Legislative office contract under new scrutiny


November 2, 2015

CONTACT: Jake Hamburg (907) 258-3077

Republicans fail to hold Rep. Hawker accountable

ANCHORAGE: Private emails and internal documents reveal Rep. Mike Hawker may have broken the law when he secretly worked with developer Mark Pfeffer on a controversial contract to rebuild and lease back the Anchorage Legislative Information Office (LIO).

State law allows the Legislative Council, which Hawker formerly chaired, to extend a real property lease for up to 10 years if a minimum cost savings of at least 10 percent below the market rental value at the time of the extension would be achieved (AS 36.30.083). Another provision of the procurement statutes provides: “a person who intentionally or knowingly contracts for or purchases supplies, equipment for the state fleet, services, professional services, or construction under a scheme or artifice to avoid the requirements of this chapter is guilty of a class C felony” (AS 36.30.930).

New documents and emails pertaining to the lawsuit challenging the Alaska Legislature’s Anchorage office lease were released and reported in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Internal documents reveal the Legislature’s staff and attorney objected to the legality of the agreement based, in large part, upon a thorough analysis of alternative office spaces leasing for much less money. Pam Varni, Executive Director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, noted in an email to Hawker that the proposed Anchorage lease would “be the most expensive Anchorage lease for the State of Alaska” over a 30-year period. She further questioned the justification for the unusual space calculations.

“What is the Republican Majority doing about this appalling abuse of power and violation of the public’s trust?” asked Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “The failure of the Republican Majority to stop this crooked behavior is indicative of a larger problem. The Republican Majority should cancel the agreement and hold Rep. Hawker accountable.”

Although leaders of the House Republican Majority have remained silent, conservative talk-radio host Bernadette Wilson today called for Hawker to step down. Hawker chairs the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, is Vice Chair of the House Resources Committee and a member of the Rules committee that decides which bills make it to the House floor for a vote.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly raised questions about the cost of the Anchorage LIO lease and the process used in adopting the lease.  However, the Republican Majority continues to support the lease despite evidence that the agreement was too expensive and did not comply with procurement laws.


Murkowski Changes Position on Women's Rights...Again


September 24th, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Less than two months ago Lisa Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood

ANCHORAGE: It was less than two months ago that Sen. Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood. After her vote, Murkowski’s explanation fell completely flat across the board as APRN reported, “Murkowski’s Planned Parenthood Vote Has Left Seething, Right Unmoved.” After facing heat from both sides, today Murkowski voted along side Democrats and supported funding for Planned Parenthood.

Murkowski has been very inconsistent with her support of women's health. She infamously supported the Blunt Amendment in 2012 and after the vote she ended up apologizing.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2015 and Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which delivers healthcare services to thousands of Alaska women. The Senator was also absent on Tuesday and failed to stand up for women’s rights. According to KTUU, Murkowski’s office said that the Senator had “prior travel commitments.”

“Alaska women deserve strong, solid, and unwavering support,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “I hope that Murkowski will be effective in convincing her Republican colleagues to stop their constant attacks on women’s rights.”


Murkowski Fails to Stand for Women’s Rights


September 22, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

After massive backlash from her vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Murkowski was a no show on 20-week abortion ban bill

 ANCHORAGE: Today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski was a no show on anti-choice legislation that was fast tracked by her party. Amidst massive backlash that resulted from her recent vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Murkowski had been silent leading up to the vote today.

The anti-choice group Susan B Anthony List ran television ads pressuring Murkowski to support the 20-week ban. With her no show, the anti-choice organization succeeded in pressuring Murkowski.

“It was sad to see Alaska’s senior Senator cave to hyper rightwing interests and fail to stand up for women’s rights,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

“First it was her vote on the Blunt Amendment, then it was her vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and now it’s her failure to stand for a woman’s right to choose. Once again Murkowski has let Alaska women down.”


Another Planned Parenthood Vote and an Abortion bill wait before Murkowski


September 21, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Senate leadership is charting a path to avoid a shutdown, but it will be difficult for Sen. Murkowski to navigate.

ANCHORAGE: Earlier this summer, Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Murkowski’s explanation and follow up didn’t sit well with Alaska women.

After the vote, APRN reported that, “Murkowski’s Planned Parenthood Vote Has Left Seething, Right Unmoved.” Several Alaska women opined in their local papers about Murkowski’s vote, one in Anchorage and the other in Juneau. In late August, Planned Parenthood and their supporters marched to Sen. Murkowski’s Anchorage office and hand delivered a letters speaking out against her vote.

