Dressing for the budget Edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy administration

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Dressing for the budget


Rumors are swirling this morning about a potential organization in the House. It looks like after holding out for a month because he knew that a 21-member Republican majority in the House would be a train wreck, Rep. Gary Knopp (R) may have caved to pressure from his own District 30 Republicans who took a vote 10-9 with one abstention asking him to immediately caucus with the Republicans or resign. Tuckerman Babcock's wife was rumored to be holding Sen. Peter Micchiche's proxy vote according to The Alaska Landmine. The Babcockian purity tests continue unabated. But we won't know for sure what happens until the vote on the House floor for Speaker which will presumably come later this morning. Hopefully Rep. Knopp will rediscover his spine.


As Rep. Lance Pruitt [R] put it gleefully, Alaskans are "going to have a heart attack on February 13." That's budget day, and from what we can tell it's going to be brutal. The University of Alaska is in panic mode because years of Republicans bashing higher education means that now that the far-right is in the governor's mansion, the suffocation of what's left of the university can begin. Signs also point to privatizing prisons, and rolling back Medicaid expansion which would take health care away from 44,000 needy Alaskans. And Mike "Friend to Education" Dunleavy gave some sneak peek interviews to the media saying that K-12 education won't be spared either.  But don't worry kids, we've been told by the governor that he's not "cutting" anything... you  see,  “What we’re doing with this administration is, we are not cutting,” Dunleavy told KTVA. “We are building a budget from the bottom up, from zero up. We’re going to build that up to where we reach our revenues.” Ohhhh, so he's just taking all the money and giving back LESS. Got it. And yes, this was said with a straight face.


Money is scarce, but only sometimes, it seems. Not only did the husband of the new Commissioner of Administration land a fancy new $139,000 job as the "Assistant Commissioner of Education" which never existed before, now there's a newly-created job called "Executive Assistant to the First Lady." Looks like the administration found some more money in their other pants! Wonder which kids and sick people are going to have to do without to accommodate these new positions.


One of the solutions we can expect to come down the pike as the budget gets examined is the privatization of public institutions. Babcock/Dunleavy is a big fan – school vouchers, private prisons, and they've already privatized the state-run mental hospital, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Granted, API has been criticized lately for some pretty serious problems. But suddenly, Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum (remember the failed senate candidate who worked for a truck driving school, and said he's "not a health care policy guy") has decided he IS a "health care policy guy" after all, and has declared a state of emergency, and awarded a no-bid contract to privatize API. The company, Wellpath, is a newly-named hybrid of two other scandal-plagued companies, and has ties to… wait for it… you know it's coming... brand-new Outside hatchet-for-hire budget director Donna Arduin! Oh, and they must have checked the couch cushions because they found another million dollars a month to put towards paying Wellpath to evaluate their options.


Speaking of Donna Arduin, she got a roasting over the coals in an informational meeting in the House. They may not be organized yet, but boy they can still pack a wallop when they want to. Republicans and Democrats alike questioned her supplemental budget which proposed cutting $20 million out of THIS year's education budget. Yes, the one that the last legislature voted on and promised to school districts, and the one those school districts are spending NOW. After several House members asked incredulously if she understood the ramifications of these cuts, she said to stop asking her if she understood, because it was "pejorative." Then she said it's not her job to think about the ramifications of what she proposes. So, we can assume she does indeed understand, she just doesn't actually care. Got it.


Actual photo of Ben Carpenter crowning himself Emperor of France Chair

Someone needs to have a little sit-down with freshman Rep. Ben Carpenter, who pulled a "Napoleon crowning himself" moment in a hearing on Friday. The unflappable Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anch) was the recipient of Carpenter's self-important ire. Claman was questioning Nancy Dahlstrom, Commissioner of Corrections, and Carpenter, who didn't like his questions, kept saying things like, "I think I am the Chair and YOU ARE DONE!" He really must have liked saying, "You are done!" and "I'm the Chair!" because he said it a few more times. But, spoiler alert: He's not the Chair because they don't have committees yet. You can read the whole back and forth HERE, but it ended with Rep. Tammie Wilson having to pause the meeting and explain to Carpenter how this works. Claman was then allowed to finish his question without someone shouting at him, and the question was answered. If Rep. Carpenter gets power-drunk during an unofficial committee meeting in which he is not actually the Chair, one can only imagine what a Republican-controlled House would be like. Hang in there Gary Knopp!


If you were going to appoint someone to the commission that adjudicates complaints against judges, who might you seek for that job? If you answered a 23-year old who couldn't even hold a Ketchikan School Board seat after facing a recall amid scandal, who then ran and lost a race for State House, you might be Governor Michael J. Dunleavy. Or Tuckerman Babcock. Or both. Yes, the latest in the incredibly long and controversial string of questionable hires by the administration is none other than Trevor Shaw. You can read more details HERE.

But wait, you don't even have to be a Republican who lost an election to get a job for Senate Finance. They've just hired Cale Green, former KTVA cameraman and son of Rick Green, aka Rick Rydell, the right-wing talk radio host who is now working as an "adviser" in the Department of Fish and Game. His son's newly made up job will be "messaging" for the Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee about the soon-to-be budget.


Commissioner in the headlights

During a finance committee meeting last week, there was a very interesting exchange between Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D) and Education Commissioner, Dr. Michael Johnson. Wielechowski, concerned about the fate of public education (mainly because when Gov. Dunleavy was in the Senate, one of his failed bills involved siphoning state money from public education for use by religious and private schools) asked the following: "Do you believe the constitution should be changed to allow public funds for private or religious schools?"

The answer: "I don't think the constitution should be changed without the vote of the people."

