Election Update from Rep. Les Gara

9 11 2008

It’s been a delightfully slow news day here on the Mudflats. It’s cold and grey, and at 5:00 Alaska time, the pale orange sun has set over Cook Inlet. So it was nice, on this quiet, lazy day, to get a message from one of our favorite Mudflatters, and one we haven’t heard from in a while, Representative Les Gara. No gripping press releases or dragon slaying this time….just a nice election update.

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I thought I’d offer you the kind of election analysis you just can’t buy.  Mostly because it’s not worth that much. 

The Mark Begich-Ted Stevens race remains too close to call, and word is we might have some new numbers soon.  My good friend Ethan Berkowitz (we’ve been friends from long before either of us stumbled into politics) has an outside chance of closing his gap against Congressman Don Young, but the gap in that race is pretty substantial right now.  And we have a roughly half dozen State House and Senate races with less than 200 vote differences that could change too.

Also – Friday the State Senate organized a bi-partisan coalition across party lines (applause); but the House Republicans have so far declined offers to do the same (no applause).  We’re still working on them, but right now it’s a 22 Republican, 18 Democrat, with 5 House races still to be decided.  I think the news story that the Republicans have closed the door on a bi-partisan coalition was as premature as the decision by the Republican leadership was unwise.  We’ll see if the newspaper got this one wrong.  At least they should have done a little investigation before simply repeating the press release they received from Republican House members yesterday.  Don’t get me started on the state of our newspapers – where staff has been cut so much that “he said she said” stories, and stories that just take politician statements at face value, have become too common.  Anyway – many of my colleagues and I are still promoting a bi-partisan coalition in the House.  It’s an uphill, but worthy effort.

Closest to home – I need to announce that I beat no one. Don’t worry (or celebrate, depending on your views). I didn’t lose. It’s just that no one ran against me (I did have an opponent in the August Primary). The good news – or at least what I’ve emphasized for my mother – is that I got something like 95% of the vote. The bad news is that 5% either didn’t feel like filling out their ovals, or decided, um… Maybe it’s better if I don’t think about that.

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Prominent Alaskans Demand an Apology from the McCain-Palin Campaign.

1 11 2008

One of the most interesting things about living in Alaska is that you get a true appreciation of how large and how small it is – large geographically, and small socially.  The fact that there are so few people means that it’s almost impossible to spend a day doing errands without running in to someone you know, it’s common to find out that two of your unrelated friends actually know each other, and that engaged citizens can really affect positive change in the political process.  Another consequence of this “smallness factor” is that those who hold public office, and do a good job, become very well respected in the community.  Everyone knows who they are, and when they have something to say, people listen.

People generally respect one another here.  You learn quickly that you’d better treat people well or it might come back to haunt you. The guy you just told off will undoubtedly end up being your kid’s soccer coach, or the guy who pulls over to help you change a tire when it’s 20 below zero.  The woman that just made you land on the horn in traffic is undoubtedly going to be standing next to you in line wherever you’re going, or will be serving you your lunch.

This is why Alaskans, regardless of their political affiliation, watched in horror as Megan Stapleton (former local newscaster turned Palin spokeswoman) and attorney Ed O’Callaghan (an ‘outsider’ hired by the McCain campaign) started giving press conferences, calling themselves the “Truth Squad”.  The Truth Squad’s purpose it seemed, was to sully the reputation of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan.  According to the independent investigator hired by the Alaska State Legislature, Palin abused her power in his firing.  She wanted Monegan to fire her ex-brother in law, an Alaska State Trooper who she felt had wronged her family.  Monegan couldn’t legally act, because the matter was already closed.  Palin fired him anyway. 

It was either going to play out in the media that Palin abused her power, or that Monegan deserved it.  So the Truth Squad got to work, and they broke the cardinal rule in Alaska – treat people well.   Monegan is well-loved, and respected across the board.  So, for Palin’s story to stick, the McCain-Palin campaign had to make this look like Monegan’s problem.  Enter the Truth Squad.  According to them, Monegan had a “rogue mentality”,  and he committed acts of “outright insubordination”.  Try to get a job in law enforcement if the Governor of the state has called you an “insubordinate rogue”.

