APOC expedites hearing on complaint against Dunleavy backers

Alaska campaign regulators decided Oct. 2 to fast-track their review of two complaints filed by the re-election campaign for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott against groups supporting the election of Mike Dunleavy, the Republican candidate for governor. That means the commissioners with the Alaska Public Offices Commission will have a public hearing on the merits of the complaints Oct. 4, instead of weeks from now, to decide whether the groups violated campaign finance laws. The commissioners could have also decided to dismiss the complaints, according to Tom Lucas, APOC campaign disclosure coordinator. APOC is the state agency that regulates campaign finance. It can levy financial penalties for violations. At a three-and-a-half-hour meeting in Anchorage on Oct. 2, Walker-Mallott campaign staff argued for the expedited review of the two complaints with the November general election just over a month away. An Anchorage lawyer for the two groups named in the complaints — the Republican Governors Association and Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy — argued against speeding up the process. The Republican Governors Association, or the RGA, is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that backs Republican candidates for governor. Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy is an independent expenditure group formed this year that has gotten nearly all of its funding from the RGA, according to APOC reports. The Walker-Mallott campaign is accusing the RGA of setting up Families for Alaska’s Future — Dunleavy as a “front group” so it appears the ads it’s funding originate in Alaska, not Outside, and so it can shield its donors from public disclosure. Also, the campaign says, the RGA reserved $1.5 million worth of ad time in Alaska for the purpose of influencing the state’s election, but the organization hasn’t registered with APOC as an independent expenditure group and hasn’t reported the expenditures, which the campaign says it should have. “These are some of the largest expenditures in Alaska state election history,” Walker-Mallott campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn told APOC commissioners. “I think that would be a pretty terrible precedent to set — that organizations that come up here and spend money for the purposes of influencing Alaska’s elections don’t have to play by Alaska’s laws.” Independent expenditure groups can raise unlimited funds from individuals and organizations, but can’t coordinate with the campaigns of the candidates they’re supporting. The groups must register with APOC and file reports about their finances, including where their money is coming from and how they’re spending it. In a statement last week, RGA attorney Michael Adams said the facts alleged in the APOC complaint are false. The Walker-Mallott campaign is also accusing Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy of failing to properly register and file reports with APOC. The campaign says the RGA transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of ad time to the independent expenditure group, but the group hasn’t reported any in-kind contributions from the RGA. Stacey Stone, the Anchorage attorney representing Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy and the RGA on Oct. 2, said the Walker-Mallott campaign hadn’t provided substantial evidence to support expediting the complaints, as required by state law. The alleged violation involving the RGA also happened nearly six months ago, she said in a filing with APOC, and the campaign has “sat on its rights.” “The reason not to rush this is, again as I said, while Walker-Mallott may want to take away the due process of those who are against it because they feel like they’re running from behind, there’s a substantial and fundamental fairness that’s required for due process — it’s the notice and the opportunity to be heard,” Stone told commissioners. APOC chairwoman Anne Helzer announced Oct. 2 after a closed-door executive session that the commissioners would expedite their review of the two complaints. She did not go into details about why. According to state law, when the commission is deciding whether to expedite a complaint, it will consider factors such as whether the alleged violation could affect the outcome of an election “if not immediately restrained,” whether the alleged violation could cause “irreparable harm” and whether there was reasonable cause to believe a violation had occurred. The hearing was set for 1:15 p.m. Oct. 4 at APOC’s Anchorage office. The Walker-Mallott campaign filed another complaint last week against the RGA, but didn’t request expedited review. The complaint stemmed from activities during the 2014 campaign season.