(That wasn't the question)


Babcock/Dunleavy are also trying to get rid of the thorn in their side who has the temerity to do his actual job of being a watchdog on the oil and gas industry as the Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). The complication comes because unlike others who serve "at the pleasure of the governor" Hollis French was confirmed by the legislature and can only be fired for cause. So, they're busy ginning up causes as fast as they can, but none of them had any teeth in the weekend-long hearing because "being a former Democratic legislator who drove Republicans crazy by holding them accountable for things" isn't a cause they can use out loud. Former Rep. Les Gara lays out the whole case in a Facebook post starting off with: "Hollis' job was never in danger until he asked his co-Commissioners to join him in looking into whether this Commission had the power to act on Hilcorp's month-long, 2017 gas leak in Cook Inlet…"It's definitely worth a read HERE.


That's it for now. Hang in there and ready your metaphorical torches and pitchforks, and your megaphones, and dialing fingers, and boots on the ground, and pens, and laptops and whatever else you've got. Your state is going to need you, and it's not ok to sit on the sidelines.

The “Avoid Being Obnoxious” edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy administration

The “Avoid Being Obnoxious” edition


Who would ever think that the snooze-worthy “Department of Administration” would be the source of so much drama. And yet, here we are. Commissioner of Administration 2.0, Kelly Tshibaka (who is actually qualified to hold a commissioner job, and didn’t lie on her resume) is sadly not as uncontroversial as we had hoped. In addition to her work qualifications, she is also co-founder and co-pastor of a Pentecostal Foursquare church in the Washington D.C. area. To be crystal-clear --> Religiosity is not in itself an issue here. We are, and should be, an open-minded and progressive bunch. But the Foursquare church had this alarming observation of Ms. Tshibaka, talking about her work environment: “Her leading spiritual duty comes in the marketplace. Though emphasizing she avoids being obnoxious, she is still vocal about her Christian identity while at work. That includes leading discipleship groups at work, reading the Bible, and discipling people.” Considering that “obnoxious” is in the eye of the beholder, and this description seems to indicate something pretty close to proselytizing, this sets those red flags waving. In addition, she wrote a column in 2002 saying that “homosexuals can come out of homosexuality because their preference is not biologically mandated. Unlike race or gender, homosexuality is a choice.” We can hope that her thinking has evolved since then, and that her work behavior doesn’t cross a line, but if our hopes don't happen, it could be really interesting working in the Department of Administration if you are non-heterosexual and/or a non-Pentecostal Christian. We’ll refrain from judgment, but keep our eyes open.


It also appears she comes as part of a package. Her husband, and co-pastor Niki Tshibaka has gotten a brand-new position in the administration, created just for him. He’ll be the new Assistant Commissioner of Education with a salary of $139,000. That makes their combined household income from the state of Alaska a cool $280,000 a year – more than a million dollars by the end of Dunleavy’s term. What will he be doing in this newly-created position? “Implementing health, safety and well-being policies and practices statewide.” We are left to fill in the blanks on this vague and sweeping job description. Considering the governor’s zeal for restricting sex-education (which he tried to tie to health issues) while he was a senator, and attempting to put forward bills to alter the constitution so the state could skim off public education funding and divert it to religious schools, and allow home school dollars provided by the state to purchase religious materials, we can only imagine what may lie ahead.


It’s fun to note that in the corners of the internet, there’s a little right-wing sock puppet Fakebooker who keeps saying how great it would be if Andi Story (D-Juneau) would just jump ship and caucus with Republicans in exchange for a co-chair of Finance position, giving R's a majority in the House. Hey, if fake Russian political trolling worked, why not try it locally?  Back in the real world, the House floor session was canceled today and if there’s no organization by tomorrow we will have broken the record for the longest time with no House in session, as we continue to wait for a compromise to be struck. Meanwhile, David Eastman continues to prove why no one wants to work with him by writing blustery opinions on his own blog about how Republicans are the best and Alaska has spoken, and making random doomed nominations of Dave Talerico from the floor.


Even though Tuckerman Babcock has a new job as governor chief of staff, he’s having a rough time changing gears and leaving his last position behind. Apparently, he’s still trying to run the GOP from the marble halls of the Capitol, and he's as divisive as he was then. Once again, his sense of Republican purity was offended – this time when Gary Knopp refused to caucus with Republicans to give them a razor-thin majority in the House, and effectively allowing any one member to quash a vote. (We’re looking at you David Eastman). Knopp saw the writing on THAT wall, and is holding out for a bipartisan coalition with a strong center. The cardinal sin of bipartisanship on the part of Knopp reportedly enraged Babcock to the point that he demanded that Knopp be censured by the party. When that didn’t happen, he stomped away, broke his crayons, and stopped his monthly contribution to the Republican Party. It's hard to imagine why this administration is off to such an ignominious start.


It’s like a movie plot line that’s so transparent you keep calling things before they happen. Remember a couple editions ago when we were talking about all the signs that there may be a push to privatize Alaska’s prison system? Well… guess who has ties to the private prison industry? Yep, you guessed it! Outside hatchet-for-hire Budget Director Donna Arduin. A group of Democratic legislators have written a letterasking for more specifics on her current ties. And good on Dermot Cole for digging up this little nugget to remind us all why that would be an utter disaster.  


There are only eight days left until the actual budget gets dropped. And Arduin will have one more thing on her “to cut” list now after the new position created for Niki Tshibaka. His six-figure salary is going to have to be cut from somewhere. Hooray for eliminating government waste and overpaid bureaucrats!


Don't forget that tonight at 5pm Alaska time is the State of the Union address. Not sure how long that will last, but do remember to tune in afterward to hear the Democratic rebuttal from rising star Stacey Abrams. While voter suppression tainted the results of elections across the country, including in Georgia, Abrams’ campaign charted a path forward for our country and the Democratic Party. She focused on good, affordable education for all, expanding Medicaid and access to health care, growing the economy and supporting entrepreneurship – issues the majority of Americans agree with. She'll be a breath of fresh air after the hot air she follows.