The fight over Planned Parenthood is not over. The women’s health organization has long been target by right-wing politicians, and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz is leading the latest charge. Sen. Cruz and members of the House are insisting on shutting down the federal government over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

According to Politico, a possible pathway is being laid by the Senate to avoid a government shutdown, however, it will still likely include a vote on Planned Parenthood funding. There will be two votes, one without Planned Parenthood funding, and one with funding.

The question for Alaska women is can Murkowski stand up to hyper rightwing, anti-women interests during this election cycle?  

The Planned Parenthood vote won’t be the only test of Murkowski’s stance on women health issues. Along with the budget vote, the Senate leadership has also fast tracked a bill that would put in place a 20-week ban on abortions, according to The Hill.

The Anti-Choice group, Susan B Anthony List, has targeted Sen. Murkowski and run television ads asking her to support the ban on abortions. Sen. Murkowski was questioned about the upcoming vote back in August. According to the Washington Examiner, a spokesperson refused to answer the question and pivoted to President Obama’s then upcoming visit to Alaska. Murkowski was also silent preceding her vote to defund Planned Parenthood vote.

“Sen. Murkowski has some soul searching to do,” said Kay Brown Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaska women shouldn’t be left in the dark, Murkowski needs to make it known where she stands on these issues.”

Yet Another Republican Government Shutdown Looms


September 15, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Despite holding a majority in both chambers of Congress, congressional Republicans look to be heading towards another federal government shutdown

ANCHORAGE: Talk of yet another government shutdown has taken hold of congressional Republicans. An inter party struggle has the potential to cost the rest of the country dearly. Senator Ted Cruz and a handful of Republican reps have decided to force agovernment shutdown over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

Politico reported that more than 7 out of 10 people prefer not to shutdown the government. This is likely due to the very sour taste the past Republican shutdown left. Republicans’ 2013 shutdown wreaked havoc on the country. According to ABC, the shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and even delayed healthcare to veterans. 

The Washington Post lists 6 issues that could cause a federal government shutdown. Though Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn't want a shutdown to happen, the GOP’s intra-party dysfunction has the make up to lead Congress towards a shutdown, according to The Hill.

Here in Alaska, the ability for Congress to pass a budget is of great importance. Earlier this summer the Department of Defense announced that Alaska would see a significant reduction in troop levels. This reduction is a direct result of sequestration, the result of another Republican induced showdown

After the troop reductions were announced, the Alaska Dispatch News reported that if a budget were to be passed, then the troop reductions could be reversed. The ADN also reported that Sen. Murkowski told a constituent that she would not let a government shutdown occur.

“Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan need to lead their Republican allies away from a shutdown, and actually work towards passing a budget,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaskans have a lot to gain from a bipartisan budget.”


Oil and Gas Production Tax Credits Need Reform


September 8, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

AK Legislative working group starts discussion

ANCHORAGE: Earlier today, members of the Alaska legislature, Commissioner of Revenue Hoffbeck, Department of Revenue Tax Division Director Ken Alper, and industry stakeholders held a roundtable discussion on Alaska’s oil and gas production tax credits.

Throughout the legislative session, lawmakers had many opportunities to have a legitimate conversation around the state’s oil production tax credits. Back in April, theADN reported that Alaska’s oil production tax revenues were at the lowest point since the beginning of the pipeline. 

The Republican Majorities have stifled much of the debate over oil and gas production tax credits. The discussion over the state’s tax credit policy nearly reached a boiling point late in the session when Pete Kelly called the discussion over credits “disingenuous.”

Members of the Senate Democrats and the House Independent-Democratic Coalition championed oil production tax credit reform as a potential major cost saver during these hard fiscal times. Members of the minority even offered “emergency” legislation to help Alaska save money and address Alaska’s flawed production tax system.

However, during the legislative session, the Majority was “uninterested” in discussing reform of the oil production tax credits.

Back in 2013, close ties between Majority members and the oil industry raised eyebrows. Sen. Micciche and Sen. Meyer are ConocoPhillips employees.

During today’s roundtable discussion, Sen. Micciche defended tax credits used in Cook Inlet; his employer ConcoPhillips is a producer in Cook Inlet.

