Welcome to the latest edition of Saturday in the Sun, our weekly column attempting to make sense of the news and stuff from the week that was in Alaska politics.
It’s weird, bizarre and tense time for everyone with the election less than a month away, a pandemic that is growing out of control and wild conspiracy theories are taking root in the last frantic minutes of what feels like a collapsing world. Please understand that some people handle it better than others. Be kind to yourself and others, we need it.
‘Hostile and unwell’
(This is all probably best served as its own post, but I’m exhausted. I’ll probably spin it out once things start to look a little more clear.)
That’s how Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s office responded to the bizarre video posted by Fox/ABC/CW/NewsNetNationalAlaska reporter/yelling aficionado Maria Athens that claims the mayor has been creepin’ “on an underage girl’s website.” Scrolling through Athens’ Facebook feed—which includes a couple visits to Kriner’s Diner, some Trump stuff and a post how “NO ONE HATES” Providence as much as her—might give you some reason to doubt the allegations… and to wonder what someone like this is doing on a nightly news channel.
Here’s the mayor’s full response:
From our understanding, “hostile” is an understatement. The jury’s still out on “unwell,” but here’s a rundown of some of the developments:
Even right-wing media held the claims at arm’s length with Dan Fagan writing: “At least Ethan will have something to do one he leaves office in April. He’ll keep busy running the TV stations he’s about to own.” (Though they’ve since changed course a bit and seem to at least be feeding the “it’s all a cover-up” conspiracy theories.)
Amid the haters’ wondering that she might be high or pulling a “Fuck it, I quit,” she later posted a picture of a salt-and-peppered person’s naked back—the sort of photo someone might take to check for moles or a bald spot—as apparent proof of the mayor’s transgressions.
For all the brouhaha, here’s how the 9 p.m. Fox broadcast started…
Here’s the rest of the introduction from last night’s Athens-less broadcast. It looks like it was from Sept 9 or 10 judging by the weather and sports news later on.
I’ve seen a lot of speculation but this whole thing was designed for the conspiracy world so I doubt most of it. pic.twitter.com/enmkre9q2d
— Matt Acuña Buxton (@mattbuxton) October 10, 2020
Also notice that the broadcast has covid numbers from a month ago and later in the broadcast they talk about Ryan Shazier retiring from the NFL, which happened on Sept. 9. It’s almost as if they had to grab something at the last second to fill a suddenly empty broadcast.
Overnight, rumors began to swirl that Athens had been arrested. That was confirmed this morning by Alaska’s News Source, which says she was arrested after an altercation with a man in the parking lot of the television station (contrary to stupid Facebook speculation, I highly doubt that was the mayor).
This is a domestic violence case.
Athens was arraigned this afternoon. We and several news stations were able to listen in.
During the hearing, Athens ranged from defiant—at one point exclaiming “I’m just 94 pounds and the victim is 250!”—to pleading to be released immediately over concerns about her dog’s health, “I need to get out today!”
“Your attorney 1,000% does not want you to say anything,” said Judge Jennifer Manculich at one point.
There was never a mention of anything about Berkowitz during the several outbursts. Athens’ attorney also testified that Athens has no friends or family in Alaska. She’s set to be released on $100 cash with electronic monitoring with orders for no contact with the victim and not to return to the station, from which she was trespassed.
A person familiar with criminal justice, added that she’ll have to wait for the pretrial enforcement division to affix the GPS ankle monitor before she can be released, and they don’t work on the weekend (Tough-on-crime in action!). It can take several days beyond that to get one.
On the whole, this seems to be some sad human tragedy on display. But unlike Athens, we’ll spare her and the victim of posting any additional lurid details of the incident. At least for now.
As for what Athens apparently had on Berkowitz in the first place, the Anchorage Press has a report that suggests it could all stem from an interview Athens conducted with a cookie shop owner whose daughter is a former non-sexual escort in the Anchorage area. Apparently, the mom with Athens’ help connected a few too many dots.
Again, it should be kept in mind that Athens has been deep into the Trump-y Facebook conspiracy world and has been frequently aggressive about Berkowitz’s handling of the pandemic. Still, I have my doubts that anything will matter to a Facebook world that is already primed to believe whatever the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. We imagine that, at the very least, Berkowitz can’t wait for April 2021 to come fast enough.
“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift.