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The Commies did it edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy administration


The Commies did it edition






Well, the latest float in the parade of caustic, hyper-partisan, and ill-advised appointments by Governor Babcock has already come and gone. Tammy Randolph, we hardly knew ye. Yes, she has removed her name from consideration to be appointed to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. She said she was shocked and surprised that anyone would see her “private” (not private) Twitter account. We need no longer worry that a person who tweets that Michelle Obama is a man, Native elder Nathan Phillips is a crisis actor paid by George Soros to harass the Covington Catholic High School boys, who calls a congresswoman a terrorist because she wears a head scarf, and says of the controversial appointment of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, “If there is no sperm, you must confirm” will end up in a position of influence at an institution of higher learning. Oh, and she’s also a Q-Anon/Pizzagate conspiracy theorist. You know, those folks who scour the internet for secret messages from “Q” who they are pretty sure is a high-ranking government official who has teamed up with Donald Trump to save us all from celebrity pedophiles and the “deep state.” #BulletDodged




Thought you heard the last from Art Chance, the infamous vitriolic former employee of the Dept. of Administration who got the boot for his racist and misogynistic social media venom? Well, he will not go gently into that good night. Chance has resurfaced, ranting about the Dunleavy administration and saying he didn’t “turn down” the position like they said he did, but that they were just “chicken****” and got rid of him to avoid any more blowback. Now he’s blaming the communists for Randolph stepping away from the Board of Regents. No, really.



Hoo boy. The administration said that Chance not being employed by the state was “for the best.” If there had been any lingering doubt about that, Mr. Chance has removed it.


(whispering) Don’t tell “the communists” but it was really us who first posted all the wackadoo images from Tammy Randolph’s Twitter account. You can jump in and follow along with @alaskademocrats on Twitter and HERE on Facebook.





There’s a narrative that laments that the only thing that could unite the warring tribes of Earth is if we were invaded by aliens. Well, close enough. Outside-budget-hacker Donna Arduin arrived in her little silver space ship from the Lower 48 and has proceeded already to unite the divided factions in the Alaska legislature. It’s an inconvenient way to have a kumbaya moment, but we have it nonetheless. A supplemental budget was just put forth in advance of the regular budget which is due to crash to the earth like a ton of bricks on February 13. This supplemental budget adds a little bit of money for earthquake related expenses, but it also CUTS money already promised by the previous legislature. $20 million just got ripped away from schools across the state with literally no notice to school districts at all. Hey kids, think of it as a surprise – like a jack-in-the-box, only scary, and coming to cut your budget.





A Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article quotes Sens. Kawasaki (D), Bishop (R), and Reps. Hopkins (D) and LeBon (R) as pretty much hating it. That’s right, Democrats and Republicans unite in their consternation. Group hug, you guys!


Some school districts, like the Kenai Peninsula Borough have already been spending this money since August on rehired teachers.  Our little green friend from the Lower 48 tut-tuts and says that the school districts should have known better than to spend this money given to them by the previous legislature because that was then, and this is now, and too bad, so sad.



Every washed-up, ousted, morally ambiguous and unelectable Republican seems to have been scooped up, brushed off, and ushered into the new administration except one - the self-titled “Mayor Dan.” Well, the long wait is over. The other Dan Sullivan is now earning a cool $103,000 a year on the Regulatory Commission of Alaska which certifies pipelines and public utilities and such. We’re assuming that the Regulatory Commission is less… exciting than his last job, so maybe “Mayor Dan” can keep himself out of trouble this time.



Bless their hearts. The Senate Majority does an online survey every year to take the pulse of the state and see where everyone stands on the issues of the day. And of course, once you put that survey out there, accountability compels you to share the results. Those results, year after year, never quite say what the Senate Majority wants them to say. For instance, 63% of Alaskans think that public safety response is satisfactory or better than expected. 59% think state spending is about right, or TOO LOW. More than half think K-12 education funding is straight up too low. 61% oppose the Pebble mine. Keep those numbers in your back pocket when the budget comes out with cuts to education, and a budget that is hacked to pulp. And of course, you’ll be seeing a giant push to get Pebble mine built at the headwaters of Bristol Bay and the heart of the Alaska salmon industry. Dunleavy only wants a government “by the people” (as he says ad nauseum) when it fits his own agenda. You can see the results of the full survey HERE, including a nifty little word cloud at the end.





Sen. Bill Wielechowski deserves a round of applause for earning the "Champions of Public Safety Award" from the Public Safety Employees Association.  And if your irony-meter hasn’t broken from overuse, please note that on the same day the governor who just stood before us all and said that public safety is his number one priority just cut $3 million for Village Public Safety Officers in that supplemental budget mentioned above.




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You have two weeks to wrap yourself in bubble wrap and prepare for the budget reveal. We’ll be back.

The Catastrophic Failure Edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy Administration


The Catastrophic Failure Edition




Oh, boy… Governor Babcock really messed THIS one up! In a whirlwind new cycle, Jonathan Quick went from self-described “serial entrepreneur” and fresh new appointee to head the Department of Administration, to disgraced fibber who has now resigned and slunk away after getting caught red-handed with a pair of whoppers. The Christian colleges he attended apparently didn’t succeed in conveying the “thou shalt not lie” portion of the program to Mr. Quick, who said he had a master’s degree that he doesn’t have, and co-owned a yogurt shop business which he didn’t. A letter to the Senate from the actual owners of the yogurt shop set the record straight on Quick who did not sell his interest in the business (which he told Senators), but who was actually unceremoniously fired after failing to do a good job. Sen. Wielechowski (D-Anchorage who sits on the Senate Finance committee) seems to be the only one to have actually checked the references on the man slated to fill a top slot in the Dunleavy administration. One phone call, people. One phone call… Quick said he resigned so he wouldn’t be a “distraction.” That’s the “wanting to spend time with family” excuse, but when you have already been found out. And he certainly wasn’t the only distraction yesterday…



