There are a few things I want to make clear about the Alaska Landmine’s coverage of Senator David Wilson and the incident between him and a legislative staffer back in June. The Landmine was started because of a void in Alaska political news and gossip. The Capitol press corps has their hands more than full covering matters of fiscal catastrophe, the crime bill, new revenue bills, and a host of other things. They are overwhelmed and often understaffed. And there were some disturbing things that were “common knowledge” in the Capitol, but unspoken of and unknown to the public. One of the most disturbing was Senator David Wilson’s treatment of the staffer, especially in light of his history of inappropriate and aggressive behavior toward others. I’m talking about the Senator literally slapping a political reporter from the state’s largest newspaper across the face right out in the open in the Capitol.
I got enough information from sources and felt this latest incident needed to be told. I wrote about it in my first Sunday column. I hoped that this shove would lead to proper action being taken. It soon became clear to me that although this incident was reported to Speaker Edgmon after it occurred, the bipartisan Legislative Council, and specifically the Republican Alaska Senate Majority, did nothing about it. They had turned a blind eye to unacceptable behavior and hoped it would go away.
The story has now played out in the media over the last 6 weeks, and because of intense public pressure, the Senate Majority has decided to release a report and have a meeting. But during this time the staffer has had to endure a litany of problems that stemmed from all of this. She did not want the incident to be made public, she did not want to be identified, and she had hoped it would have been dealt with internally.
Her desire for anonymity was respected by everyone including The Landmine, until Republican Party blogger Suzanne Downing got a hold of it. Not only did she reveal the identity of the staffer, but has gone after her, victim-blaming, and saying she started all of this for political reasons. None of this is true. But truth has never gotten in the way for Suzanne Downing. The staffer never filed a complaint, although she could have. She wanted it to be dealt with internally. If she really wanted to do what Downing and others are accusing her of, she could have filed a complaint after the incident occurred. I wrote about it 4 months after it happened, and only then did it became a story. She did not ask me to write it. In fact, I bet she wishes I hadn’t because of all the problems and unwanted attention that it has caused her. For my part in the problems I have caused her, I sincerely apologize. For revealing her identity, impugning her motives, and dragging the victim through the mud, Downing should apologize too. I’m not holding my breath for her to feel any shame.
The Alaska Republican Party and even individual legislators have said this was all made up. How would anyone considering filing a complaint feel safe doing so after this? Shame on Downing and those that have attacked her and made up lies to score political points.
Eagle River Assemblywoman Amy Demboski has also perpetuated this nonsense. Imagine if Senator Wilson were a Democrat and the staffer worked for a Republican? Demboski and Downing would be calling for torches, pitchforks, and resignations.
The report clears Senator Wilson of criminal sexual harassment or creating a hostile work environment because the staffer has been working since then, and doing her job well. She might disagree about the hostile work environment. And it sets a pretty low bar for a victory dance. If not committing a crime is all we need to vindicate the conduct of a sitting Senator, we need to think about raising the bar.
The report does say Wilson acted inappropriately and created a very uncomfortable, no-win situation for the staffer, and abused his position of power. What Senator Wilson should have done is addressed this as soon as it was written about. Instead he waited 6 weeks before holding a press conference where he said he did nothing wrong, and actually said he was the victim of a political witch hunt. He should have apologized to her after the incident occurred in June. He should have apologized to her in October when it was written about. I’m sure the issue would have gone away. He even messaged me after I wrote the first column and asked to meet, I said yes. He never got back to me. Instead, Wilson has refused to take any responsibility for his actions. He summoned the TV cameras to watch him blame everyone else and claim he is the victim. He totally ignores how he choose to behave poorly in the Capitol, in front of the press corps and other witnesses. What does he expect to happen when he acts this way?
This is not the kind of behavior we expect or deserve from our elected officials. We still wait to see what, if anything, the Senate Majority leadership will do about this.
Here is a copy of the report from the Legislative Affairs Agency. The tape has yet to be released to the public.