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We Build Alaska

The Landmine Writes About a Staffer, and a Staffer Literally Hits Back

Last weekend I attended the annual legislative skits in Juneau for the first time. They were creative, entertaining, and extremely funny. Lots of people were in attendance. I was told that a tradition after the skits is that lots of legislators, staffers, and government officials go out. I was definitely going to participate.

At the conclusion of the skits, a lot of people headed over to SALT, a Juneau bar and restaurant. It was very high energy! At one point I was on the dance floor. It was loud, dark, and full of people. Suddenly a man came up to my side and punched me in the collar bone. It caught me totally off guard. I knew it was not an accident. I looked at him, very confused, and asked him what his problem was. He told me, “Don’t write about staffers!” I had no idea who this guy was. I told him he was drunk and needed to calm down. He persisted and looked as if he was about to hit me again. I told him, “Mother fucker, touch me one more time and you’ll be sorry.” He seemed to get the message and walked away. The entire interaction lasted about 30 seconds.

I was baffled by what had happened. I immediately went over to a few people I knew, pointed him out, and asked who it was. He was a legislative staffer. When I found out who he worked for, it all made sense. I was pretty sure he was upset about something I recently wrote about one of his co-workers in my Sunday column, although I did not name the person. I started to ask people if they saw what happened and told others about it throughout the night. I was strongly encouraged by many staffers, and even a few legislators, to not write about it.

You may be wondering why I did not name the staffer. I’ll be honest, I was going to. But I received a call from him Monday morning apologizing for his behavior. He left a message that included, “I apologize for my outburst Saturday night. That was clearly out of line. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.” He also said he would like to discuss it further. I called him back and we spoke. I told him I knew why he was upset and that I accepted his apology. Although that is not an excuse for that kind of behavior, I can appreciate why he was upset.

This interaction, and what followed, got me thinking about writing about staffers. And this is what I want to address. Many legislative staffers, on both sides, seem to be under the impression that writing about staff is off limits. I disagree with that. I’m not out to get people and I’m careful when writing about staffers. I have often omitted their names from stories. I have also chosen to not write about some very dumb things staffers have done. I understand that staffers can be fired for any reason, while legislators can’t. All the more reason for them to be cognizant of their actions.

Staffers are public servants. Many of them make very good money. Many of them are very influential in crafting public policy. And most of all, they work in a politically charged environment. The notion that they are off limits is ridiculous. If you don’t want to be written about, don’t do dumb shit.

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