We all know politics can be a nasty business. I have personally dealt with things said and published about me that were completely false, and believe me it’s not fun. Some people will resort to any measure to win or destroy opponents.
Yesterday, Mike Porcaro and Suzanne Downing published and then heavily promoted a bizarre affidavit signed by Dorene Lorenz. Lorenz is well-known in Alaska political circles and has worked as a reporter and wannabe lobbyist. In her affidavit, Lorenz claims that in 2016, during a TV show interview, Senator Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage) told her that “al [sic] US peacekeeping forces do is rape women in third world countries.” According to Lorenz, Giessel specifically mentioned that the rapists included “Alaskan troops.”
The affidavit, which is riddled with clumsy phrasing and misspellings, is frankly unbelievable. It is worth noting that anyone can sign an affidavit claiming that anything happened. Though the incident allegedly occurred on a media production set, Lorenz provides no evidence that the event occurred.
I have known Giessel for ten years. We have not always gotten along. In fact, for years she would barely acknowledge me. But I know and respect her, and she is one of the hardest working legislators in Juneau. Her father was a pilot in World War II. I have heard her speak fondly about working for the late Senator Ted Stevens, who was also a pilot in World War II. Her great-grandfather is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. You can disagree with Giessel or not like her politics, but to believe that Giessel made the statements about Alaskan troops, for no apparent reason whatsoever, and to a reporter, strains credulity.
So what’s really going on here? Well, one likely explanation is that this is really about Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) not being confirmed to the State Senate. In late 2019, Shaw was chosen by Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) to fill the Senate seat that was left vacant after Senator Chris Birch passed away. Shaw was not confirmed by Senate Republicans. Shaw’s supporters attempted to tar opponents to Shaw’s confirmation as “anti veteran.” Now-Senator Josh Revak (R – Anchorage), also a veteran, was confirmed to the seat. Some of Shaw’s supporters have been invested in the “anti-veteran” narrative against Giessel ever since.
Also, a little history on Lorenz. She chairs a group in Seward called Friends of the Jesse Lee Home. In 2018, Lorenz got in trouble for blowing $700,000 from a state grant intended to save the historic Seward landmark. Here is an excerpt from a 2018 APRN article on the Jesse Lee Home:
Lorenz left out a key detail, though.
“Well the grants are actually terminated,” Fred Parady said. Parady is deputy commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, which had been overseeing the grants.
Parady said the grants were terminated “for cause.”
“We just had a series of reporting issues and accountability issues back and forth between us and the Friends of Jesse Lee Home, disallowed or questionable costs that were identified, and it became clear that the process wasn’t working and we needed to terminate the grants, so we did,” Parady said.
The termination letter from July of 2015 says, “it has become painfully apparent this project will not be successful.” It points to nearly $700,000 in improperly documented spending and lists expenses on travel and a film festival, as well as alcohol, an office remodel and stereo equipment sent to a home address. There was even a tub of bikini wax.
Politics in this country are in a sad state. It’s not always clear what individuals can do to make things better, but one first step is to stand up and speak out against this kind of trash. Lorenz’ claim about Giessel is extraordinary, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Lorenz, Downing, and Porcaro provided no evidence at all. This not only shows a lack of respect for Giessel, but contempt for their readers and listeners, who they clearly believe to be too dimwitted to see through this. Porcaro and Downing have a clear agenda against Giessel. It should surprise no one that Downing published an article titled “Explosive: Affidavit claims Sen. Giessel said military men rape 3rd-world women.” Downing has no regard for the truth. She only concerns herself with how she can advance her own interests.
Regardless of your views about Giessel, we all owe it to ourselves to call out and reject these kinds of 11th-hour election hatchet jobs. Lorenz clearly released her affidavit at this precise moment in order to influence the election, and Porcaro and Downing obviously promoted it in order to advance their own political goals. Alaskans – and all of us – deserve better.