The hits keep coming in the Department of Administration. If you thought the most horrifying thing you’d hear was that a Commissioner fabricated his resume and lied to Senators, have a seat. I’ve mentioned in a previous TALL TALES that another appointee of that department (not requiring confirmation in the legislature) was a certain Art Chance. Chance is the most bilious, misogynistic, racist, dyspeptic, aggressive, foul, intolerable, contemptible, obnoxious scoundrel you are likely to come across in Alaska Facebook circles. So, the Dunleavy administration offered him a position in labor relations… natch. Well, once civilized people got wind of Chance’s Facebook comments, the jig was up and despite boasting on Facebook that he’d accepted the job and therefore was “going dark” he now, suddenly, has “declined the position.” We can only hope he stays “dark” but don’t hold your breath. If you’re feeling strong of stomach today, you can get a good idea of the bile spewed by Chance on Facebook at this link. It’s not nearly comprehensive, but you’ll get the idea. It's still not clear why the administration would hire Chance to begin with. It's not like he's a stealth-jerk; he's loud and proud with his venom, and there's no convincing anyone that Dunleavy and especially Tuckerman Babcock didn't know exactly who they were hiring. They either thought no one would be paying attention, or they just didn't care. Either way, good riddance!



The Outside hatchet-woman-cum-Budget Director Donna Arduin is prepping the Senate Finance Committee for the carnage to come on February 13 when she releases Dunleavy’s budget. Don’t expect good things. Arduin seems to lack a basic understanding of how Alaska budget stuff works (or doesn't care), but wants us to know that we’ll all be able to understand the budget, and “money is all green,” and let’s just dump it all into one big pile to make it “simple.” Finance Committee Co-chair Bert Stedman was not amused, and pulled the "co-equal branches of government" card. Stedman’s particular legislative superpower is bean counting, and he firmly explained to Ms. Arduin that his committee would be making sure that none of the details got obscured in the simplification plan. Budget guru and Legislative Finance Division Director David Teal was there too, and looked similarly askance at Arduin’s new/simple way of budgeting. He rebutted her assertions, and explained that you cannot lump undesignated general funds and designated general funds in one big basket and expect things to work. But until Budget Day (mark your calendars and wear black) we really can’t know anything. Enjoy the next few weeks of “ignorance is bliss.”



We know about Quick and Chance (which sounds like a killer buddy movie about grifting and rigging poker games), but there are more interesting new hires and appointments on the horizon. A particularly coffee-spit-worthy one is Tammy Randolph, a State Farm insurance agent from North Pole who was just appointed to the UA Board of Regents. She told the News-Miner she was honored, but "I have not paid attention to the budget issues, so I don’t know how I feel about anything yet. So, I'll just be learning and looking at the budget to see what makes sense and what doesn't. I support the university, but to what degree I don’t know yet." Sounds promising. Weirdly, there’s another Randolph (Dick) who’s also a State Farm insurance agent from the Fairbanks area who’s been tasked by the Babcock/Dunleavy administration to rewrite the Alaska Constitution, which he says is “awful” and “socialist doctrine.”  



Today at 1:30pm, the Senate Health and Social Services Committee will consider Dunleavy/Babcock’s appointee to head that department – Adam Crum, who comes from working at a truck driving school, and said during a failed state senate campaign that he wasn’t “a health policy guy.” He also has ties to Alaska Right to Life, so maybe he’s THAT kind of “health policy guy.” You can watch HERE. Public testimony will be taken.

And at 3:30pm the Senate Resources Committee will consider Dunleavy's appointment for the head of the Department of Environmental Conservation, Jason Brune. I don't have to tell you this because you are smart and could probably guess, but he's a giant supporter of Pebble Mine. In fact, he was in charge of public affairs for Anglo-American to develop the Pebble Mine, and the Executive Director for the Resource Development Council, a major In-state advocate for Pebble. If he gets confirmed, he'll be the one in charge of deciding whether Pebble will get their permits to build the mine. One guess how that's going to go. You can watch HERE. Public testimony will be taken.



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The Devil’s in the Details Edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy Administration


The Devil’s in the Details Edition




YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!  (Spoiler: No, you can’t)

Last night was Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s first State of the State address to Alaskans. He took only 24 minutes to reiterate all the things he promised during his campaign. There are his promises, and then… there’s math. Follow along. We currently have a budget gap of more than $1 billion between what we’re guessing we can take in if the price of oil holds, and what we have to spend. We’ve already hacked the budget to the bone (more than 40%), and currently our biggest spending areas are education and health care. Gov. Dunleavy promises not only to close this huge budget gap, but also to actually increase funding for public safety. That’s right, no new taxes, a full PFD, no touching oil company profits, and lots more money going out for public safety and the justice system. If you’re like the Democrats in the legislature (and a growing number of Republicans in the legislature) you’re asking yourself, where exactly is this money going to come from? And we won’t know the answer to that until the actual budget is released in February. Hang on to your hats, and stand in the doorframe, folks.


The ‘war on criminals,’ vs. a war on crime

One interesting clue about potential changes to come in the administration concerns the prison system. Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom reiterated today that “everything is on the table,” and a spokesperson earlier detailed that “everything” includes the privatizing of Alaska’s prison system. Also worthy of note is the administration’s annihilation of several programs and positions that were designed to help offenders re-enter the community successfully, thereby reducing recidivism and crime overall. This past fall, Alaska was one of only three states awarded a $1 million federal grant to help assist critical re-entry programs which have been shown to reduce crime. But Dahlstrom told the feds to keep their money and that Alaska doesn’t want it. She said it could increase the department’s overhead budget down the road.

