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Stop Pebble Now

Buffet of emails show legislators hungry to talk about legislative lounge

Sometimes politics is weird, sometimes politics is funny, and sometimes it’s both. In a series of emails obtained by the Alaska Landmine, over a request for legislative lounge and allowance account balances, several legislators expressed strong opinions about the public having the right to know what they eat. It didn’t take long to get weird. Here is the first email:

The first to respond, at 12:45 pm the same day, was Representative Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole)

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URSA Optical

Hi,

I do not understand why you would withhold lounge information and only give office account balances. The public has a right to know where government monies are being spent.

Sincerely,
Tammie

The next to respond, at 1:07 pm, was Representative Sarah Vance (R – Homer):

The lounge accounts are paid for with personal funds only and therefore not public. Is that correct?

At 1:35 pm, Rynnieva Moss, Chief of Staff to Senator John Coghill (R – North Pole), responded to Vance:

That is correct. Allowance accounts cannot be used to pay lounge accounts.

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ASEA

Here is where it starts getting loose. At 3:30 pm, Representative Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Anchorage) responded:

While I believe all information about legislative funding of the lounge should and is available to the public I do not see any reason why the public is any more entitled to know how much I or anyone else spends at the lounge than they would be entitled to know how much any one spends at Salt or any other Juneau restaurant.

At 8:18 pm, Representative Louise Stutes (R – Kodiak), strongly agreeing with LeDoux, responded:

I agree the money I spend in the Lounge is my personal money NOT government money. I can see where this might be going, being asked to account for every dollar we are paid by the State! 

At 8:20 pm, LeDoux, weighed in again:

Not only every dollar we are paid by the state but EVERY dollar we spend, regardless of where it comes from. IMHO the request is patently ridiculous. 

Not long after, at 8:57 pm, Senator Jesse Kiehl (D – Juneau) responded:

You can only release my lounge spending if you can promise me my teenagers won’t find out how often I skip packing a sack lunch, like I make them do.

At 9:13 pm, Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer) weighed in with the best response yet:

Better not reveal how many cookies we ate.

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Stop Pebble Now

The next day, at 7:24 am, Representative George Rauscher (R – Sutton) weighed in, apparently concerned about his Juneau dining options:

If the moneys I spend while purchasing food from the lounge or anywhere in Juneau are to be made public, I will have to reconsider where and how I eat when in Juneau.

I agree, We pay for our lounge account with our own personal money and that amount is no one else’s business but our own and should not be made public.

At 1:17 pm today, Jessica Geary, the Executive Director for the Legislative Affairs Agency, came in to calm down what seemingly turned into loungegate:

The funniest part about this is that it’s all a big misunderstanding. Right away I recognized the name of the person requesting the information. Patrick Foster has been the sales manager at AT Publishing for 15 years. He does work for many of the legislators on their campaigns as well as official legislative business.

I called him to ask if he was the one who requested the information. He said when he saw my name on his phone he immediately knew why I was calling. He explained that he thought the lounge account was tied to the office account, and was just looking to see who had money left over so he could reach out and see if they wanted to do any constituent mail before the end of the year. He was not aware the lounge account is just a tab that legislators pay with their own money. And with that loungegate 2019 has come to an end.

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Kristine Harder

So glad I worked for the Legislature “back in the day”. At that time staff could purchase meals there as well. As a matter of fact we printed 20 -30 copies of a Legislative Lounge cookbook using the 2nd floor Xerox machine and didn’t even pay for printing. Oh the scandal!

Is this another example of George Orwell’s narrative in “Animal Farm” when the pigs explain their special status by claiming that while all the animals are equal some animals are “more equal” than others? I also don’t care how many cookies Shelly Hughes and her peers purchase and consume with their own money; however, I do care if the residents of Alaska are effectively paying to bake and serve them “state funded” cookies. Is the public allowed to use this lounge or is it for the exclusive use of Legislators and staff? If access is restricted than those exclusive users… Read more »

dbcooper

Is the food at the lounge cheaper than the same food available at public establishments?

Williwaw

I’m totally uninformed on the legislators’ meal perks so please advise: It’s my understanding they all receive meal and lodging per diem regardless of their distance from home while in session. Can they not accommodate themselves with that per diem without the need of accruing more cost for someone(s) to manage facilities and accounts? Any other employee of the State would be responsible to feed themselves.

James Squyres

Would like to see a copy of the menu… with prices!