On June 12 Senator Mike Shower (R – Wasila) called into the Michael Dukes Show to talk about what was happening in Juneau with the special session. What transpired was a fascinating conversation where Shower attacked his colleagues in the Senate Majority. He pulled no punches.
Here is the link to the audio. It starts at 19:00 and goes to 56:18.
It started off innocent enough. Shower explained why he had to be absent for part of the special session. He had to go back to work as pilot at FedEx because he had not flown for six months. He then started in on leadership. He said that leadership would not schedule the vote on the PFD around his schedule. He commented, “I have a feeling, personally, that you know, that vote was probably scheduled on purpose because they knew, sometime in advance that myself and a few other people might be gone.”
He went on to talk about the issues with the full PFD in the Senate and House. It starts to get real good at 28:26 when Dukes says the blame is on Senate leadership for pulling the dividend out of the budget. Shower started talking about discussions that were had in caucus meetings. He said he told his colleagues, “I’m not stupid. I know what you guys are doing. You pull this out of the budget then you’ve taken away our leverage.” He went on to say that some of the members who “get pretty snotty” mocked him and said he was wrong. “We had an argument about it, we have a lot of arguments in caucus meeting of course.”
He referred to some of his colleagues as “petulant” for the way they act on the floor. He said that Senate leadership has been coordinating with House leadership the entire session about the dividend. He also said that the original vote on the full dividend in the Senate was an orchestrated stunt to make the senators look good. “I would say that almost all, with the exception of maybe one or two of the 11 leadership positions in the Senate and the House – this is my opinion and some of them might get mad at me – but I think they don’t care. They don’t want a full PFD. They want more money for the government.”
They then go into the conference committee vote on the budget, which is a binding vote in the Senate Majority. This is where it gets real loose. Dukes tells Shower that it would have been worth it to vote against it and get booted from the caucus. Dukes said, “What are we getting for being part of a caucus that is essentially running over everybody,” he added, “Kind of working in collusion with the House leadership on this stuff.” He then asks Shower why he would want to stay in a caucus like that. Shower responded, “I am so glad you asked that one.”
Shower goes on to talk about the consequences of leaving the caucus and how he, and Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer), would lose their committee chairmanships if they voted against the conference committee report on the budget. “Imagine if Coghill would have been Judiciary Chair. You think the crime bill – repeal of SB 91 would have happened? No! Do you think that if von Imhof or Birch or one of those would have been in charge of State Affairs that the PFD payback bills and the constitutional amendments all those would have moved? No.”
He went on to say if the five or six like minded members of the Majority voted against the budget, and the caucus broke up, then they would not be able to forward Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) agenda. “You would have Chris Birch in charge of State Affairs. God help us when it comes to the PFD. You would have, pick Coghill, whatever, be in charge of Judiciary. Here’s my point. There would be nobody left except anti-PFD people in charge of every single thing in the Senate.” He rationalized staying in the caucus because, as bad as it is, they have Mike Dunleavy to use his veto pen. He said he spoke to Dunleavy about it.
Another bizarre quote from Shower is, “Having the wrong people in leadership – and we’ve got a lot of them who are so anti-PFD – and having the ability to schedule bills and move things around is what’s really killing us,” and concluded that with, “That’s the biggest problem we face, is leadership.”
The discussion goes into potentially forming a caucus with the Democrats in the Senate around the PFD. Shower said that there are really only three Democrats who are pro-PFD. So with the six Republicans in the Majority he said they only have nine. He went on to say that there are only 16 or 17 in the House, and nine solid in the Senate, that are pro full PFD. He admitted that less than half of the Legislature is pro full PFD.
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“Believe me, if I could find a way to organize and make this work, I would do it, Mike (Dukes). I think I would. I’m that mad, I’m that frustrated with it and I would do it.” He went on to say, “A no vote would have felt really good, until, it’s kind of like when you have that big night of binge drinking the night before and you feel bulletproof, and you’re out there yeahhhhh! raging having a great time. You wake up the next morning – my God, what have I done.”
The whole conservation is fascinating. I recommend listening to the entire thing. The interesting thing is that Shower is a retired fighter pilot and lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. Publically attacking and questioning your superiors is a big no no in the military. The chain of command is a pillar of how the military functions. The Legislature has leadership, which is a chain of command. Shower’s open disdain for them says a lot. His comments have only added to the existing tension in the Senate Majority.
Multiple sources have confirmed that during the session, Senators Mia Costello (R – Anchorage) and Peter Micciche (R – Soldotna) attempted a coup and tried to organize a majority with the Senate Democrats around a full PFD. It ultimately failed, for multiple reasons, but it demonstrates just how fragile the Senate Majority is. Shower is right about one thing. Those Senate Majority caucus meetings must be fascinating.
Update: Senator Micciche contacted me and said he was never part of an official attempt to reorganize. He said there had been jokes and comments made but, according to him, that was it.