So there seem to be a lot of promises to crack down on criminals (“Your days are over,” Dunleavy said to them), including increasing the number of prosecutors, increasing the number of public safety officers, and restoring the courts to a 5 day a week schedule. There will be a lot of investment for putting people IN prison, but a drastic slashing of efforts to assist those people when they get OUT of prison and reintegrate back into society so they don't reoffend. But hey, with a private prison system, incarceration can become the next big Alaska industry! The more inmates, the bigger the profit, right? Keep alert for more coming down the road on this disturbing possibility.


BREAKING: There is no news!

Stop the presses! The Republican House “Majority” has yet again held a press availability even though they are not the actual majority. They just wanted to let us know that (brace yourself) nothing has happened! The House is still at a stalemate, and they have failed to elect their imaginary speaker Dave Talerico with a 20-20 vote, one shy of the necessary 21 to confirm a speaker. Carry on!


Keep it classy, Department of Administration

The new hires keep rolling in, and the latest is Art Chance. You probably don’t know Art Chance unless you lurk around the dark corners of the fringy right-wing internet. The Alaska Landmine has shared one Facebook gem of his (which we will edit for the sake of propriety) where he calls someone inquiring about marijuana legislation a “dumbass” and then that person says that no one takes Art Chance seriously because he’s a “massive complete a****** with a ****-filled mouth, and then Art Chance says “any part of ‘f*** ***’ for which you’d need an interpretor, dumbass?’ and on it goes. Go check the link because we’re about to wear out our bleeper. So, anyway… welcome to the Alaska Department of Administration Mr. Chance, and we hope you enjoy your nice new state job in… wait for it… labor relations!


Quick and Crum

No, not a charming Dickensian law firm – these are two political appointees whose names were just presented to the legislature for confirmation. John Quick was appointed by Dunleavy as the new Commissioner of Administration. Adam Crum was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Health & Social Services. Neither has much or any experience in the areas for which they will now be in charge. Quick has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Christian institution, Northwest University and a master’s degree from the Wayland Baptist University Graduate School of Business. He was also the regional director of the Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse, run by Franklin Graham. Oh, and he also started a frozen yogurt shop in Washington. Crum has been working in an office that organizes construction training. Despite a master’s degree in Public Health, he’s never worked in the field and described himself (during a failed bid for state senate) as “not a health policy guy.” Crum will have a confirmation hearing today in the Senate HSS committee. There’s a great rundown HERE if you want more information.


New/old voices in the media

If you were a fan of the reporting from John Aronno and Craig Tuten of the now-defunct Alaska Commons, go check out and bookmark the AKLedger. They’re off to a good start with all the nerdy, deep-dive stuff you love. Welcome back to the fray, gentlemen!

Remember, you can always see what’s on the schedule of events by checking in HERE. And 360north.org is your go-to for live streaming and archived video of the goings on in Juneau.

And for goodness sake, go “like” the Alaska Senate Democrats ’Facebook page. They’ve got some great information and timely video messages from our amazing Senate Dems.




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Through the Looking Glass Edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy Administration


Through the Looking Glass Edition



You know how the Republicans in the House had that press conference right after the election saying, “We’re the majority!” and they introduced their new leadership, and issued press releases saying they’re the majority, and they chose a speaker, and chairs of major committees, and had a logo made, and yet… there is no House organization at this time, and they do not have the numbers to create an ACTUAL majority?  Well, life in FantasyLand continues as the first week of session draws to a close.

The actual RULES that govern the legislature prevented the Republicans’ sneaky plan to have Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer swear in Sharon Jackson (R-Eagle River) with the rest of the crew because: She is a political appointee, and was not elected, therefore she needed to be confirmed by the House, which can’t do anything until it has a real Speaker (not a pretend one). Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer who is himself in the executive branch, can’t just use a magic wand and make someone who was just appointed BY the executive branch a legislator. Think “separation of powers.” It’s an important concept in a democracy, so feel free to inform the Republican side of the aisle if you see them. And kudos to Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) for having none of that, and smacking that nonsense down as it happened.



Then, in a fit of pique, because there are rules they don’t like, Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla) and newly-elected Rep. Josh Revak (R-Anchorage) went across the street to the courthouse with nominee Sharon Jackson (R-Eagle River) and had a deputy clerk administer her oath. This, of course, is not legally binding and did not make her a legislator. Even though clerks can and do administer oaths in general, they cannot just subvert the constitution and make someone a legislator who ISN’T a legislator and HASN’T been confirmed by their colleagues in the House.


Here's a frame from the video on Revak's Facebook page. He has since deleted it.



After the antics were finished and broadcast via Facebook live by Revak to the shock and horror of House members on both sides of the aisle, even the pretend Speaker (Rep. Dave Talerico) from the pretend Majority (Republicans) said that they couldn’t have a pretend swearing-in, and that he looked forward to the real, legal one.

The next day, the House voted to install a temporary speaker so the business could be done, and it was, and Jackson took her seat. Easy peasy. But we’d like to give a big shout-out to Rep. Eastman even though he went totally off the rails. Why? Because...



Rep. Gary Knopp (R) jumped ship from the Republicans a couple weeks ago, saying that a 21-member Republican House was ungovernable because you need 21 votes to pass anything, and that would give each single member veto power on EVERYthing and he wanted no part of it because some “problem members” (like David Eastman of Wasilla) would grind everything to a halt just because they could.

The weird shenanigans we just witnessed at the court house vindicate Knopp and demonstrate very clearly that he was right about… the right. Unable to govern or follow rules. We await a coalition of grown-ups who understand how government works to take the helm, and hopefully leave Eastman & Co. sitting on the sidelines breaking their crayons.



That’s what President Trump said about the federal workers affected by the partial government shutdown. You know, the one affecting more Alaskan workers per capita than any other state? That one. So, while unemployed/unpaid Alaskans are left to “adapt,” Senator Dan Sullivan is all on board with the Trump agenda even though almost 2% of Alaska’s entire workforce is affected, because… THE WALL! Even his other two Republican colleagues – Murkowski and Young – have wagged their finger at Trump. But Ohio Dan just continues to snuggle up to his buddy in the Oval Office. He released a statement last week talking a whole lot about the “porous southern border.” No not the one with Canada – the other one. And then at the verrrry end he said, “I know this shutdown is tough for many federal workers and their families in Alaska. They do great work for us and our nation.” Gee, feel better?