“Holding a September round table discussion on Alaska’s oil production tax credits is a good step,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “On January 19th 2016, Alaskans will find out whether lawmakers are truly serious about oil production tax credit reform, and for our sake, I hope they are.” 

Americans for Prosperity and their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day


September 1, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

While Alaskans cheered on President Obama’s visit, Americans for Prosperity’s Alaska Chapter was shut down on multiple fronts

ANCHORAGE: It’s no secret that the Koch Brother-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been involved in Alaska politics. Their ads always have national bend and usually refer to President Obama in some negative fashion. We recently saw that tactic at the local level during the Anchorage municipal election.

One would expect that with the President himself, the bane of their existence, in Anchorage, Americans for Prosperity would be able to wield their grassroots might and have a big anti-Obama presence.

Well, after being given the same amount of organizing time as other groups, Americans for Prosperity was unable to organize enough people to rally against Obama and canceled their sponsored event.

The Alaska Dispatch News reported that AFP state director Jeremy Price blamed lack of time and road closures as the reasoning for not being able to show their grassroots organizing ability.

On top of not being able to get anti-Obama protesters to the Anchorage park strip, the Alaska Supreme Court struck down the Majority’s frivolous anti-Medicaid expansion lawsuit. Americans for Prosperity had made stopping Medicaid expansion a major focal point of theirs, even holding a “lunch-and-learn” at the state capitol.

Americans for Prosperity has had a difficult time actually organizing people in Alaska. Earlier this summer, Reuters reported on their difficulties in an article entitled, “Koch Brothers' political group struggles in Alaska.”

The cancelation of their Anchorage rally highlights their inability to show actual grassroots organizing ability. However, they still run ads in an attempt to influence Alaskans, most recently in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reportedon the ads, and one editor noticed the lack of support for the outside ads.

“The Alaska chapter of Americans for Prosperity has struggled to have a visible, real Alaskan presence,” said Mike Wenstrup chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Yesterday was a good day for Alaskans and a bad day for the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.”


Politico Reports Ex Governor Parnell paid $20K by U.S. House Republicans


August 29, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Sean Parnell was paid $10,000 per month to “improve coordination, collaboration, and communication between Republican state elected officials and House Republicans.”

ANCHORAGE: On the day that a judge appointed by former Governor Sean Parnell turned back a wasteful GOP lawsuit aimed at stopping Medicaid expansion, a report in Politico revealed that the US House Republicans spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in "consulting fees" to Parnell.

House Republicans sought Parnell’s assistance in stopping the implementation of the Affordable Care Act leading up to the King v. Burwell case. Along with today’s Medicaid decision, King v. Burwell was also decided against Parnell’s political stance.

According to the Politico story, Parnell was hired to call governors and hold meetings before the King v. Burwell case. These meetings and phone calls cost taxpayers more than $26,000 dollars ($20,000 consulting fee and $6,000 for travel).

“It appears that former governor Parnell has had success in finding new ways to waste taxpayer money,” said Mike Wenstrup chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.

Judge Denies GOP Attempt to Stop Medicaid Expansion in Alaska


August 29, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

A request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Alaska Legislature’s Majority caucus was denied.

ANCHORAGE: Today, Judge Frank Pfiffner ruled in favor of Medicaid expansion and rejected the GOP Majority caucus' attempt to get a TRO against Governor Bill Walker.

The Majority’s DC lawyers were unable to prove that they were likely to win, or that Alaska was irreparably harmed.

After hearing about the legality of Medicaid expansion from their own lawyersthe governor’s lawyers, and recently the Division of Legal and Research Services, the GOP Majority still decided to spend up to $400,000 on a DC law firm to file suit against the Governor.

While the TRO was declined, the Majority could possibly appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

However, with their firm’s hefty price tag, Judge Pfiffner’s decision, and the rapidly approaching Sept 1 rollout date, a frivolous appeal would be devastating for Alaskans.

“It should have never gotten to this point, it’s been clear all along that Medicaid expansion is good for Alaskans and our economy,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Republican legislators chose to place partisan politics before the wellbeing of Alaskans. Republicans should not waste the Supreme Court’s time with a frivolous appeal.”


Republican Lawmakers to File Frivolous $450K Lawsuit to Stop Expansion


August 18, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

With the rollout of Medicaid expansion less than a month away, Republican lawmakers place partisan politics before the well being of Alaskans

ANCHORAGE: Republican lawmakers on the Legislative Council announced their intent to sue the Governor over the expansion of Medicaid. The Council also decided to spend up to $450,000 dollars on legal contracts. In 2013, a judge ruled that Kentucky’s Governor’s expansion of Medicaid was legal.