It feels like a month ago that we were all watching—and re-watching—the clip of Gov. Mike Dunleavy packing when he got caught going maskless at yet another maskless, indoor Republican fundraiser (Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to live in fear, governor!). So, let’s watch it one more time courtesy of the Alaska Landmine’s speedy fingers:
This. Is. Loose! Suzanne Downing at a Republican fundraiser on the Hillside tonight. As she walks in @GovDunleavy, who’s taking a picture with someone, gives her a full wave off and tells her to turn the camera off. The lady in the picture immediately masks up! #loose #akleg pic.twitter.com/eQS9odtl6m
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) October 7, 2020
The whole situation puts an underline on the deep hypocrisy on display by Alaska’s Republican officials. While families debating and weighing the risks of having a Thanksgiving together, the governor and his cronies glad-handing at fundraisers with strangers. Caution for you, not for me.
None of this is fun. None of us want to be doing this, but this is where we’re at thanks to the top-to-bottom bungling of the response to the pandemic fueled by conspiracy and machismo bullshit. I imagine that if everyone conducted their lives like Dunleavy has, Alaska’s situation would be worse.
And Alaska’s situation IS getting worse. Daily case counts continue to be above 100, the statewide positivity rate crossed 5% (meaning 1 in 20 tests are coming back positive) and we’re seeing just how fraught the return to classrooms has been as more schools close and sport seasons are cut short.
Look, the reality here is that it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of covid-19. We can limit the risk by the actions we take—wearing masks, social distancing, limiting trips and taking seriously the 14-day quarantine for coming into close contact with someone who had covid-19—and save the risks that we do take for things that are meaningful.
Early in the pandemic, I remember as people slowly returned to parks and seeing a couple families got together for a game of kickball. Was there some risk associated with that? Sure, but I thought it served as a useful barometer for how we could make our way through the pandemic and into the school year.
But instead, here we are.
Collectively, we’ve prioritized a return to restaurants, bars and fundraisers over taking the mildly inconvenient efforts needed to watch out for each other.
Oh, and today marked the highest daily case count with a whopping 230 new cases among Alaska residents. Sigh.
Speaking about unhinged stuff, things must not be going well for Team Lance Pruitt (a team, we assume, of one). For a household that, presumably, has $185,000 worth of communications chops, he’s been tweeting out some particularly dumb stuff to his following of… 14. The following post trying to smear opponent Liz Snyder got most of the attention.
Is he even trying anymore?
‘What the heck is going on here’
In one of the stories that was sitting in my notebook all this week, the House State Affairs Committee held a gangbusters hearing this week about the completely shady contracting practices of the Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka and the Dunleavy administration as a whole.
At the heart of the presentation was the work of former Alaska procurement officer Barry Jackson. Let’s just say that the procurement process is serious business and Jackson sure as hell brought the receipts to detail what appears to be Tshibaka’s personal efforts to steer a $5 million contract away from Alaska bidders with some definitely illegal requirements.
In another story that’s sitting in my notebook, Gov. Mike Dunleavy also responded to a letter from House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Rep. Louise Stutes voicing their concerns about Pebble Mine following the explosive Pebble Tapes in a very Dunleavy sort of way. That’s to say, his letter is mean, small-minded and filled with thinly veiled racism. In it he suggests that all that’s needed to cure the social ills in rural Alaska is a good job… at Pebble Mine.
Let’s be clear: Dunleavy not only supports Pebble Mine, he also thinks he knows how people in rural Alaska should live their lives (specifically, working at a mine and specifically the mine whose executive have bragged about buying access to him). #akleg #akgov pic.twitter.com/OY5YRsRAJE
— Matt Acuña Buxton (@mattbuxton) October 7, 2020
That’s how much the state could be on the hook for thanks to creep/former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s advice to wrongly can the effort to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The money is owed to the Recall Dunleavy campaign to cover legal fees, which is typical, and could be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The state’s legal endeavors under Clarkson are starting to come back to roost in the state’s budget and that’s not to mention all the staff time wasted on these destined-to-fail cases.
It’s been such a week that we haven’t had time to write some important stories or even mess around with the latest 30-day reports filed with APOC. Here’s a few quick takeaways from the latest reports:
- Calvin Schrage grabbed the largest cash haul of this last fundraising round as enthusiasm around his challenge of the less-than-inspiring Rep. Mel Gillis. He took in a whopping $50,550.00 since primary day to bring his total to $97,450.35.
- Among the top fundraisers are a lot of races that progressives/moderates hope to pick off from Republican hands: Suzanne LaFrance brought in $48,727.51 after swapping in to the race, Andy Holleman brought in $39,912.50 after getting his campaign against Sen. Revak underway, Marna Sanford—who stood head and shoulders above the crowd in last week’s public media debates—brought in $38,960.00 to round out the top five candidates. Leading their Republican opponents are Snyder, Julia Hnilicka, Elizabeth Ferguson, Kelly Cooper, Lyn Franks, Stephen Trimble, Paul Dale, Jim Cooper and Carl Johnson.
