On Wednesday, not long before Governor Michael J. Dunleavy (R – Alaska) held a press conference where he unveiled his budget, I got a phone call from his Communications Director asking me to meet. What ensued was one of the most bizarre interactions I have ever had. I posted a summary on Facebook later that afternoon. I have had a lot of people ask me to post it here because they don’t have a Facebook account (I don’t blame them). The post can be seen below. I have not heard a word from anyone in the administration since I made the post.
Facebook post from 2/13/2019
I just had one of the most bizarre interactions of my life. Before Governor Dunleavy’s press conference on the budget, I got a call from Mary Ann Pruitt, his Communications Director, asking if I was in the Capitol and if I could meet. I told her I was and I would head over. What ensued was one of the strangest and most frustratingly vague discussions I have ever had. And if this is about what I now think it’s about – a harmless prank by a member of former Governor Walker’s administration on Governor Dunleavy – it shows you just how overblown an innocent joke can be treated in Juneau.
Pruitt told me that during a routine security sweep the governor’s security “found something” under the conference room table in the governor’s conference room. She would not tell me what it was but added that there was a note implicating me with whatever was found under the table. I asked her what it was and told her I did not put anything under any conference room table. I told her that I have only been in that room once before, the last time I was in Juneau about a month ago. Pruitt never identified why security considered the item they found a threat.
She then told me that security did not want to allow me in the press conference, but she told them she knows me and told them I’m not a threat. She said I could attend the press conference but that I was not allowed to ask any questions. Isn’t that convenient.
At this point I stated getting upset. I said someone is either messing with me or trying to set me up. I added there are some people in the building who would prefer that I’m not around. She told me nothing about what was under the table or how my name was tied to it, other than there was a note. She did not tell me what the note said.
After the press conference, I asked to speak to a member of the governor’s security detail. A man came out to speak with me. He said he didn’t know much about it but it sounded like some kind of prank. He said if I wanted more information I would need to speak with Bob Cockrell, the head of security. He said that Cockrell won’t be back for two days.
I later went to speak with Matt Shuckerow, Governor Dunleavy’s Press Secretary. He said he only recently learned about this. He did not have any new information. I told him I did not put anything under any table and added that there are security cameras all over the building, including in the governor’s conference room. We had a further discussion about my website and how I have no rules to follow. I asked what the hell that had to do with whatever was found under the table. He also told me that the governor’s office could decide to credential media if they wanted to. I told him that was fine, and pointed out that Suzanne Downing was sitting at the conference room table where signs were displayed that said “Capitol Press Corps Only.” I added that I did not sit at the table.
After thinking about this in the hours after these strange interactions, I started to wonder if the rumor I heard about an outgoing prank, by someone in former Governor Walker’s administration, on the Dunleavy administration was the cause of the “security threat.” During the gubernatorial campaign, I interviewed candidates, including Governor Walker, for the Alaska Landmine. These were good interviews with substantive discussions with Governor Walker and Senator Begich. The Mike Dunleavy interview never happened despite being told by Dunleavy and his staff multiple times that he would do an interview.
As a friendly joke, I gave Governor Walker’s staff a speedo after the final interview I did with him, right before he left office. This gift was my lighthearted way of showing Governor Walker that I did not harbor any hard feelings toward him for rescinding my appointment to the Commission on Judicial Conduct over “SpeedoGate.”
Some of his staff laughed, some were not so amused. In December, a former member of Governor Walker’s staff told me that someone had may have taped the speedo to the bottom of a conference table in some state office for the incoming administration to maybe find one day. If the mystery item that posed a security threat is the speedo I gave Governor Walker, then this entire thing is ridiculous. It wasn’t me that put it there – it was a harmless prank by the outgoing administration. And a speedo is not a security threat.
I promise to keep my readers informed and to let them know as soon as the Dunleavy administration tells me what the mystery item is. If it’s the speedo, then the administration should articulate what the security threat was that barred me from asking questions during the press conference today.