The Politicians at the Anchorage Daily News

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.

I like a man who keeps his mouth shut

Mike Pence hasn’t talked about the pressure he was under from Trump to start a coup d’etat on Jan. 6. That’s why most people don’t know about it. But he’ll testify to the House investigating committee, and that testimony will get people’s attention. I think it will be the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.

History is full of people like Trump. Most of them don’t succeed. But every once in a while an exceptionally talented man attempts to seize power and wins. People like Caesar or Napoleon or Hitler. Trump failed. He never had a chance. It was foolish, an act of rage. He was going out a loser, and he lost his senses.

Trump has made history, right up there with Aaron Burr.

A New Year

I go by the son, so today is the end of one year, and the beginning of another. For the next six months, every day will be a little longer than the one before. In Alaska, that’s important. This is the year the Biden administration will be judged by the American people, in the November elections. In a little more than ten months, we’ll know the verdict. I actually think I know what it will be.

If you’ve ever thought about running for office as a Republican, this is the year to do it.

A Bipartisan Path to Campaign Finance Reform

On September 15, 1787, the final full day of deliberations at the Constitutional Convention, the text of Article V was agreed upon, unanimously. At the insistence of George Mason, the states were given the authority to propose amendments without the approval of Congress. This was necessary, argued Mason, because the Congress itself might become the cause of the need for an amendment.

This power has been successfully deployed only once in the years since, when it was used to coerce the Senate into passing the 17th Amendment. Senate seats had been for sale in many state legislatures, and only when 30 of the needed 32 Article V resolutions were passed did the Senate bow to the will of the people, and agree to popular election.

Today the corruption and dysfunction of Congress exceeds, perhaps, that at any time in our history. The situation is so extreme that it cries out for the states, once again, to intervene, and correct these abuses using Article V.

The Framers distrusted state legislatures, and made their exercise of Article V power extremely difficult. Only amendments which have the support of a bipartisan supermajority are possible.

When the campaign for an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) began in 1975, it was led by two Democrats, from Maryland and Mississippi. Success came quickly, and by 1979 the idea had taken hold. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown of California launched his campaign for the Presidency featuring an Article V BBA as one of his principle proposals.

At this point Congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Tip O’Neill, launched a counterattack. Rather than address the BBA on its merits, they concocted the scare tactic of a “runaway convention”, and eventually succeeded in halting, and then reversing, the progress toward an Article V BBA. In the years since, the BBA has become a partisan issue, making its passage all but impossible.*

Now another proposal has the promise of attaining bipartisan, supermajority support — Campaign Finance Reform (CFR). Congressional corruption is thoroughly bipartisan. Congressional dysfunction is so extreme that action must be taken, lest our entire republican form of government be lost.

Five Democratic state legislatures have passed Article V CFR Resolutions. If Republican legislatures add their numbers, the needed 34 state threshold can be reached, and the first Article V Amendment Convention in our history can be held.

Republican legislators are wary of campaign finance reform. They fear it could have an empowering effect for the Democratic Party, and prove an impediment to their own election.

This fear is groundless, since the current political environment gives Republicans control of 30 state legislatures, more than enough to ensure that Republicans, not Democrats, would have a majority at any Amendment Convention. No conclave controlled by Republicans will produce an amendment which puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

All the talk of a runaway convention is moonshine. Every legislature will send as delegates its most trusted and experienced members. These senior statesmen will meet knowing full well that the eyes of the nation, and of history, are upon them. The idea that these honorable men and women would violate their oath, disregard their instructions, and undertake some sort of constitutional coup d’etat is so ludicrous it doesn’t deserve further discussion.

It goes without saying that the delegates to an Amendment Convention will never approach the quality of the men who assembled in Philadelphia. There is no Madison, or Franklin, or Washington among us. But we can hope that these men and women will match their predecessors in one respect. Looking back, some 40 years after the event, Madison recalled “that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great & arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives”.

That, we can reasonably expect.