Maybe he needs some phone calls. (202) 224-3004



We’ll leave this issue on a high note. Though the House is not in order yet, the Senate Democrats had their first press availability this week and you really should take a look. We’ve got an outstanding and diverse roster of whip-smart passionate advocates this session. Here’s a list of who is on what committee. You can also look up any senator and get information on them HERE.

Senators Kawasaki, Olson, Wielechowski, Gray-Jackson, Begich, Kiehl


Sen. Tom Begich (Anchorage): Minority Leader, Education, Health & Social Services, Rules, Legislative Ethics

Bill Wielechowski (Anchorage): Finance

Donny Olson (Golovin): Finance

Scott Kawasaki: Armed Services, State Affairs, Resources

Jesse Kiehl (Juneau): Resources, Judiciary, Transportation  

Elvi Gray-Jackson (Anchorage): Legislative ethics, Community & Regional Affairs, Labor & Commerce


Here’s a link to the press availability. It’s about half an hour long and it’s worth a listen if you want to know what the focus of the Senate Dems will be. It will also remind you why you volunteer, why you donate, and why you vote for our candidates. There’s lots of energy and brain power there, and it’s especially nice to see a new region of the state with Democratic representation, as Scott Kawasaki makes your voice heard in the Interior!



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On we go. It can’t get crazier than the first week, RIGHT?


TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Babcock/Dunleavy administration






The 31st Legislature begins today, and disarray is the name of the game in the House. We still have no majority caucus, and therefore no committee assignments, no staffing certainty, and no Speaker of the House to run the floor session or assign bills to committees. The way past the impasse is either for a reorganization of legislators into a caucus of those who are actually concerned with governing, or some kind of shared leadership. Otherwise, here we sit. In the meantime, we expect Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer to appoint a Speaker pro tem until a permanent speaker is in place who can receive the 21 votes necessary to confirm them. The details will reveal themselves soon, and here's a good explanation of the details from Andrew Kitchenman at Alaska Public Media.




No such turmoil in the Senate. The Republicans still have a clear majority, and Cathy Giessel prepares to take the helm as President of the Senate. Pete Kelly no longer has that title since he was shown the door by new incoming Democratic Senator Scott Kawasaki. (We like to remember that whenever possible).  But we can still say that the Senate President is a climate change denier with theocratic tendencies, and no basic comprehension of science, but hey – at least it’s a fresh face, right? <--- sarcasm




It didn’t take long for the Mike Dunleavy/ Tuckerman Babcock team to raise the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union. They must have missed the memo that the First Amendment is supposed to protect individuals from the wrath of the government when they share political opinions about the President on their own time. Assistant AG Libby Bakalar and two others are suing the administration for wrongful termination. And YES Republicans, they are “at will” employees, but that darned Constitution of the United States of America trumps that. Sorry. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



Speaking of Tuckerman Babcock, the Dick Cheney of the current administration showed up in an unlikely venue last week – the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. During their weekly Forum, guests from the community are invited to address the Fellowship on a variety of topics. Babcock was the speaker, and boy did they get an earful. If you missed the chilling synopsis from Charles Wohlforth, check it out HERE. Babcock said there are going to be a lot of unhappy Alaskans by the time the governor gets finished with the agenda they voted for. And please note where it says that Dunleavy won’t be appearing in public very often. (?!) I guess the man behind the curtain will be telling us all we need to know.




Continuing the smack-down of the First Amendment, the following memo was sent to “All Members of the Press” from Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole), the Rules Chair.



This was posted to Twitter from Sean Maguire at KTUU. Nothing says welcome to Juneau like curtailing the press from using their normal channels to report what the government is doing, and threatening to revoke their access if they don’t comply.




The Senate will gavel in today, Tuesday, January 15, at 11:00 a.m. The House follows at 1:00 p.m. You can follow along today and every day during session at 360north.org by clicking the "Watch Live" icon, or click the GAVEL button and select Archives to watch later.

·     If you want to see when floor sessions are scheduled in the Senate and House, click HERE.

·     The daily schedule of committee meetings is HERE.

·     To see what bills legislators have pre-filed in advance of the session, go HERE and HERE.

·     And if one or more of those bills interests you and you want to read the whole thing, just enter the bill number in the search bar at the top of the page HERE.

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Here we go, troops! Stay strong, and stay tuned.

Chaos Rules the Day edition

TALL TALES from Juneau
Eyes on the Dunleavy Administration

Chaos Rules the Day edition


Pre-filed bills are here! 

There’s no better way to get a sense of who’s where in the world of politics than to check out the list of “pre-filed” bills. Those are bills that lawmakers have been working on during recess that they file early, before the session begins. We just got a crop yesterday, and another batch will be coming Friday.  

Democrats have a whole list of great bills dealing with preserving the PFD (Sen. Wielechowski), universal Pre-K (Sen. Kawasaki), crime bill reform (Reps. Fields/Lincoln), access to birth control (Rep. Claman), making sure rape evidence kits are tested (Rep. Tarr), bolstering public education (Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins), and more.

Republicans never seem to disappoint on the “social conservative” side. Our very own governor had his own little war against Planned Parenthood and sex ed a couple years ago. This year, the Dark Ages award goes to Rep. George Rauscher (R) who represents the vast swath of area from Delta Junction, down through parts of the Mat-Su Valley and ending in Valdez. He got Alaska Right to Life mad at him this election cycle for not being anti-choice enough, so now he’s trying to make up for it… check this out.

HB 7: "An Act relating to sex education, human reproductive education, and human sexuality education."