So, when Representative Les Gara, in an epic piece of video footage, demanded that Meg Stapleton (former news anchor turned Palin spokeswoman) apologize to Walt Monegan, and the other Legislators that had gotten smeared by the “Truth Squad”, he wasn’t kidding.  This wasn’t some quaint, old-fashioned request, nor was it just a PR stunt.  He really did think she owed them an apology.  So did a lot of other Alaskans.

Now, two other prominent Alaska lawmakers have joined in the formal request for an apology.  Gail Phillips, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chancy Croft, former Democratic President of the State Senate released a press release yesterday, that has already received wide coverage in the state, on radio and in today’s Anchorage Daily News.  This is one more thing that will be waiting on Governor Palin’s desk when she gets home.  It’s a good letter, and it sums up eloquently what many Alaskans feel.  Here it is reprinted, by permission, in its entirety:

October 28, 2008

Dear Senator McCain:

We are writing because we believe an apology is owed from your campaign to Alaskans and our former Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. As former legislative leaders of both major political parties in Alaska, we haven’t always agreed upon political issues. However, we adamantly agree that Mr. Monegan, who is well respected in Alaska by people of all party affiliations, is owed an apology. The attacks against Commissioner Monegan for his role in administering a personnel issue, now known statewide as “Troopergate”, were unwarranted and wrong. Mr. Monegan is a former U.S. Marine, a front-line police officer, was Chief of Police in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, served as our State’s Commissioner of Public Safety and served both Republicans and Democrats with professionalism and honor.

This summer Governor Palin fired Mr. Monegan as Commissioner, which was within her purview. However, in July, the Legislature, through unanimous action by the bi-partisan Legislative Council, voted to investigate Commissioner Monegan’s termination and whether his refusal to fire Trooper Wooten played a role in his termination. The investigation had nothing to do with your campaign.

After Governor Palin was named as your running mate, your campaign stepped into the fray. In an effort to discredit and stop the bi-partisan legislative investigation into whether or not Governor Palin acted improperly in seeking the termination of her former brother-in-law, Trooper Wooten, your campaign engaged in a near-daily course of personal attacks against Mr. Monegan and members of the legislature. It’s obvious to many of us that you probably were not aware of these attacks by your campaign committee; however, since the final responsibility is yours, we feel Mr. Monegan is owed an apology from you.

In an effort to halt the bi-partisan investigation, your campaign staff tried to vilify Commissioner Monegan. Before Governor Palin was selected to your presidential ticket, she had agreed to the investigation; she publicly said it was justified and that she and her staff would cooperate with the investigation. She stated to the press that the public had a right to be concerned whether or not her administration may have placed improper pressure on the State Department of Public Safety to fire her former brother-in-law.

Following Governor Palin’s selection as your running mate, your campaign sent staff to Alaska to try to stop the investigation that Governor Palin had previously agreed to. Your campaign staff accused the legislative action as partisan in spite of the fact that the unanimous vote of the Legislative Council was bi-partisan.

Your campaign accused Mr. Monegan of being a “rogue”, of being insubordinate and other defamatory statements. To justify your involvement in this Alaskan issue and the Governor’s termination of Commissioner Monegan, your campaign continually changed the excuses for his termination. The various and changing excuses given by your campaign speaks clearly to the lack of credibility in its involvement.

Despite your campaign’s efforts to stop the investigation in court, and by public pressure, the investigation was recently completed. On October 10th the investigative report was released and the independent investigator, Steve Branchflower, concluded that the Governor had violated the State’s Executive Ethics statute by pressuring for the termination of Mr. Wooten from his position as an Alaskan State Trooper. The investigation also found that one of the probable reasons Commissioner Monegan was terminated was his refusal to fire the Governor’s former brother-in-law.

We acknowledge the authority the Governor has for terminating Commissioners; however, your campaign’s interference into this State matter and attempts to discredit Commissioner Monegan for campaign purposes is very troubling. Both the vilification of Mr. Monegan and the attempts by your campaign to stop the investigation were wrong.

We respectfully request an apology from your campaign to Mr. Monegan. He is a good man who has put his life on the line for Alaskans many times and he deserves better treatment from you and your campaign. Not only have the personal attacks from your campaign deeply affected and hurt the Monegan family, but also the people of Alaska who care and respect Mr. Monegan.

