The Sunday Minefield – August 18, 2019

As the heat, smoke, and long summer days continue around much of Alaska, things in the political world are also heating up. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) announced his reversal on several vetoes this week, the effort to recall him says they have gathered enough signatures to submit their recall petition, a long discussed oil tax ballot initiative has been submitted, and the process to choose a replacement for the late Senator Chris Birch is underway.

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Dunleavy’s Reversal

This week Governor Dunleavy was busy announcing his reversal on cuts to senior benefits, K-12 education, the University of Alaska, and others. He said it has nothing to do with the recall effort against him and everything to do with the conversation he started with Alaskans. I’m not sure anyone actually believes that. The fascinating thing to watch is how quickly so many of his hardcore PFD supporters have turned on him. The group Permanent Fund Defenders came out and said they supported the $1,600 PFD and then an additional $1,400 later. That triggered many of the full PFD or nothing crowd. Many want Dunleavy to veto the entire $1,600 and call the Legislature back and demand a $3,000 PFD. The Legislature has made it clear they don’t support that.

I wonder if Dunleavy is going to pull his bill, SB 58, “An Act repealing the senior benefits payment program; and providing for an effective date.” You can see his transmittal letter here.

Here are some other bills that were requested by Dunleavy….

Many of the hardcore PFD people have taken to talk radio and social media to describe their disappointment that Dunleavy has reversed himself on some of his vetoes. Some have even said if he does not veto the $1,600 PFD they will support the recall effort against him. Others have said he has caved to the deep state, labor, or special interests. I’m glad I don’t have such “loyal” friends.

It’s so bad that his mouthpiece, Suzanne Downing, is actually claiming he never promised a full PFD! That is rich. Even Goebbels couldn’t spin this.

Dunleavy should have given one speech about all of this. He should have said he went too far, too fast, realized he made some bad decisions, and that he decided to make some corrections. Instead, he claimed he was listening to Alaskans after the conversation he started, and even partially blamed the Legislature. That is not leadership. Leadership is being able to admit you made a mistake and then explain how you are going to fix it.

Tomorrow will be the big day. Dunleavy said he will announce what vetoes he will uphold and whether or not he will accept or reject the $1,600 PFD. It was supposed to be on Friday but he decided to take the weekend to think about it. Word is his staff are split on this. No one really knows what he will do. Regardless of what he does, a lot of people will be mad. The expected result when your main campaign platform is promising people a lot of money.

Other Happenings

Congressman Don Young (R – Alaska) held his big fundraiser, Taste of Alaska, at the home of former Governor Bill Sheffield this week. It was an absolutely packed event with hundreds of people in attendance. A real who’s who of Alaska’s political and business community. Young had just returned from a trip to South Africa, but he was as high energy as ever.

Something very funny happened at the Don Young event. While Young was speaking, the wife of a prominent Alaskan was trying to tell him to speak closer to the mic. She was motioning her fist back and forth in front of her mouth while saying, “Eat the mic, eat the mic!” She was completely unaware of how that looked. Many who saw this were trying hard to hold back their laughter.

Liz Snyder, who is challenging Representative Lance Pruitt (R – Anchorage) held a fundraiser this week at the home of Mark Begich and his wife Deborah Bonito. It was reported to have been a packed event. Word is she raised over $30,000! To put that in context, many people who run for the House do not raise that much in their entire campaign.

Sources report that the people behind the long talked about oil tax ballot initiative submitted it to the Division of Elections on Friday afternoon. Some of the big names involved are Robin Brena, former Representative Harry Crawford, and former Representative Paul Seaton. Here we go again. Alaska really is its own worst enemy when it comes to creating a stable investment climate for our largest industry. Look for the Legislature to take up an oil tax bill next year in order to prevent this from getting on the ballot.

Becky Hultberg is leaving Alaska to take a new job in Oregon. Her background and knowledge on healthcare will be missed. Good luck on your next job, Becky. We need to do a podcast before you leave!

A memorial was held for Chris Birch at Hilltop Ski Area on Thursday. Over 500 people were in attendance. He will be greatly missed. Here is an article I wrote about Chris and how special of a person he was.

The Alaska Republican Party is taking applications until today for those who want to replace Chris Birch. So far four have applied: Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage), Albert Fogle, Tali Birch Kindred (Chris Birch’s daughter), and former Senator Dave Donley. Look for a complete Landmine article on this tomorrow. Republican Districts 25 and 26 will meet on Wednesday to decide what three names to send to Governor Dunleavy. Dunleavy has until September 7 to choose a name to replace Birch. He is not actually required to pick from the list but he likely will. When Walker picked off list (Randall Kowalke) to replace Dunleavy, Senate Republicans rejected him. After Dunleavy picks a name, a majority of Senate Republicans must vote to confirm or reject the name. There are 12 Republicans in the Senate, so seven will be needed to confirm. They are split 6/6 on the PFD issue. This could end up being a big fight.

Update: Representative Josh Revak (R – Anchorage) and Lisa Sauder have also applied to fill the seat.

Governor Dunleavy signed SB 75 this week at Northern Industrial Training. He left out one thing. NIT is owned by the family of Adam Crum, his Commissioner of Health and Social Services.

The Alaska Municipal League held their annual Summer Legislative Conference this week in Soldotna. Several legislators were in attendance, as well as Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska).