Republican leadership in Alaska has long sought to stop Medicaid expansion, despite overwhelming public support and possible bipartisan support in the legislature. The Alaska Dispatch reported both the Alaska Department of Law and the Legislature’s attorney agreed that Republican lawmakers’ earlier attempts to block expansion were “likely unconstitutional.”

Republican leadership has yet to allow a floor vote on a stand-alone Medicaid expansion bill.

Alaska’s economy will be strengthened by Medicaid expansion. A recent economic study said that, “it is clear that Medicaid expansion is a concrete means for mitigating Alaska’s economic trauma and setting the stage for Alaska’s economic recovery.”

Likewise, an April study by The Robert Wood Johnson foundation found that Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia will see a combined total of $1.8 billion in savings (and revenues) by the end of 2015.

“These Republican lawmakers have once again placed partisan ideology before the wellbeing of Alaskans and our economy,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Setting aside $450,000 to file a frivolous lawsuit is wasteful and a disservice to Alaskans.” 

“Think Tank” Caught Lying to Alaskans about Medicaid Expansion


August 17, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Alaska Policy Forum placed a game show themed radio ad that regurgitates Koch Brothers’ anti Medicaid expansion talking points

ANCHORAGE: Alaska Policy Forum, a think tank with strong ties to the Koch Brothersreleased a radio ad entitled, “Medicaid and WalkerCare in Alaska.”

The game show themed ad begins with saying that a “healthcare giveaway sweepstakes,” is being held in Alaska. The ad goes on to say:

But some Alaskans are not eligible to win [deflated audience sigh]. Like people with children [buzzer], military families and veterans [buzzer], married or single adults earning decent wages [buzzer], but childless, low income, able-bodied adults aged 19-64 [ding, ding], and released felons [ding, ding] you can win Governor Walker’s healthcare giveaway sweepstakes, unlimited no cost healthcare [crowd applause]. Congratulations.

First off, adults with children making at or below the federal poverty line are already covered under Medicaid, as that was the original basis of Medicaid. Secondly, many senior citizens are dual eligible for Medicare & Medicaid and the AARP supports expansion. Thirdly, under the ACA, people who make “decent wages” (above 138% of the federal poverty line) are eligible for subsidized healthcare.

As for veterans, Medicaid expansion has been seen as a vital source of healthcare for uninsured veterans. The Urban Institute cites a 2010 study, which found that there were nearly 1.3 million uninsured veterans nationwide. Alaska has the highest state per-capita veteran population in the country.

The Pew Charitable Trust notes that many people assume, not unlike the Alaska Policy Forum’s radio ad, that our nation’s 12.5 million vets receive VA benefits. However, according to PEW, only 2/3 of that population is eligible and only 1/3 are actually enrolled. The article continues to note that if Medicaid were to have been expanded nationally, over 150,000 veterans’ family members would be eligible for Medicaid.

The PEW article contains an info graphic [sourced from the Urban Institute] that shows in 2013, Alaska had 2,400 uninsured Veterans. These Veterans are now covered under Medicaid expansion.

“It’s clear that the people at Alaska Policy Forum do not have the best interest of Alaskans at heart,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “This group has resorted to lies in an attempt to prevent nearly 40,000 Alaskans and thousands of Alaska veterans from obtaining healthcare.”

Alaska GOP Comes Out Hard Against Alaska Native Land into Trust


August 11, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Many Alaska Native leaders and advocates have been vocal about their support for the Governor’s Administration to drop the state’s appeal of Akiachak Native Community v. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior 

ANCHORAGE: Earlier this week, the Alaska GOP published a commentary on their website that came out swinging against Alaska Native land into trust. The author of the piece is a former speechwriter for Gov. Parnell, who spearheaded the appeal to stop Alaska Natives from placing their land into trust.

Last year, the Department of the Interior, after a successful lawsuitbrought forward by the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of the Akiachak Native Community and other plaintiffs, ruled that Alaska tribes could petition the Federal Government to place their lands into trust.

According to an op-ed by Jenny Bell-Jones, an assistant professor in UAF’s department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, “the Akiachak decision removes discriminatory language from the Code of Federal Regulations and places Alaska tribes on an equal footing with their counterparts in the Lower 48.”

