That Mavericky Sarah is headed to DC to pal around with Obama at the Alfalfa. That's Saturday. Tonight, Sarah kicks off her 2012 campaign against Washington insiders, by being the guest-of-honor with Nixon fixer Fred Malek, an insider's insider.
As Palin heads east, Mark Begich will make his first Alaska appearance since being sworn in as our junior US Senator. I'll be attending Sen. Begich's first Alaska press conference this afternoon in Anchorage.
There is a lot to catch up on at the end of this busy week in Alaska events. First, Palin, then Begich.
Part One - Gov. Sarah Palin:
With the launch of SarahPAC at the beginning of the last week in January, Sarah Palin managed to re-insinuate herself into the national news. Apparently, Palin feels better there than she does dealing with Alaska affairs.
Last weekend, Palin snubbed an important Alaska Native event, the Southcentral Foundation's 12th Annual "Gathering," at Anchorage's new Denai'na Convention Center. The event, which centers on health issues and draws a huge crowd, seems like the kind of exposure Gov. Palin might appreciate. Maybe she had been tipped off that former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, the commissioner Palin fired, creating "Troopergate," was there.
Not only was Palin absent, her administration sent no representatives, an unprecedented and deliberate snub. The governor has felt uncomfortable answering questions about the ongoing food, fuel and subsistence crisis in the lower Yukon area. The office of rural coordinator, vacant since October 15th, remains unfilled.
The word is out that Palin was extremely miffed when her offensive against "bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers" was rudely truncated as Alaska bloggers helped turn the story of near starvation and hardship in the lower Yukon town of Emmonak into a national debate on, among other issues, her administration's overall competence, and neglect toward Alaska Natives. The fact that these Alaska bloggers helped raise thousands of dollars in relief funds, and managed to send a reporter to the lower Yukon ahead of her own team, surely didn't calm her.
This week was even more trying for Palin's crew. Palin's Attorney General, Talis Colberg (a long-time friend of mine) looked pathetic Wednesday, as he failed to satisfy Alaska legislators - Democrats or Republicans - on how his interpretation of Alaska law regarding legislative subpoenas worked out last fall. Essentially, by advising state employees with knowledge of Todd Palin's mishandling of state assets during Palin's personal investigation of his ex-brother-in-law, a state employee, not to feel obligated to oblige legally issued subpoenas, Colberg violated his oath of office:
Colberg had advised Palin administration officials they had the option of disregarding the Legislature's subpoenas in the Troopergate investigation. (They could "voluntarily comply," he wrote Sept. 16 to the legislator overseeing the investigation, Sen. Hollis French.)
Colberg didn't question whether lawmakers had the constitutional authority to subpoena executive branch officials. Instead he quibbled about alleged technical defects in the procedure used to issue the subpoenas.
As Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramas pointed out in Wednesday's hearing, the Legislature explicitly followed the process set out in the law that authorizes legislative subpoenas. Asked to justify his contrary view, Colberg did not challenge the validity of the law. He could only assert that he continues to "believe" the subpoenas were defective.
Colberg aired that argument in court last fall, and it went nowhere. Colberg asked the court to kill the subpoenas but the court refused to do so. The court ruling explicitly said the Legislature has the power to investigate the governor's dismissal of a commissioner and clearly has the power to issue subpoenas. (Colberg's office has appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court.)
Colberg's discredited advice about the subpoenas helped delay the Troopergate investigation, just as the controversy was heating up in Gov. Palin's vice-presidential campaign. In this case, Colberg's unapologetic defiance of the Legislature served the interests of his boss, not of justice.
Attorney General Colberg was the highest ranking Palin employee thrown under her very large, multi-tired bus this past week. He wasn't the only one, though.
Ethics activist Andree McLeod has filed a complaint against two Palin staffers, Anchorage governor's office chief Kris Perry, and Palin communications director Bill McAllister. McLeod's complaint alleges that much of what Perry and McAllister did during the failed presidential campaign, and now, is political, and shouldn't be handled by state employees.
McAllister's counter complaint is specious:
"This comes with a price tag," he said. "She has filed, and this is a conservative number, at least 10 Freedom of Information Act requests of the administration since last summer. And we are close to $100,000 now in costs of dealing with those ... and that's a running tab."
If this ethics complaint plays against Palin, look for McAllister's and Perry's bodies to show up alongside the road, with those distinctive Palin Express bus tire marks across their backs.