- During this last quarter the only Republicans to outraise their progressive incumbent opponents are racist Leslie Becker (who wrote herself a big check), Madeleine Gaiser ($11,675.00) who outraised Sen. Bill Wielechowski ($10,755.34) and Kathy Henslee ($14,900.00) who’s outraised Rep. Chris Tuck ($10,789.54). All but Becker lag their opponents overall.
- Speaking of big checks, Becker led the field overall in dumping money into her campaign. She wrote a $25,000 check, Evan Eads wrote his campaign a $18,000.13, Jim Cooper gave himself $10,000, Paul Dale gave himself $10,000, Lance Pruitt gave himself $6,000, Roger Holland gave himself $5,000, Keith Kurber gave himself $5,000, Carl Johnson gave himself $5,000, Jim Baisden gave himself $5,000, Roselynn Cacy gave herself $5,000.
- In what is definitely an APOC violation, Pamela Gillham gave her husband, Ron Gillham, $10,000.
Anyways, here’s the chart!
|Name||District||Party||Total Raised||30-day Raised||Total Spent||Cash on Hand|
|Bart LeBon||House 01||R||$49,371.85||$17,170.25||$12,020.11||$37,351.74|
|Christopher Quist||House 01||D||$16,368.06||$9,091.00||$13,385.15||$2,982.91|
|Steve Thompson||House 02||R||$18,300.00||$5,400.00||$7,836.74||$10,463.26|
|Jeremiah Youmans||House 02||D||$2,195.93||$1,410.00||$930.51||$1,265.42|
|Mike Prax||House 03||R||$1,327.00||$1,050.00||$277.00||$1,050.00|
|Grier Hopkins||House 04||D||$57,662.14||$20,050.00||$35,565.91||$23,343.03|
|Keith Kurber||House 04||R||$47,716.31||$18,184.81||$36,256.59||$11,459.72|
|Adam Wool||House 05||D||$56,481.46||$19,520.00||$17,760.67||$39,421.99|
|Kevin McKinley||House 05||R||$37,895.70||$12,080.00||$32,509.18||$5,386.52|
|Julia Hnilicka||House 06||D||$66,512.19||$34,218.83||$35,835.75||$30,676.44|
|Mike Cronk||House 06||R||$21,291.75||$7,025.00||$15,745.78||$5,545.97|
|Elijah Verhagen||House 06||U||$17,165.65||$8,545.65||$16,671.19||$495.34|
|Deborah Williams Riley||House 06||NA||$350.00||$350.00||$2,632.23||-$2,282.23|
|Christopher Kurka||House 07||R||$26,302.14||$6,800.19||$21,098.48||$4,843.66|
|Jamin L. Burton||House 07||U||$8,703.00||$1,700.00||$1,278.31||$7,424.69|
|Kevin McCabe||House 08||R||$42,363.19||$7,053.12||$38,572.67||$3,790.52|
|Alma Hartley||House 08||D||$41.71||$41.71||$400.12||$0.00|
|Bill Johnson||House 09||D||$28,001.00||$12,711.00||$15,195.18||$14,519.32|
|George Rauscher||House 09||R||$25,061.83||$6,985.39||$20,899.37||$4,162.38|
|David Eastman||House 10||R||$38,907.43||$5,523.00||$33,781.49||$5,125.94|
|Monica Lynn Stein-Olson||House 10||D||$16,852.03||$7,505.00||$11,537.58||$5,314.45|
|DeLena M Johnson||House 11||R||$17,646.29||$3,901.20||$10,903.84||$6,791.46|
|Andrea Hackbarth||House 11||D||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Cathy L. Tilton||House 12||R||$21,597.00||$4,050.00||$6,059.55||$17,037.45|
|James Allen Canitz, Sr||House 13||D||$11,151.01||$1,051.01||$2,031.22||$9,119.79|
|Ken McCarty||House 13||R||$2,370.00||$2,370.00||$3,675.90||-$1,305.90|
|Kelly Merrick||House 14||R||$41,867.97||$4,422.77||$12,856.11||$33,524.32|
|Mike Risinger||House 14||NA||$4,128.08||$2,218.06||$2,200.08||$1,928.00|