The professor continues to note that, “an appeal against this decision is essentially a request to allow discrimination to continue.”

Likewise, in an op-ed published by the President/CEO of First Alaskans Institute and a former U.S. attorney explain how the full power of the Violence Against Women Act cannot be fully utilized by Alaska tribes. The solution being to, “abandon the prior administration’s costly legal appeal of the U.S. Department of Interior’s regulation on how Alaska’s tribes can have land taken into trust.”

The AK GOP opponents of land into trust argue that it would equate to a federal land grab and, “create a new era of international relations across an unknown number of new jurisdictions exempt from state governance.”

However, Richard Peterson, President of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, pushes back on this concept. In a recent op-ed, he wrote, “It is now the State of Alaska’s turn to realize there is no Boogie Man in tribal trust land. It’s time to let go of this misplaced, uninformed, and oppositional fear.”

“It’s time to resolve this legal dispute so that Alaska Natives can exercise their right to request that their lands be placed into trust,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Governor Walker should drop this suit and not appeal the U.S. District Court decision."


Alaska's Congressional Delegation “seeks answers” that are well known

Despite Military leaders repeatedly saying sequestration is at the heart of Alaska’s recent military reductions, Alaska’s delegation superfluously “seeks answers”

ANCHORAGE: While Alaska’s delegation “seeks answers” to the troop reductions, as early as 2014, the Army Chief of Staff warned about troop reductions due to sequestration. Murkowski and Young both voted for sequestration.

Here are the answers that Alaska’s delegation refuses to hear:

“The abruptness and inflexibility of sequestration will force us to mortgage the condition of our equipment and could erode our readiness to dangerous levels. The indiscriminate nature of sequestration is creating its very own national security problem,” – Stripes.com, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, 9/18/13

“ ‘As they see we're not going to invest in them, [our soldiers] begin to lose faith,’ said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno. ‘Sometimes we take for granted the level of ability of our people, and the level of investment we've made in their training, which is central to everything we do. With sequestration, we are going to have to reduce that for sure.’ " – MilitaryTimes.com, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, 1/28/15

“Sequestration will erode the trust that our young men and women in uniform, civil servants and families have in their leadership,” said Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commandant of the Marines. “And the cost of losing that trust is incalculable.” – LATimes, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr, 1/29/15

“Devastating reductions to both civilian personnel and military end strength would impact every Army medicine program," – MilitaryTimes.com, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, 4/15/15

“Swan noted things ‘could get even worse’ if budget sequestration continues, and the Army drops to 420,000 soldiers by 2020.” – ADN, Lt. Gen (Ret.) Guy C. Swan III, vice president at the U.S. Association of the Army, 7/8/15

“Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it.” Veterans of Foreign Wars, John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, 7/10/15

Murkowski Abandons Alaska Women


August 3, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Murkowski Abandons Alaska Women

ANCHORAGE: After being quiet leading up to today’s vote on Planned Parenthood funding, Senator Lisa Murkowski voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Alaska’s junior Senator Dan Sullivan also voted to strip the organization’s funding.

In 2012 Murkowski voted for the Blunt amendment. The Blunt amendment restricted access to birth control under the guise of religious freedom. After Murkowski’s vote, the backlash from Alaska women was so severe, that she eventually told the ADN that she regretted her vote.

“It’s a sad day. Senator Murkowski has proven that she puts politics ahead of principle,” said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “We might not always agree, but like many Alaska women I wanted to believe that Senator Murkowski would stand by her apology and commitment to women after her devastating mistake on the Blunt amendment. Unfortunately, today we were all let down.”

Sen. Murkowski needs to do the right thing and stand with Alaska women


After a series of highly misleading and edited videos were released from an extreme right-wing organization, Senate Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell is set to allow a vote on Planned Parenthood funding

ANCHORAGE: The Hill reports that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has filed cloture for a vote on Planned Parenthood funding for Monday.

Earlier this week, State Senator Mike Dunleavy, who is a rumored primary challenger to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, held an anti women’s health rally. Dunleavy announced at the rally that Sen. Dan Sullivan supported defunding Planned Parenthood.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Lisa Murkowski hasn’t had time to think about the Planned Parenthood bill.

In 2013 alone, Planned Parenthood performed over 300,000 Pap tests, 500,000 breast exams, and conducted 4.5 million STI tests. Defunding Planned Parenthood would be detrimental for Alaskans.

