Bipartisan Alaskans Against Hickel

B.A.A.H. was Bob Clarke’s idea.  He liked the acronym because it sounded like a sheep.  The inner Hammond circle thought this was funny.

Hickel sat out the 1982 election, but was back in 1986, and Hammond was still not going to allow him to get his hands on that money.  I, personally, always thought Hickel was sort of crazy.   This was a bizarre man.   He dispatched one of his chief lieutenants, Bob Clarke, to take him out.

When lived in Juneau I stayed in a spare bedroom, and lived with Bob.  I met him on the Hammond campaign in 1978, and hadn’t seen him since.  I was quite surprised at the offer.  Free lodging and a place to shower and cook.  The thing is, I hardly knew Bob.  I was a fun guy to be around, but this was very generous, and Babbie and I had money problems.  I didn’t realize it, but I had been accepted as a foot soldier in the Hammond mafia.  And they had a specific role for me to play  — political hitman, a guy who would say or do any damn thing they needed, as long as it was true and legal.   I’d made my bones with Hands for Hammond, and I had a role to play.

The funny thing is, looking back on it, that’s probably what I looked like.  I was a pretty big guy, with a bunch of scars on my face.  And I had the attitude.  Plus, I was a state senator.  That made me a twofer.  These bastards should have paid me.  In fact, there were a lot of people in politics who were a little afraid of me.  If you were somebody I didn’t like, I let you know by just looking at you.  I tried to keep that to a minimum.

So I was brought in to form this group.  Bob himself could not be part of any of this.  Any political figure who got caught doing it would be in political trouble, and Bob was too  closely associated with Arliss Sturgulewski, the candidate Hammond wanted instead of Hickel.  Hickel already hated me, so I didn’t care.  But I was the House Minority Leader now, and anything I did reflected on them, and a lot of them were behind Hickel.  I was endangering my status as Republican leader in the legislature.  But Hammond didn’t want for me to do anything for him in the legislature, he had plenty of people who could do that, like Rick Halford  And I didn’t care one way or the other.  A title.  Still, I was hoping to pull this off without it being associated with me.  This was pretty  rough play.

Bob hated Hickel, and had done as much opposition research on a guy as you can do, and he’d found gold.  He could more or less prove that Hickel was a thief, except not in a court of law.  You had to connect the dots.  So he writes out this scathing indictment of Hickel, alleging, but not necessarily proving, a career of crime.  Like I said, rough stuff.  We had to get somebody to say it.  We found some college kid, Paul Olsen, who was a friend of the Sturgulewski family who said he’d do it. I think this kid was 19.  He had guts, he really did.  I explained what we were doing to him, he understood, and said he wanted to do it.

So I have my secretary, Ann Williams open up a post office under the name BAAH.  Now we existed.  Paul Olsen was the chair and only member.  How we handled the money, I don’t know.  Nobody ever paid me to do any of this stuff.  I was a volunteer.  So Bob buys this full page ad in the Daily News, and lays into Hickel.  This was stuff so bad the Daily News didn’t want to be associated with it.  I can’t remember exactly what was in it.  I trusted Bob, and the content wasn’t my job, which was very specific.

So all hell breaks loose, and everybody wants to know what the hell BAAH is, and who the hell Paul Olsen is.  Bob waits as long as he could, and after a few days of pressure we had to produce Paul.  I set up a news conference, and he had to make a statement and take questions.  I didn’t really want to be there, but I had no choice.  I just tried to stay away from the cameras.

This kid was a champion.  Now that I think about it, I’m going to look him up.  Maybe he wants to follow in my footsteps, and be a political hitman.  He did exactly as I’d told him, and didn’t screw it up.

But hell, the entire Anchorage media saw me there.  Everybody knew who’d done it.  But, what the hell, Hickel hated me anyway.  I was 44 years old and in my prime.  I thought I could do anything.

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