Sincerely,

Gail Phillips
Former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives

Chancy Croft
Former President of the Alaska State Senate

Alaskans for Truth, the organizers of the huge rally in downtown Anchorage last month, and the organizers of the petition demanding the resignation of the Attorney General Talis Colberg for his botched handling of the Troopergate investigation, has issued a call to action.

They ask that any and all people, from inside or outside the state, who agree with the above letter, and are disgusted by the treatment of this decent, hard-working man who has served his country and his state with honor, please send a postcard to the McCain campaign adding your name to those respectfully demanding an apology for their behavior.  Then, let Alaskans for Truth know you did (alaskansfortruth@gmail.com).  It’s a small act, but it may help to restore something important that was taken from a good man.

Postcards can be sent to:

Honorable Senator John McCain
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

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Les Gara and More on KUDO Today. UPDATED! (Mike Doogan)

24 10 2008

Apologies everyone.  Sounds like there has been a last-minute change.  Rep. Mike Doogan will be today’s guest on The Demo Memo.  Mike is a popular former columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, a writer of mystery novels, and a current Alaska state legislator.  He is always entertaining, and will likely have an interesting take on the events du jour.

Link and times are still the same!

“Cutting Edge” with CC on KUDO progressive talk radio in Anchorage will be well worth tuning in to today. Rep. Les Gara will be hosting “The Demo Memo,” and CC will be talking quite a bit about the latest Palin issues from an Alaskan perspective.

Les Gara is well-known to Mudflatters for his various acts of chutzpah during the Troopergate fiasco, for facing down the worst of the McCain “Truth Squad”, and for recently requesting that the Alaska AG Talis Colberg hire an independent investigator to look in to allegations of potential witness tampering in the Troopergate investigation now under review by the Personnel Board.

You can hear KUDO streaming live by clicking >>>HERE<<<

The show runs from 3:00 – 6:00pm Alaska time. (7:00-10:00pm EST, 4:00-7:00 PST)





Possible Investigation of Criminal Witness Tampering in Troopergate!

20 10 2008

Well, well, well. Here’s yet another subplot in the saga that is Troopergate. Remember how witnesses, including state employees, Todd Palin and Sarah Palin herself agreed to cooperate fully with the Legislative investigation of Troopergate? If you don’t remember, it’s because that was beFORE August 29th, when Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. It was a whole different world back then. That’s when this investigation made sense to Alaskans, and when we believed the word of our Governor. Now? Not so much.

Ten witnesses, including the Governor’s husband Todd, defied subpoenas to testify before the Legislative Council. When did this mysterious change of heart occur?

Once again, we need to rely on the courage and conviction of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and the likes of Representatives Les Gara to keep the Governor and her administration (including Attorney General Talis Colberg) honest. After the flock of McCain lawyers descended on our sleepy little hamlet, all the rules changed. Now, Les Gara and Audie Holloway want to know WHY. Good question.

ANCHORAGE — Today an Alaska legislator called on the State’s Attorney General to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible criminal witness tampering by McCain-Palin campaign staff in Alaska. Rep. Gara’s call came at the suggestion of the Director of the Alaska State Troopers, [Col. Audie Holloway], who called the potential of witness tampering matter “serious.”

But, as we know, these witnesses did eventually testify in writing, just days before the Legislative Council released the findings of Independent Investigator Stephen Branchflower. Does this make it all better? No.

Their later decision to submit to written questions, after failing to show up for their subpoenas, doesn’t cure this violation, or any criminal conduct by any person who attempted to induce those witnesses from showing for their subpoenas. Complying with the law after breaking it doesn’t excuse a criminal violation. If any person attempted to induce a witness to fail to show for a subpoena, that witness’ later cooperation, after failing to show for the subpoena, doesn’t cure the criminal conduct. (from attached letter to AG Talis Colberg from Rep. Les Gara)

Talis Colberg, who is under considerable public pressure to resign as Attorney General for how he handled these subpoenas, has something new on his list of things that won’t go away. Namely:

Alaska Statute 11.56.545 –

“(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.
The ball is in the court of the Department of Law.