I have a message for a few people:

To the legislator and their significant other whose names have repeatedly been connected to spreading unfounded and horrible rumors about their colleagues and staffers, I know who both of you are. If I continue to hear about this, then everyone will know who you are too. This isn’t a threat, it’s a promise.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week was a no brainer. However, I am including two Loose Units this week as I did not include one in last week’s column. For last week, the Loose Unit was Al Gross. This week’s Loose Unit is Chris Cillizza.

Let’s start with Al Gross. Gross is challenging Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska). He is an Independent running in the Democratic primary. He is new to this whole campaign thing. Last week, after our awesome Alaska Stalker column came out, Gross got very loose with his social media. In the August 1 Stalker column, she wrote about how Al Gross posted a pic with the ferry workers who were on strike. At the end of his post, he said, “Where are you Dan Sullivan?” She then shared a post form Senator Sullivan who was playing basketball with Senator Ted Cruz.

Al got real excited about this. If you had not heard, the ADN has been posting the Stalker column online every Friday with some bonus content. He decided to post about it on social media and claim that the ADN was highlighting the differences between the two. It’s the Alaska Stalker, Al. A lighthearted social media roundup and gossip column. It’s not their editorial board, mate. So loose. Also, Sullivan was in D.C. at, you know, his job. But then Gross started running it as a paid ad! So loose. Maybe his new campaign manager, David Keith, thought it was a good idea. I don’t know much about David Keith, but if this MSN article about him is true, he sounds like great Loose Unit material.

And now to Chris Cillizza. If you have yet to hear about this guy, you are in for a real treat. Cillizza is a political commentator for CNN. He is also a Loose Unit. In response to President Trump’s comment about buying Greenland, Cillizza wrote an article about it. This dude has a serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. He said the purchase of Alaska “Didn’t work out so well.” Wow, now that is a Loose Unit! Does CNN have editors? I guess they edit after the fact because they changed the wording of the article. So loose. Chris, you should read up on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alaska Native Corporations, Alaska tourism, our vast resources, and our strategic location. You are fucking loose, mate. Check out what Craig Medred had to say about this Loose Unit.

If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at

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Cato Censorius
4 years ago

“Something very funny happened at the Don Young event. While Young was speaking, the wife of a prominent Alaskan was trying to tell him to speak closer to the mic. She was motioning her fist back and forth in front of her mouth while saying, “Eat the mic, eat the mic!” She was completely unaware of how that looked. Many who saw this were trying hard to hold back their laughter.” Jeff, you can do better than this. A lot better. I admit it’s funny and worth sharing in a private setting, but it’s not appropriate for a news blog… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Cato Censorius

I hear you CC-It seems it would not be a Landmine Sunday unless Jeff had let loose with another 6th grade joke or reaction regarding a certain male characteristic. I find it particularly juvenile, and definitely over loose. His earlier comments regarding the specific discussion the legislature participated in to get a decent assault law this year-was particularly discouraging. That said, I too thought it particularly glaring that the governor’s cabinet member got such direct support from the state this week. That it was not reported that it was signed at the business of the cabinet member suggests the journalists… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Maureen

Maureen dear, how did a cabinet member get “direct” support from the state? Our governor signed a bill about truck driving and chose to do so at the most successful truck driving school in Alaska. The state offered no support, direct or otherwise. The school interrupted their day to clear a space, the gov and a few local legislators showed up, signed and snapped a few pix and left. No commissioners were there. Maybe, just maybe dearie, it wasn’t reported because there was nothing to report.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bluto

Free advertising, without full transparency

4 years ago
Reply to  Bluto

Not enough truck drivers-low and behold the age is lowered and the law signed at the business of a cabinet member that has a trucking licensing school. But the governor fails to report that part of it?

That looks horrid ethically. And leaves us to wonder about Quid pro quo- or more specifically-cronyism Bluto dear.

4 years ago

The reason we know the phrase “Seward’s Folly” now is not because the phrase was right, but because it was so awesomely, memorably *wrong.* It’s a great example of linguistic reappropriation: taking a derogatory word or phrase and turning it into a source of pride. Taking the phrase literally, in 2019, as settled history is either a demonstration of enormous ignorance or total stupidity.

Also, even at the time, large numbers of powerful people supported the decision to purchase Alaska. It’s not as if Seward just snatched the nation’s checkbook and bought Alaska by himself on a late-night shopping spree.

Warren Keogh
4 years ago

“He [Dunleavy] said it has nothing to do with the recall effort against him and everything to do with the conversation he started with Alaskans. I’m not sure anyone actually believes that.” Nobody I know believes that, especially those I met yesterday signing Recall Dunleavy petitions. It is mildly fascinating to watch this pretender keep digging the hole he’s in.

4 years ago

Creating a variable oil tax structure plus a tax credit system was the dumbest thing our legislature has ever done. No where else in the U.S. do you find a tax structure that reaches a negative effective rate after taking into account credits. We’d be better off with a fixed % and at least have an idea of what our revenue will be for the next 5 years.

4 years ago

It really says a lot about you, Jeff, that you idolize Don Young so much.

4 years ago

I will literally finance your whole operation and buy you a speedo in every color you want if you stop hinting vaguely about bad things and instead just call shit out as it is. Just say it’s Lance and Mary Ann, or that’s who we all assume it is until you cough up the info. Why beg for donations when you provide vague references and you don’t cover all the corruption there is?