Governor Mike Dunleavy is the latest in a long line of conservative Alaska politicians who have found themselves on the hit list of the Anchorage Daily News. It’s a tradition that goes back 43 years
In 1994 the target was former two term Lieutenant Governor Steve McAlpine, running against Tony Knowles for the Democratic nomination for Governor. McAlpine had a small financial interest in some racehorses in Seattle. A few days before the primary election, the ADN published a sensationalist account of this minor investment, implying that McAlpine was in league with shady gambling interests. Knowles went on to win election as Alaska’s seventh governor.
In 1998 Knowles was in political trouble, and the ADN found a way to help. Former State Representative John Lindauer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, narrowly beating conservative State Senator Robin Taylor. Lindauer claimed it was his own money, but that was a transparent lie, easily disproven. Only after he had won the nomination did the ADN reveal what it had known all along. The money came from Lindauer’s wife, the daughter of a notorious Chicago mobster. The Alaska Republican Party disowned Lindauer, and endorsed Taylor’s write in campaign. But Lindauer was on the ballot as the Republican nominee, and Knowles won reelection.
After Joe Miller beat Senator Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Republican primary, the ADN did all it could to discredit him. Their campaign culminated two weeks before the election, when their reporter, acting as an agent provocateur, would not stop harassing Miller at a campaign event. This succeeded in provoking Miller’s security guard to arrest him and made the Miller campaign look foolish and thuggish.
Other recent examples are the endless harassment of Governor Sarah Palin, to the extent that she resigned from office rather than continue to endure it. And, as MRAK recently described, the 2014 campaign the ADN waged against Governor Sean Parnell.
In 1978 former Governor and Interior Secretary Wally Hickel was running against incumbent Republican Governor Jay Hammond, and ten days before the primary was poised to win. The Hammond campaign and Kaye Fanning of the Daily News colluded in publicizing an attack on Hickel by “Hands for Hammond”, an imaginary group of volunteers. The chairman of this fictional group issued a press release, accusing Hickel of running for Governor only as a steppingstone in his planned campaign for the Presidency in 1980. He said Hickel had the job once, quit it for a better one, and was setting himself up to do it again.
Based on this press release, a reporter from the ADN confronted Hickel with this accusation. Predictably, Hickel erupted in anger, reminding everyone of his notorious temper. This was enough for the ADN to make a major story out of the unsupported fantasy of someone no one had ever heard of. Hammond rallied in the polls and beat Hickel by 98 votes.
I was asked by Bill McConkey, who was running Hammond’s reelection campaign, to issue that press release. I objected at first, since there was no such thing as Hands for Hammond. But Bill said that really didn’t matter. Everything was all set up.
I first came to Alaska in 1969, to meet the original Fritz Pettyjohn, an Army sergeant in 1941, who fought World War II with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505 Parachute Infantry Combat Team. I spent most of the summer with him and learned he was passionately devoted to the welfare of Alaska’s Native people. And he really didn’t like Wally Hickel. He told me Hickel didn’t respect the Natives.
In 1978 I was struggling to keep a law practice going, with a couple little boys, and another one soon to follow. When McConkey called me to ask if I’d help on Hammond’s campaign, I had nothing to lose, and a chance to get into Alaska Republican politics. I could never support Hickel, and Hammond was the alternative.
If you really want to get into politics, buy a newspaper, as Kaye Fanning and Alice Rogoff can attest. I hear the Daily News is always for sale.