I hope everyone had a good time ringing in the New Year! 2022 really flew by. It’s been a pretty slow week in Alaska politics due to the holidays. But things are about to heat up. The legislative session starts in just over two weeks and the House is still no where close to being organized. Many legislators and staff are getting in last minute vacations before heading to Juneau. The Anchorage Assembly is losing two members, Forrest Dunbar and Jamie Allard, who were both elected to serve in the Legislature. The Assembly will choose their replacements to serve until April’s election. Seven of the 12 Assembly seats are up in April, and there will be at least four new members due to members leaving or being termed out.
A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. We worked hard on all of our election coverage. I am headed back to Juneau again in January to report on the session. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive.
Top 10 Landmine Articles in 2022
The Landmine has continued to grow since our founding in October 2017. Thanks to our readers, we had over 1 million page views on the website in 2022. From exposing cheating at a charity golf tournament, to uncovering a Hollywood actress running for the U.S. Senate, to Amy Demboski being ousted as municipal manager by Mayor Dave Bronson, here are the top ten Landmine articles of 2022:
- Team disqualified, banned for cheating in charity golf tournament at Moose Run Golf Course
- “Red” Scare: A day on the Kenai
- Amy Demboski ousted as Municipal Manager after calling colleague “f****** c***”
- Sah Quah: More than twenty years after the American Civil War, an enslaved Alaskan walked into a Sitka courtroom and sued for his freedom
- The troll caught Salmon Sisters: A cautionary tale of social media disaster
- Judge rules that Anchorage’s historic Stewart Trail is open to the public
- ASRC’s top two executives earned nearly $18 million combined in 2021, a 50% increase from 2020
- Mayor Charlie Pierce resigned due to workplace harassment situation, not to focus on gubernatorial campaign
- Review: Alaska Daily, Season One – Episode One
- Alaska U.S. Senate candidate Shoshana Gungurstein is actually Hollywood actress Shoshanna Chagall
Sources confirm Rex Rock Jr. was let go this week from his role as a policy advisor to Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska). He’s the son of ASRC CEO Rex Rock Sr. It’s not yet clear why he was let go.
Judge Walker has not yet issued his ruling on whether or not Representative-elect Jennie Armstrong is eligible to serve in the Legislature based on her residency. If you read last week’s column, you know that when Armstrong was on the stand she said that on her May 2019 trip to Alaska to visit her now-husband, Tarot cards at Chena Hot Springs told her to move to Alaska. We could not resist. Check out the “Jennie Armstrong Tarot Card Deck” below. My personal favorite is the Romancer.
Having trouble deciding how to vote on the PFD? Does the state budget concern you? Are you looking for love or thinking of making a move? Consult the Jennie Armstrong Tarot Cards and unlock the secrets to your future. #akleg pic.twitter.com/VYcayRPqRk
— The Alaska Landmine (@alaskalandmine) January 2, 2023
This Week’s Loose Unit
While it was a relatively slow week due to the New Year, this week’s designee went above and beyond to earn Loose Unit status. This week’s Loose Unit is self-proclaimed political consultant Joseph Lurtsema. Lurtsema showed up on the political scene a few years ago, and rose to prominence in Republican circles through an association with longtime political consultant Art Hackney. Lurtsema is known for charging candidates high fees–sometimes tens of thousands of dollars–for a variety of campaign services. According to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Lurtsema’s company Mobibiz Marketing took in more than $264,000 in 2022 from conservative candidates and political groups.
Lurtsema doesn’t advertise this, but he outsources much of his work to the Philippines. A few years ago a candidate friend running for office asked me to help out with his campaign. When I looked at his Facebook page I was puzzled to find that several people from Cebu, Philippines had been given back-end access to the page. The candidate had no idea what was going on. It didn’t take long to figure out that Lurtsema had, without telling the client, outsourced the work and given individuals in a foreign country access to sensitive campaign tools. Hiding this kind of thing from your clients is really loose.
Anyhoo, Lurtsema has been enjoying the spoils since the November election. According to various Facebook posts, since November 8, 2022 he’s been to Aruba, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Rome, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates with his new, very progressive girlfriend. Dude has been traveling and partying for almost two months. In one cringe-worthy video, Lurtsema can be seen standing on a bar “making it rain” cash on several bartenders, who seem unimpressed. I wonder what the Republican candidates who hire Lurtsema think about their campaign funds being thrown on the floor of a bar for the bartenders to pick up. Classic Loose Unit behavior.
Lurtsema has recently worked for Tuckerman Babcock, Stephanie Taylor, Kelly Merrick, and Dan Saddler, among many others. If you donated to one of those campaigns and want to see where your money went, check out the second part of the video below [trigger warning: extreme cringe]:
Saved the best for last. Here’s a video of Anchorage political consultant Joseph Lurtsema bragging about his award-winning consulting skills — followed by a video of him throwing money at women in a bar. This is how Democracy works in America. pic.twitter.com/K4O5GziupB
— Matt Tunseth (@MattTunseth) December 29, 2022
In another post, Lurtsema can be seen holding a glass of champagne at a lounge atop the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. In another, he is bragging about staying in a “5-Star Marriot Hotel” in Cairo, Egypt bumping elbows with Saudi princes. He really is living his best life!
In another post, Lurtsema brags that he has won awards for political consulting. What he doesn’t mention is that the awards he won are essentially “pay to play,” and have hefty entry fees. The “awards” company rakes in the money from applicants who naturally expect to win prizes, and then these prizes become marketing tools. People who actually work in politics know that these awards are meaningless and don’t bother applying for them. For a guy who makes a living on his supposed political tact, it’s bizarre that Lurtsema thought that it would be a good idea to post all this stuff. Looks like 2023’s Loose Unit list is really off to a strong start.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.