It's not as bad as it sounds... It's even worse! It not only mandates teaching that life begins at conception, it also requires teaching the "skills necessary for a student to remain abstinent" (!!!), and that "sexual activity out of wedlock is likely to have harmful psychological or physical effects." The bill does not make clear what those likely harmful effects actually are, but ironically it also mandates that what is taught needs to be "medically accurate." This ought to be entertaining.

Sex ed under Rauscher’s bill would also expressly forbid “instruction in or advocacy of homosexuality, gender identity or expression, or the use of contraceptive methods or devices.”  

Step away from the banana kids, knowledge is dangerous! Surely if we just deny and ignore human sexuality, it will go away until the heterosexual wedding bells chime. Just like it always has throughout history. RIGHT?

If you want a good synopsis of all the prefiled legislation from yesterday, click HERE for an article from James Brooks at the Anchorage Daily News. It’s always good to look on akleg.gov too, and read the full language of the bill if it interests you.





The Supreme Court has now ruled on the much-anticipated House District 1 race that had Bart LeBon (R) leading Kathryn Dodge (D) by one single vote. And at the end, he still led by one single voteand will be heading to Juneau replacing Scott Kawasaki (D) in that House District. Kawasaki has moved on to the Senate after roundly defeating Senate President Pete “the state should pay to put pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms and global warming is a hoax” Kelly (R). 

Kathryn Dodge was a trooper throughout and ended up having a much more dramatic campaign than she could have imagined. We are disappointed she won’t be going to Juneau, but we thank her mightily for stepping forward and sticking it out to its conclusion. 

Now, as for YOU in Fairbanks… yes you, the one in District 1 who didn’t vote this time. We stare daggers in your general direction and ask that you take a solemn vow to NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! If ever there were a state where one vote counts, this is it. No excuses next time!

Even though Bart LeBon came out on top, that still doesn’t mean we know anything about how the House will organize itself. The ballots weren’t even cold in the box when the Republicans in the House (who had previously been in the minority), held a press conference where they slapped each other on the back, beaming and giggling and announcing their “Majority” and how they would organize. Only one problem. They didn’t (and still don’t – even with Bart LeBon) have the 21 members necessary to form an actual majority caucus, or even to elect a Speaker. Details, details, right? It sounds good to them, so they just keep releasing statements and press releases in defiance of reality talking about their new phantom “Majority”- much to the amusement of political journalists and others who know how the government works. 

What we do know is that Louise Stutes (R), Gabrielle LeDoux (R), and Gary Knopp (R), are NO way caucusing with the other Rs, so some kind of a bipartisan coalition will have to form. And also today the Governor just fired Joey Merrick, the husband of newly elected Republican Rep. Kelly Merrick from his position on the gasline board, replacing him with Republican retread, and former Anchorage Assembly Chair Dan Coffey. File that under “How to win friends and influence people.” 

We’ll just have to wait, and watch while the drama unfolds. It’s a good time to buy popcorn stock.



In the spirit of tradition, I’ll give you the good news first: There will be far fewer crazy right-wing internet trolls on social media sites this session!

Bad news: it’s because they’ve all gotten state jobs staffing legislators. More to come as things become official, but it’s looking pretty off-the-rails.




And let’s not forget that the first day of the Legislative Session is Tuesday, January 15. Warm up your Gavel Alaska channel! There are many ways to stay connected to what’s afoot in Juneau, and here are some of the best:

Follow on Facebook:

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Alaska Democrats

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Follow the hashtag #akleg for legislative tweets

Follow #akgov for tweets about the governor/administration



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The AK Dems Press Clips– A daily aggregate of 10-20 links to news stories, blog posts, and opinions (including a brief synopsis) focused on Alaska politics, and national politics. I do this, so you don’t have to wade through dozens of news sources to find the stuff you’re looking for. Enjoy perusing them over coffee in the morning, and be the most interesting person at the water cooler! 


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We’re in for a wild ride this session.

Cast of Characters Edition

TALL TALES from Juneau

Eyes on the Dunleavy Administration


Cast of Characters Edition


As we move closer to the legislative session which begins on Tuesday, January 15, the new governor, Mike Dunleavy, continues to make appointments to his cabinet and other important state positions - and it’s even worse than we thought.


Here’s a list of a baker’s dozen appointments that concern us so far, and confirm that this administration, which claims to be all about “restoring trust in government” is starting on a very bad note.

1)   Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock: Plucked right from his position as Chair of the Alaska Republican Party. Not only is the selection literally partisan, Babcock has been an incredibly divisive figure, and a far-right party purist. He turned against his own candidates because they chose to work with Democrats and ran far-right loyalists to oppose them in their re-election bids. Because, compromise? Anyone who compromises in good faith so government can actually function is a "turncoat."


2)    Attorney General Kevin Clarkson: An anti-abortion lawyer, and a founder of Jim Minnery’s Alaska Family Action, a political organization pushing extreme anti-LGBT, and anti-choice policies. Minnery and Clarkson were even featured in a special issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate WatchClarkson also advocated for an invocation/prayer policy which banned Muslims and Jews from participation, and fought to ban trans women from shelters. Openly hostile to the Alaska Constitution’s privacy clause, he called it “Roe v. Wade on steroids.” He tried for a position on the Supreme Court a few years ago and didn't get the job based in part on the less-than-stellar ratings from his fellow attorneys.


3)   Budget Director Donna Arduin: Never heard the name? Not surprising. A hired hatchet-woman from Outside, Arduin has made a career of traveling from red state to red state hacking budgets for various Republican governors. Since Alaska is the only state with a new incoming Republican governor after the midterms (lucky us), she was available. She hasn’t been here long enough to remember back to the Big Earthquake of 2018, but Gov. Dunleavy has given her sweeping consolidated powers and control over our budget and cuts, without knowing Alaska or Alaskans at all. Google her, and it doesn’t take long to find the phrase “junk economics” and “history of dubious reports.”