Letter from Les Gara to Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg: 10202008-witness-tampering-independent-investigator

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Palin Returns to a Democratic Legislature in Alaska?! You Can Help Make it Happen!

16 10 2008

This message just in from Representative Les Gara. He’s taking a break from slaying dragons (Meg Stapleton) and fighting off hordes of invading barbarians (McCain lawyer Ed O’Callaghan and minions) to remind us about another front in the battle for Alaskan politics.

There are several close house races in Alaska this year that need some additional help. Whether it’s a long-held progressive seat that may be in trouble from the re-energized Palin base that will turn out in this election, or a bold newcomer that actually stands a chance of toppling a conservative seat…they need us. Two of them are names you’ll recognize as heros of the Legislative Council that voted to release the Troopergate report – Bettye Davis, and David Guttenberg!

Let’s send Sarah Palin back to Juneau to meet a shiny new Progressive Legislature!

if you are an Alaskan who wants to see your state head in a new direction, or if you are a friend from the Lower 48 who has become fond of our great state, and want to help, read on.

******************From Les Gara*****************************************

With your help we can win the close races we have this year, and win a Democratic majority in the Legistlature for the first time in two decades!

Please help today online at the HDCC website – HERE

This year is our best chance in two decades to win control of the 40-member state House. Democratic numbers have been increasing steadily in recent years: from 10 in 2000, to 12 in 2002 to 17 in 2006. We have an even stronger slate of candidates this year.

Anything you give will go straight to Democratic candidates and advertising, so please consider a donation…

Unless it’s OK that Republicans have used their power to block health insurance reform; block educational opportunity for Alaskans who need it (we’re one of only 10 states with no pre-K program); and block Alaskans from sharing in their state’s opportunity.

We need four seats to take the majority in the Alaska House of Representatives, and likely two seats to form a majority coalition.

Your help in the past has narrowed a Republican 28 – 12 majority to one where the margin is now 24-16. With your help we can keep moving forward, on health care reform, a real renewable energy policy in Alaska, better schools and early education, and a stronger university. We can stop the influence of special interests, and businesses who see the Legislature as theirs, not ours.
I appreciate all your help in the past, and hope you can help in any way you can afford.
Thanks very much!
And even though no money has changed hands, the Mudflats legal team tells me to include this, from Les’ original email: Paid for by the House Democratic Campaign Committee, 1241 W. 27th Ave. #562, Anchorage, AK 99503-2318)
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Keep in mind Lower 48 Mudflatters, that Alaska is a CHEAP media market! Even a small donation goes a LONG way!




Stapleton, This Town Ain’t Big Enough…

12 10 2008

A lonely tumbleweed blows down 4th Avenue in a little frontier town known as Anchorage.  The sun is cold, and yeller, and low in the sky.  A pair of bat-wing doors swings open.  A man in a white hat.   It’s the Marshall.  He’s cool and he’s tough, and he don’t take no guff from nobody.  The black hat waits outside, and in the street a crowd gathers.  They know what’s coming, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.  The Marshall has his prey in sight, and this town ain’t big enough for the both of them.  His eyes squint as he approaches the varmit.  There is no sound but the clink clink clink of spurs. Their eyes lock, as the crowd presses in. There’s fixin’ to be a fight.

Marshall (Representative) Les Gara doesn’t like how varmit (Palin mouthpiece) Meg Stapleton has been talking about some of the respected townsfolk, like (former Commissioner of Public Safety) Walt Monegan, (Rep.) Hollis French, (Independent Investigator) Steve Branchflower, and (Rep.) Bill Weilechowski. No, he doesn’t like it at all. *squint*

The dust blows…. He confronts Stapleton head on. He wants one thing, and one thing only. *spits tobacco* An apology…

Intermission. Get popcorn.

Stapleton, you no account sidewinder…you’ve crossed the good people of this town for the last time.  You got ’til sundown to get out.





The Truth About Palin and Darfur.

6 10 2008

Sarah Palin talked big with claims of her administration’s leadership role in an attempt to divest Alaska holdings from Darfur. Sound too good to be true? Guess why. Here’s the real story from (D) Rep. Les Gara, who filed legislation cosponsored by (R) Rep. Bob Lynn to require Alaska to divest from companies supporting the genocide in Darfur.