The last major bill on women’s health, Murkowski sided with extreme partisan interests and voted for the Blunt amendment. The Blunt amendment restricted access to birth control under the guise of religious freedom. After Murkowski’s vote, the backlash from Alaska women was so severe, that she eventually told the ADN that she regretted her vote.

Murkowski has moved to rebuild trust among Alaska women. Monday’s Planned Parenthood vote will be the first major test of her commitment to women’s health since the Blunt amendment.

“A lot of Alaska women will be watching Murkowski’s vote on Monday,” said Kay Brown, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Her vote will be a litmus test for the type of campaign Murkowski will run in 2016. Will she stand up for women and do the right thing, or vote to appease a Republican base that abandoned her in 2010?”

Once again, military leaders say sequestration is the cause of troop reductions


July 23, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Once again, military leaders say sequestration is the cause of troop reductions

Policy once championed by Senator Lisa Murkowski is the cause of troop reductions in Alaska

ANCHORAGE: KTUU reports that Governor Walker traveled to D.C. in an attempt to reverse the Army’s decision to remove over 2,500 troops from Alaska. According to the report, military leaders told the governor that they preferred not to make the cuts, but sequestration has forced them to do so.

Sequestration was born out of the Tea Party’s debt ceiling antics. According to Alaska Commons, upon sequestration’s passage, Sen. Lisa Murkowski celebrated the policy and said, “The deal has real teeth — serious reforms, significant spending cuts, future spending caps and triggers requiring future action.”

Along with current military leaders, veteran groups have also spoken out against sequestration. The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization spoke out against sequestration and citied it as the cause of this month’s troop reductions.

In a press release the VFW stated, “Sequestration is the most significant military readiness and national security threat of the 21st century, and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it.”

As early as 2014, the Army Chief of Staff warned about troop reductions due to sequestration. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that Murkowski “challenged” the idea that sequestration’s spending cuts are behind the troop reductions.

There does appear to be one way to stop sequestration cuts. If Congress is able to pass a budget with the President’s signature by October, then the troop reductions may be lifted. However, this appears unlikely, as Senate Democrats and the President have indicated that they will not pass a budget that contains the Republicans’ sequestration cuts.

Republicans appear to be unwilling to relent on sequestration, and according to Time Magazine, their inability to compromise has the country headed towards yet another shutdown.

Alaska has already been hit hard by sequestration once this year. In June, APRN reportedthat Murkowski voted “Nay” on funding for an icebreaker, because of sequestration’s spending limits.


Medicaid Expansion in Alaska!


July 16, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Medicaid Expansion in Alaska!

Governor Walker and Lt. Gov. Mallot put Alaska first and expand Medicaid

ANCHORAGE: Medicaid Expansion is now a reality in Alaska, thanks to a long-fought effort by Democratic legislators, Governor Walker, the business community, faith based organizations, health care providers, and Alaskans from across the state.

Throughout this year, Republican legislative leadership, despite public opinionshowing massive support for the policy, halted Medicaid expansion on multiple occasions. Medicaid expansion also had support within the legislative body, perhaps even enough to have passed an up or down vote, as Rep. Lora Reinbold’santi-Medicaid Expansion email indicated.

Republican legislators insisted on tying the hands of the governor by including language in the budget that barred the governor from accepting Medicaid expansion funds. However, the ADN reported, both the executive and legislative branches’ attorneys said that language blocking Medicaid expansion in the budget was unconstitutional.

Multiple economic reports show that expansion will help stimulate the Alaskan economy, and with the recent sequestration troop reductions, the economic benefits of Medicaid expansion are needed now more than ever.

Today’s decision will allow 40,000 Alaskans access to affordable healthcare. Along with the benefits of having more Alaskans insured, the economy will see a large benefit as well. The policy will create some 4,000 new jobs, which will infuse the Alaskan economy with over $1 billion in new wages. That money will multiply throughout the local economy.

“Alaskans are going to be healthier and our economy is going to be stronger because of today's announcement," said Mike Wenstrup chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. "Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do."

Alaska Safe Children’s Act Signed into Law Without Controversial Riders


July 10, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Alaska Safe Children’s Act Signed into Law Without Controversial Riders

Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s Senate Bill 89, which he attempted to combine with HB44, is on the horizon and would be a massive step back for Alaskans

ANCHORAGE: Many legislators worked hard for multiple years to see Erin’s Law become a reality in Alaska. Yesterday’s bill signing is a great reason to celebrate. Alaska Safe Children’s Act, commonly known as Erin’s Law, gives children and young adults the age appropriate tools they need to recognize sexual abuse.