|Lyn Franks||House 15||D||$32,764.32||$16,155.82||$13,217.16||$19,764.86|
|David Nelson||House 15||R||$22,343.00||$14,985.00||$19,833.40||$2,509.60|
|Patrick McCormack||House 15||D (Write-in)||$1,785.13||$543.26||$1,785.13||$279.51|
|Ivy A Spohnholz||House 16||D||$60,110.00||$20,945.00||$35,799.70||$24,638.10|
|Paul Bauer||House 16||R||$3,881.19||$3,396.29||$1,829.48||$2,051.71|
|Scott A Kohlhaas||House 16||L||$2,404.00||$804.00||$1,940.28||$463.72|
|Andy Josephson||House 17||D||$20,217.41||$1,260.00||$5,335.63||$17,439.91|
|Harriet A. Drummond||House 18||D||$10,730.00||$250.00||$3,291.13||$12,438.87|
|Geran Tarr||House 19||D||$1,100.00||$1,100.00||$2,508.95||-$1,408.95|
|William Z "Zack" Fields||House 20||D||$20,044.26||$1,650.00||$7,133.53||$10,714.47|
|Matt Claman||House 21||D||$100,820.08||$28,125.00||$47,293.43||$56,009.49|
|Lynette Largent||House 21||R||$0.00||$0.00||$104.38||-$104.38|
|Sara Rasmussen||House 22||R||$82,941.00||$22,547.00||$25,900.55||$57,040.45|
|Stephen Trimble||House 22||NA||$47,272.28||$26,151.42||$25,970.58||$21,301.70|
|David Nees||House 22||AI||$1,550.00||$1,550.00||$18.10||$1,531.90|
|Chris Tuck||House 23||D||$20,342.47||$10,789.54||$6,530.83||$13,811.64|
|Kathy Henslee||House 23||R||$14,900.00||$14,900.00||$10,589.89||$9,715.60|
|Timothy R. Huit||House 23||AI||$1,048.02||$497.00||$1,048.02||$0.00|
|Tom McKay||House 24||R||$52,446.70||$15,832.00||$42,812.19||$9,639.51|
|Gloria Susan Levi||House 24||D||$4,054.88||$4,054.88||$3,981.13||$73.75|
|Calvin Schrage||House 25||NP-D||$97,450.35||$50,550.00||$52,867.28||$44,583.07|
|Mel Gillis||House 25||R||$70,492.49||$7,250.00||$40,782.65||$29,709.84|
|Laddie Shaw||House 26||R||$30,697.92||$852.64||$3,715.30||$31,982.62|
|Liz Snyder||House 27||D||$158,575.41||$37,504.21||$120,837.53||$41,951.21|
|Lance Pruitt||House 27||R||$50,042.52||$28,562.96||$32,383.47||$18,204.35|
|James Kaufman||House 28||R||$61,255.13||$30,342.00||$41,669.25||$19,585.88|
|Suzanne LaFrance||House 28||NP-D||$48,727.51||$48,727.51||$10,880.45||$41,473.36|
|Adam S. Lees||House 28||D||$2,399.36||$61.36||$2,322.69||$76.67|
|Benjamin Fletcher||House 28||NA||$0.00||$0.00||$20.00||-$20.00|
|L. Adolph Garcia||House 28||NA (Write-in)||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Paul D. Dale||House 29||NP||$46,868.45||$26,723.45||$33,494.57||$13,373.88|
|Ben Carpenter||House 29||R||$13,454.55||$7,295.00||$6,779.14||$7,205.78|
|James Baisden||House 30||NA||$25,919.60||$14,653.74||$20,151.08||$5,768.52|
|Ronald Dale Gillham||House 30||R||$13,530.00||$13,530.00||$7,448.00||$6,082.00|
|Kelly Cooper||House 31||NA||$89,357.75||$29,932.82||$73,767.55||$15,590.20|
|Sarah L. Vance||House 31||R||$57,335.50||$16,269.25||$42,063.26||$15,272.24|
|Louise B Stutes||House 32||R||$18,218.33||$2,700.00||$1,186.71||$17,031.62|
|Sara Hannan||House 33||D||$13,059.48||$225.00||$3,375.73||$12,891.46|
|Andi Story||House 34||D||$50,847.04||$15,605.00||$21,320.30||$29,526.74|
|Edward King||House 34||NP||$14,173.93||$9,669.00||$11,558.10||$2,615.83|
|Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins||House 35||D||$59,132.04||$9,496.95||$24,432.22||$36,395.54|