It really is hard to keep up with Sarah Palin's bizarre behavior over the past two weeks. I'll have to limit coverage to a couple of highlights. In her statements about Emmonak, the Alfalfa Club event and flying to Washington DC this weekend, Palin neglects to mention the Alaska congressional delegation of Don Young, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. She does mention that she will be spending time with the national GOP leadership, though. She has yet to congratulate GOP US Senator Murkowski for elevation last week into the entry levels of their Senate leadership:
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has joined the Senate Republican leadership team.
She was named one of three "counsels" to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The counsels offer guidance and advice to the GOP leadership. The other counsels are Senators Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Robert Bennett of Utah.
The leadership appointment is the latest in a string of advancements for Murkowski, now Alaska's senior senator. Earlier this week she was formally named top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and last week she was given a plum spot on the Appropriations Committee. Both posts should help her direct federal spending and projects to Alaska.
I'm on the mailing list for Gov. Palin's press releases. It appears that on the eve of her trip to Washington DC, she has yet to congratulate our senior senator upon her promotion to national GOP leadership.
Th other issue has had to do with what appears to have been an unintentional oversight by the Pentagon brass. During World War II, Alaska was still a US Territory, not a state. Those who served from the territory fell into some categories that don't mesh with current labels. Many Alaska Natives served in a unit called the Alaska Territorial Guard, or "Eskimo Scouts." The unit disbanded in 1947. However, many members went on to serve in other, regular units of the US Army or National Guard. Here's
An estimated 300 members are still living from the original 6,600-member unit formed in 1942 to protect the vast territory from the threat of Japanese attack years before Alaska became a state. The unit stepped in after the Alaska National Guard was called overseas.
The territorial guards -- nicknamed Uncle Sam's Men and Eskimo Scouts -- received no pay or benefits for the job. Many replaced their time hunting and fishing for their food with frequent drills and duties that varied from scouting patrols and construction of military airstrips to hundreds of miles of trailbreaking.
In 2000, Sen. Ted Stevens passed a bill granting time toward retirement for time served in the Territorial Guard. Followup on the bill has been particularly disgraceful, though, and recently:
"...a military analysis determined the law recognizing the Alaska Territorial Guard's service as federal active duty had initially been misinterpreted. Under the new interpretation, service in the five-year-guard no longer counts in calculating the military's 20-year minimum for retirement pay."
Gov. Palin's office issued a statement in support of "these brave Alaskans, who did so much for the cause of freedom during a time of great national peril," but did nothing. The Alaska US Congressional delegation worked non-stop through the week, ultimately forcing the Pentagon to pay the Alaska Native veterans through March, and promise in writing to enact a permanent fix.
At the end of a busy week for Begich, Murkowski and Young on this, Palin swooped in, trying to take credit. Celtic Diva's take on this would be hilarious, were it not so sad.
Part Two: Sen. Mark Begich:
Alaska's freshman US Senator, Mark Begich, returned to Alaska today, and will be holding a press conference this afternoon at the Federal Building in Achorage. Sen. Begich - a firedoglake Blue America 2008 candidate - has been appointed to three committees - Armed Services; Commerce-Science-Transportation; and Veterans Affairs.
I'm going to be at his press conference today, asking about the role he might play in an issue that resurfaced last week with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's announcement that salmon fishing on the Yukon River in 2009 will most likely be all but curtailed, if not totally shut down. At least for people along the river, who have relied upon this stock as their sustenance for thousands of years.
One of the things that has concerned a few people knowledgeable about the precipitous decline in Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon stocks over the past decade or so, has been that decline's relationship to the Bering Sea Pollock trawling fleet's increasing efficiency. The fleet of huge, blue-water trawlers is allowed to scoop up Yukon and Kuskokwim-bound salmon, along with their pollock, as "by-catch." The salmon is worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the fleet's owners.
The fleet's history is steeped in Ted Stevens' family corruption. Payoffs, reputed hits and threats associated with the fleet's owners and overseeing agencies are part of the material muckrakers such as Ray Metcalfe and Dengre are saying or implying the FBI is investigating, in their ongoing probes into Alaska political corruption.
Sen. Begich has no known ties to this rapacious mob.
His post on the science, commerce and transportation committee in the Senate puts him into a position to have a say in Obama administration policies directly affecting the relationship between Bering Sea "by-catch" of Yukon River bound salmon, and the destinies of thousands of Alaska Natives, threatened with imminent cultural genocide, to benefit rich Seattle and Tokyo high seas pirates. Additionally, incoming National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration administrator Jane Lubchenco, whose appointment Begich will help shepherd, supposedly has the authority to unilaterally close down the Bering Sea
A rapidly growing group of concerned Alaska bloggers, scientists, ecological activists and Alaska Natives will be calling soon for a shutdown of the Bering Sea pirate fleet. We're hoping Sen. Mark Begich will be one of our strongest, most effective allies.