HB 44’s pathway to becoming law was full of twists and turns. Chairman of the Senate Education committee, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, controversially attached his SB 89 to Erin’s Law. There was a massive public outcry against this move and eventually a clean version was passed through Senate Finance.

However, SB 89 still lives on. The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Dunleavy, could also be in acontested primary with US Sen. Lisa Murkowski during next session.

Alaska Commons reported that after Erin’s Law passed the Senate, SB 89 got a boost towards next session as Senate President Kevin Meyer, along with fellow Republican Senators Bill Stoltze, Cathy Giessel, John Coghill, Pete Kelly, Anna MacKinnon all co-sponsored SB 89. 

According to APRN, SB 89 stands to lose the State of Alaska $97 million dollars. SB 89 directly targets Planned Parenthood and seeks to ban them from educating at public schools. This objective of SB 89 runs directly against the letter and spirit of Erin’s Law.

“It was a major accomplishment to get Erin’s Law passed through this legislature,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “It’s important to keep Erin’s Law in place, and for the long term safety of Alaskan children, SB 89 cannot be passed.”

Troop reductions hinge on Congress’ ability to compromise


July 10, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Troop reductions hinge on Congress’ ability to compromise

Reports say that the Army could possibly reverse its decision to remove troops from Alaska, if Congress passes a budget.

ANCHORAGE: The Alaska Dispatch reports that there is a chance, albeit a long shot, that the Army could reverse its decision to remove 2,600 JBER troops. But, there’s a catch. A reversal likely depends of Congress’ ability to pass a binding budget by September. 

Earlier this year the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate were able to pass a budget, something Congress hadn’t done since 2010. However, there’s a lot of work to be done. According to the New York Times, the budget isn’t likely to be passed as is, because of its adherence to the sequestration caps.

While The Times reports Republican dysfunction could impose yet another government shutdown as early as September, Alaska’s delegation must stand above the fray and stand for Alaskan priorities. 

Sequestration has taken its toll on Alaskans. On top of the troop reductions, Sen. Lisa Murkowski felt forced to vote down an appropriations amendment that would have funded an Arctic icebreaker. APRN reported that Murkowski cited sequestration caps as the primary reason for her no vote.

“We’ve been given a window of opportunity to fix this,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “I hope our congressional delegation can convince the far right of Congress to repeal sequestration and enact a budget that’s palatable to both sides.”

Sequestration cuts cause troop drawdowns in Alaska


July 8, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Sequestration cuts cause troop drawdowns in Alaska

Congress’ sequestration cuts hit Alaska hard, especially at Anchorage’s JBER.

ANCHORAGE: It was announced that Anchorage stands to see a reduction of 2,600 troops and Fairbanks will see 75 troops withdrawn. Department of Defense sequestration cuts are because of a 2011 budget deal from Congress. Military leaders have warned Congress about the overall effects of sequestration on the military. 

In particular, the Department of Defense cuts have caused a rift between Congressional Republicans. In March The Washington Times reported, “Military service chiefs warned Tuesday that American lives will be at greater risk if lawmakers refuse to lift the sequestration cuts set to take full effect in fiscal 2016…”

Murkowski supported enacting the sequestration cuts, but in 2013,  APRN reported, Murkowski said the sequestration cuts were a problem: “I’m so concerned that in an effort to chase the dollars, in an effort to drive down the costs we’re putting our country, we are putting our national defense in jeopardy because decisions are being driven by sequestration and we’re not keeping our eye on the bigger picture.”

However, today Lisa Murkowski changed her view and “challenged” the fact that these cuts are due to sequestration, despite military personnel saying otherwise. Along with challenging military personnel, Murkowski tried to shift blame onto the White House, even though the President called for a lift of the sequestration cuts back in January. 

“Murkowski claims that these troop reductions are the fault of President Obama and military leaders, but that’s clearly not the case,” Said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Murkowski supported enacting the sequestration cuts, but she later acknowledged in 2013 that the sequestration cuts were putting our national defense in jeopardy.  Contrary to what Murkowski claims now, the Republicans controlling Congress did not fix the problem with sequestration. If they had, these troop reductions would not be happening.”