Les didn’t even get to hear the last half hour of the VP debate, because as soon as Palin dropped her little bomb about Darfur and how she “called for” divestment as soon as she found out about it, his phone started ringing off the hook with people saying, “HUH?”.

Palin’s Debate Claim Not Accurate That She Opposed Darfur Investments When She First “Found Out” About Them

Documents Show Palin Administration Supported Investments in

Businesses Linked to Darfur Genocide Until March, 2008

“When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren’t doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur.”
Sarah Palin, Oct. 2, 2008, VP Debate.


Anchorage, AK – During last week’s Vice Presidential debate, Governor Palin stated that once she “found out” that her state’s large investment funds held stock in companies linked to the Darfur genocide, she worked to divest from them, in a stand against Sudan’s brutal genocide. Dozens of other states have divested from companies linked to the government-sponsored genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.The facts show the Governor did not in fact take a stand on this issue when she “found out” about it. A recently discovered 2006 letter, other documents, and records of legislative committee testimony show the Palin Administration opposed efforts by Alaska legislators to pass a Darfur divestment bill until near the end of the 2007-2008 legislative session.
These documents (linked below) show Governor Palin was asked by members of Congress to divest from Sudan’s genocide-related companies in November of 2006. Records show her Administration was asked again to divest through 2007, that this issue was discussed in Alaska’s media, and that her Administration opposed legislation to divest from these companies through February of 2008.
“The Administration’s opposition to our divestment legislation was one of the reasons we couldn’t get the bill passed. I do appreciate that they eventually dropped their opposition. But in fairness, they didn’t do anything to help when they found out about this problem,” said Alaska State Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch.), who filed legislation in 2007 with co-Sponsor Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anch), to require Alaska to divest from companies implicated in the Darfur genocide.The following documents demonstrate the Palin Administration was asked to join the divestment effort in November of 2006, and opposed divestment efforts through February of 2008:

1. In November, 2006, members of Congress wrote personally to the Governor to ask that she join other states in divesting their assets from companies implicated by the human rights community in the Darfur genocide.

(Nov. 2006 Letter To Palin).

2. In 2007 the Alaska press started covering the public effort to get Alaska to divest from genocide-implicated companies doing business in Sudan.

(Dec, 2007 Alaska NBC News Story On divestment Effort).

3. In December 2007, members of the Save Darfur Coalition Met with the Governor’s office, without success, in an effort to gain support for divestment.

(Save Darfur Coalition Meeting With Governor’s Office, December, 2007).

(Bill Press release, January, 2008)

4. The Palin Administration testified in opposition to divestment from companies implicated in the Darfur genocide. On February 9, 2008, the Alaska Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee held its first hearing on Rep. Lynn & Gara’s HB 287. The Palin Administration and the Permanent Fund Corporation testified against the bill. Brian Andrews (since deceased), Deputy Commissioner of the State of Alaska, Department of Revenue, testified on behalf of the Palin Administration. This testimony helped kill this bill, with 4 members of the Governor’s Republican party stating their opposition to the bill (Reps. Bob Roses, Craig Johnson, Kyle Johansen and John Coghill). The bill never left this committee, and died when the legislative session ended on April 12, 2008. Deputy Commissioner Andrews testified at length against divestment from Sudan, and stated in part: “[T]he desire to make a difference is noble, but mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens’ financial security is not a good combination.”
(Feb 9, 2008 House State Affairs Committee testimony Minutes).

(Juneau Empire Press Coverage).

5. Through February and March, 2008, the Save Darfur Coalition and Rep. Gara kept working to change the Administration’s position. The former held a rally on the capitol steps. “I was pretty angry at how lightly the Permanent Fund and Administration took this issue, and began pushing for meetings to convince them that investing in genocide was wrong,” said Gara. Rep. Gara’s office held meetings with both the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, Pat Galvin, and Permanent Fund Corporation Director Mike Burns. In late March of 2008 the Commissioner of Revenue and Governor agreed to change course and support the divestment effort. On April 1 Commissioner Galvin testified in favor of a companion Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Hollis French (D – Anch.). But with 12 days left in the legislation session at that point, the bill never made it to the Senate or House Floor for a vote, and House Bill 287 never made it out of the House State Affairs Committee.