|Kenny Skaflestad||House 35||R||$800.00||$0.00||$0.00||$800.00|
|Leslie Becker||House 36||R||$75,159.93||$34,372.85||$38,791.67||$30,075.45|
|Dan Ortiz||House 36||U||$59,360.95||$26,105.10||$43,410.38||$18,450.57|
|Bryce Edgmon||House 37||U-D||$16,805.00||$2,000.00||$4,676.71||$16,769.59|
|Tiffany Zulkosky||House 38||D||$25,791.00||$14,291.00||$4,172.60||$26,618.40|
|Neal Foster||House 39||D||$17,815.24||$11,557.24||$23,379.09||-$563.85|
|Dan Holmes||House 39||R||$2,023.97||$2,023.97||$2,058.80||$995.45|
|Tyler L Ivanoff||House 39||AI (Write-in)||$1,150.00||$1,150.00||$480.37||$669.63|
|Elizabeth Ferguson||House 40||D||$49,308.60||$33,027.80||$11,351.28||$37,384.30|
|Josiah Aullaqsruaq Patkotak||House 40||NA||$6,035.81||$6,035.81||$48.49||$5,987.32|
|Marna Sanford||Senate B||NA||$86,991.71||$38,960.00||$64,217.68||$22,774.03|
|Evan A Eads||Senate B||NA||$31,740.29||$24,470.69||$9,953.39||$21,786.90|
|Robert H Myers Jr||Senate B||R||$24,815.00||$24,815.00||$348.72||$24,466.28|
|David S. Wilson||Senate D||R||$43,033.82||$24,250.37||$29,317.84||$18,724.63|
|Dan Mayfield||Senate D||NP||$34,388.32||$12,735.00||$24,468.83||$12,244.31|
|Stephen Wright||Senate D||R||$6,322.25||$2,472.47||$5,565.25||-$327.22|
|Stephen Wright||Senate D||R||$6,322.25||$2,472.47||$5,565.25||-$327.22|
|Shelley Hughes||Senate F||R||$40,342.37||$14,223.04||$23,324.09||$17,018.28|
|Jim Cooper||Senate F||D||$17,366.00||$17,366.00||$6,624.83||$10,741.17|
|Gavin Christiansen||Senate F||L||$820.00||$0.00||$704.00||$116.00|
|Stephany Jeffers||Senate F||U-D||$0.32||$0.16||$2,012.09||$0.00|
|Bill Wielechowski||Senate H||D||$41,803.06||$10,755.34||$13,192.25||$28,610.81|
|Madeleine Gaiser||Senate H||R||$18,060.00||$11,675.00||$12,357.69||$5,702.31|
|Tom Begich||Senate J||D||$49,517.21||$4,277.29||$20,865.17||$28,657.11|
|Natasha Von Imhof||Senate L||R||$32,252.00||$32,252.00||$64,319.72||$67,766.58|
|Jeff Landfield||Senate L||NA (Withdrawn)||$15,250.00||$1,150.00||$8,472.73||$6,777.27|
|Roselynn Cacy||Senate L||D||$13,379.06||$7,760.49||$11,908.07||$3,134.88|
|Stephen J. Duplantis||Senate L||R (Write-in)||$2,041.00||$109.00||$1,441.47||$599.53|
|Josh Revak||Senate M||R||$115,133.00||$33,926.00||$74,115.34||$45,083.28|
|Andy Holleman||Senate M||NA||$48,592.50||$39,912.50||$25,307.22||$28,285.28|
|Roger Holland||Senate N||R||$51,622.20||$23,218.00||$33,930.90||$17,691.30|
|Carl Johnson||Senate N||D||$44,600.00||$28,980.00||$24,797.62||$10,704.49|
|Carolyn "Care" Clift||Senate N||U||$10,272.19||$500.11||$4,804.07||$6,305.36|
|Lynette Moreno Hinz||Senate N||D (Write-in)||$239.79||$239.79||$0.00||$239.79|
|Gary Stevens||Senate P||R||$19,300.00||$2,400.00||$6,470.33||$14,875.67|
|Dr Greg Madden||Senate P||AI||$4,468.14||$4,468.14||$3,898.00||$724.06|
|Bert Stedman||Senate R||R||$35,225.00||$15,175.00||$30,089.68||$6,124.76|
|Michael D. Sheldon||Senate R||R (Write-in)||$6,270.00||$175.00||$6,176.71||$163.84|
|Donny Olson||Senate T||D||$10,800.00||$1,600.00||$1,450.21||$10,995.34|
|Thomas Ikaaq Baker||Senate T||R||$4,209.00||$1,852.00||$2,869.74||$1,339.26|