4)   Deputy Chief of Staff #1 Amy Demboski: Assemblywoman from Eagle River, Demboski is a failed Anchorage mayoral candidate who was far too extreme to run a viable campaign. She has called the Anchorage Assembly a “liberal hell,” and became a right-wing radio host to vent her spleen about “the left” going so far as to suggest she'd like more-conservative Eagle River to secede from the Municipality. She was also a resounding vote against providing equal rights in employment, housing, education, and use of public facilities to Anchorage's LGBT community.

5)   Deputy Chief of Staff #2 Jeremy Price: There’s no doubt about his agenda. He’s the immediate past director of the Alaska chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an Outside Libertarian/conservative organization founded and funded by the Koch Brothers which serves as their primary political advocacy group. He recently testified against Anchorage’s plastic bag ban. Apparently preserving the landscape, our streams, and the infrastructure at the wastewater treatment facility is really all about  “the government telling you how to grocery shop” and is a slippery slope to socialism.


6)   Commissioner of Health & Human Services Adam Crum: When he ran a failed campaign for State Senate in the Mat-Su Valley, he told the Associated Press that he’s “not a health care policy guy.” Before his appointment as Alaska’s top health care policy guy, he was working at a family business which involves training people in construction. Now he’ll be running a department with 3,000 employees and a budget of more than $2 billion which he called "unsustainable." He's also stated that "we need to get people off of state-paid healthcare" and  was endorsed by Alaska Right to Life.


7)   Special Adviser for Constitutional Reform Dick Randolph: An insurance agent, and long-ago former legislator involved in the repeal of Alaska’s state income tax, Randolph has repeatedly called our constitution “awful” and says it’s “socialist doctrine.” Yes, really. Now he’ll be advising the governor on how to “reform” our founding document. Dunleavy has said part of Randolph's job will be looking at the PFD, but other issues have long been on Republicans’ wish list, like changing the way judges are appointed to make the process more political, getting rid of Alaskans' ownership of our resources (socialism!), and doing away with the privacy clause which made Alaska a pro-choice state 3 years before Roe v. Wade.


8)   Deputy Commissioner of Labor Cathy Muñoz: A former Representative from Juneau, Muñoz was driven out of office in disgrace after it was discovered she had written multiple letters begging for leniency for sexual offenders and pedophiles. Juneauites, rightfully outraged, sent her packing and It should have ended her political career, but now she’s back on the state payroll.


9)   Special Assistant Rick Rydell & his nephew: Apparently one right-wing talk raidio host in the administration just wasn't enough. Rick Rydell has spent years in front of a microphone railing against Democrats, liberals, and state workers. He described himself as “one of the God-given greatest conservative minds of our time.” *cough* Now he’ll be making $86,000 a year as a “special assistant” in the Department of Fish & Game. What are his qualifications you ask? A “passion” for fish and game, and a GED. His nephew got a nice job from the administration as well. Because, why not?


10)  Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation Eddie Grasser: ‘Kill ‘em & grill ‘em’ Eddie Grasser is the former head of the Safari Club, and a back-door lobbyist for several groups including big game hunters, the NRA, a whole host of oil companies, and even Pebble Mine. He advocated for the reinstitution of aerial wolf hunting, calling opponents of the measure “outside extremists.” He was also the chief of staff for former Rep. Beverly Masek who went to prison after the Alaska political corruption probe into the “Corrupt Bastards Club.” Now he will be tasked with wildlife "conservation."


11)  Special Assistant Ben Stevens: Another prominent figure in the Corrupt Bastards Club scandal, whose office was raided by the FBI when he was Senate President. The son of Ted Stevens was never indicted, but he was also never able to explain hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from VECO, which coincidentally was paying for other legislators votes at the very same time... Stevens became unelectable for public office, but that didn’t stop him from getting this job from Dunleavy which will get him a $150,000 a year paycheck from the State of Alaska. He was also known for calling Alaska’s last Wasilla governor, Sarah Palin, “Valley Trash.”


12)  Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Jason Brune: To round out our Orwellian dozen, Brune’s career path has not been about conservation, but only development -- including representing Pebble Mine in public and government relations, and working in the Resource Development Council advocating for oil, mining, and logging. Brune says he’s "confident he can be objective" and listen to all sides. 


13) Special Adviser Sean Parnell: Yep, THAT Sean Parnell. A sitting Republican governor who was voted out of office during a sexual assault scandal that rocked the Alaska National Guard is now back on the state’s dime. Maybe it was his history of kowtowing to the oil industry, giving away the farm with SB21, or his history as an attorney fighting on behalf of Exxon during the oil spill. Either way, your least-favorite oil company lobbyist will be advising the governor on gas line issues.

Is your "trust in government" restored yet?


There are still more appointments to come, and we are watching and waiting. Alaskans voted for a tall guy who wanted to give them back their PFDs. What we are getting is something much more. Extreme partisans, Outside hatchets, anti-choice zealots, anti-LGBT activists, Libertarian ideologues, anti-environmentalists, and right-wing radio talk show hosts will be taking over the third floor of our Capitol to steer the ship of state. 


Dunleavy has put forward a temporary budget plan which says it will pay Alaskans a full PFD using the statutory formula, but doesn’t say how we will fill the huge deficit gap of over $1.5 billion. With promises of no taxes or revenue generators, that means one thing -- cuts. The three largest targets will be public education, health care, and transportation. We will see the full scope of these cuts when Dunleavy releases the actual budget in January.


In the meantime, we hope for a moderate state House coalition to form that will temper the obvious agenda we see before us. A bipartisan House would act as a firewall against what is sure to be an extreme right-wing force seeking to remake Alaska and its government while chopping the things we care about to the bone.


We will continue to update you throughout the session, and urge you to stay vigilant and connected through the following channels:

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