two terms and will hit her term limit next year.

When she ran for office in 2017 she was unopposed, and talked about needing new revenue because the state was shifting its costs to local municipalities and said she didn’t support the borough’s controversial (and later to be found unconstitutional) invocation policy.

She also happened to have quite a bit to say about potential post-assembly plans.

“A lot of people do gardening and flowers and cooking and quilting for hobbies,” she told Homer News. “My hobby’s politics. I love politics. So, no, I won’t be done. I would continue my service somewhere, somehow. … It’s where I’m needed.”

And would she ever consider running for the House? Not while a certain Vitamin D-loving representative held the seat.

“I am so supportive of Paul Seaton, so I would never have considered that as long as he was running because I really, really like the work that he does,” she said. “For me it’s just a matter of being open to all of our constituents, being reasonable, not being so tied to our party lines that we cut our nose off to spite our face, and having our assembly be functional. You know, when we’re unbalanced, we’re not functional. We just aren’t.”

Welp. The 2018 elections sent Seaton packing.

Cooper will be going up against Rep. Sarah “A lot of my concern in reading these is none of them have addressed me as Representative or Representative Vance. Not a one.” Vance.

Vance, who’s kept the party line and done a fair bit of spiteful nose cutting, filed her letter of intent to run for office in August.

Not another one!

Ah, and just when we thought we had a relatively quiet week when it comes to legal filings, the Alaska Fair Share Act initiative campaign has filed a lawsuit against the Division of Elections for the factually inaccurate description they put on the cover of the petition booklets.

Some of the problems the group has with the state-prepared summary is the claim that higher taxes could apply to fields that produce more than 40,000 barrels of oil per day “and/or” have produced 400 million barrels total. The initiative says “and.”

Also, there’s a 339.6-billion-barrel error on there when the summary says “It is unclear whether the area has to meet both the 40,000 and the 400,000 million thresholds or just one of them.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the prepared summary is not true and not impartial, and issue updated covers for their booklets.

The only endorsement that counts

Of course, folks from Fairbanks and North Pole will likely roll their eyes at everyone’s enamorment with one in a long series of bearded men who call themselves Santa Claus.

And that’s it. Have a nice weekend and don’t do anything that would get you on the naughty list. Or do. It’s a free country, after all.

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