COMMENTARY: A fix for the deficit of trust created by PFD cuts

Over the past four years, Alaska’s political class has focused on addressing the state’s budget deficit, and rightly so. When the price of oil crashed, the state found itself facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit. But as our campaign hears from everyday Alaskans across this great land, a deficit more corrosive to the health of our republic is emerging: a deficit of trust. Alaskans are leery of politicians who say one thing and do another. When Bill Walker ran for office in 2014, he said he had “no intention” of cutting Permanent Fund dividend checks. Not long after his inauguration, however, he was singing a different tune. In the span of three years, his administration denied every man, woman and child in Alaska over $3,700 each. The governor’s dividend-cut policy isn’t wrong solely because it’s bad for the economy — paying Alaskans a full dividend would provide a tremendous boost to Alaska, which suffers from anemic growth, high unemployment, and outmigration. It’s wrong because it severed trust between the people and their representatives. The Alaska Permanent Fund and dividend program were established by the people in 1976 and 1982, respectively. The people were wise enough then to know politicians would be tempted to spend away the oil boom and so constitutionally protected some of the revenue and created the dividend program to protect the fund. Since 1982, the dividend program has worked as intended, protecting the fund while benefitting Alaskan families. Then suddenly — after more than three decades — the deal changed. Walker unilaterally cut dividends at the worst possible time and without direct input from the people. If given the opportunity to serve, mending the trust deficit created by Walker will be my top priority. It’s no secret that I am the only candidate in this race who supports protecting the traditional PFD formula. But I also believe the people of Alaska should settle this issue directly, which is why I support going to the people for an advisory vote before any changes are considered to the PFD — at minimum — and ultimately believe the people should have the opportunity to vote on protecting the PFD in the state constitution. In our system of government, the people are sovereign, and no change to the Permanent Fund would long survive without their direct consent. Such a vote would restore trust between the people and government officials, and the outcome would be respected on all sides. If the people were wise enough to establish the Permanent Fund and a spending limit, then there’s no reason to doubt their wisdom in dealing with today’s challenges. Despite the failed leadership of the current governor on this and many other issues, he wants another four years, and is vying with lifelong politician Mark Begich for the chance to accelerate a tax and spend agenda. In every town hall, forum and debate, Walker and Begich are in vigorous agreement. They say we must cut the PFD to save it, that new taxes are inevitable and state spending has been cut to the bone. They’re convinced that wise decision makers in government know how to spend your money better than you do. But Alaskans aren’t buying it. We know the PFD isn’t broken and state government spends roughly three times the national average per person. That’s why Alaskans support more reductions to state spending, oppose new taxes and know the enemy of the budget isn’t the PFD — it’s out-of-control spending. Unless we get spending under control, government will consume the other half of Alaskans’ PFDs, and no amount of new taxes will be enough. That’s the path my opponents will take us down. I hope to lead us down a different path. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then Alaskans can be confident I will remain true to my word. I voted on behalf of my constituents against a budget that didn’t pay Alaskans a full dividend, because I knew there was a better way. Alaska is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and enough financial assets to get us through this challenge. With the right leadership and policies in place, we can resolve the budget deficit without PFD cuts and new taxes. If we control state spending and maintain a competitive, stable business climate, Alaska will grow its way out of the deficit. Elections are about trust. With your help, together we can restore trust in our government and ensure everyday Alaskans have a voice in the big decisions ahead. Mike Dunleavy is a candidate for governor of Alaska. A public school teacher, principal and superintendent for more than two decades in Koyuk, Kotzebue and the Mat-Su Valley, Dunleavy served on the Mat-Su Borough School Board and in the Alaska State Senate. Editor’s note: The Alaska Journal of Commerce will publish up to two op-ed submissions from the candidates for governor between now and our Oct. 21 edition.

Heavy nets, and wallets, for Bristol Bay and Norton Sound fishermen

Despite poor salmon runs dominating the news across the Gulf of Alaska, fishermen in Bristol Bay and western Alaska brought home heavy nets and wallets this year. Salmon runs in Bristol Bay and Norton Sound arrived in force and smashed records — again. It’s the second year in a row that runs have come in exceptionally large in the two areas. Bristol Bay measured an inshore run of 62.3 million sockeye, the largest run since 1893 and more than 69 percent greater than the 20-year average run of 36.9 million. It’s the fourth year in a row that Bristol Bay inshore runs have topped 50 million, and this year came in far above the preseason forecast of 51.3 million fish. Set and drift gillnet fishermen brought in a total harvest of 41.3 million, the second-highest harvest on record, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s year-end season summary for the area. On top of that, prices stayed significantly higher than usual as the supply flooded the market, bringing in a record ex-vessel value for the area as well— more than double what fishermen have made in the history of the fishery. The preliminary ex-vessel value of $281 million is more than 242 percent above the 20-year average of $116 million, and 39 percent above the previous record of $202 million, set in 1990. Though the run was much larger than usual, the processors were able to keep up, in part because the sockeye didn’t all arrive at the same time. The east side runs to Egegik and Ugashik were about 10 days later than the average, while the run to the Nushagak and Togiak areas were only two or three days late, said Nushagak/Togiak area management biologist Tim Sands. “It really worked out well for the processors here because there was such disparity in the run timing in Nushagak and the east side that there was never any limits or suspensions because of capacity issues,” he said. “The east side didn’t really hit until after it was starting to slow down on the west side, and that made it so they were never plugged. We had at least one processor buying in the Nushagak district that wasn’t traditionally in the Nushagak district. I think many of the processors would have liked to have more fish.” Usually, as more fish flood the market throughout the summer, sockeye salmon prices begin to drop. However, this year they didn’t. That may be in part due to poor harvests across the Gulf of Alaska from Kodiak to Southeast, though fishermen in Bristol Bay are also taking steps to improve the quality of their product on their own, said Division of Commercial Fisheries Deputy Director Forrest Bowers. “Their ex-vessel price has been ticking up the past few years anyway,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job on their own, but they definitely got a little help this year.” Up north, it was less sockeye salmon and more chums, silvers and pinks flooding the rivers. Norton Sound’s commercial fishermen smashed their 1978 all-time harvest record of $3.5 million in ex-vessel value with a $4 million season, mixed between chum and silver salmon. It was a peak season in many ways. In addition to a new record of 260,000 silver salmon harvested and the second-highest chum harvest in the area’s history, the number of licenses fished reached a high of 155, the highest since 1987, said area management biologist Jim Menard. “This is the all-time greatest year we’ve had,” he said. “We went from a low of 12 (permits fished) in 2002, and now we’re up to 155.” Norton Sound has struggled with keeping processors in the area to buy fish. Several years passed in the mid-2000s with no processor available at all, so no fishing was available. However, Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. stepped in with a fish processing plant in Unalakleet and fishing has opened up again. This year presented a challenge because of the sheer number of fish being harvested but the plant was able to handle it, Menard said. One species that smashed a record but didn’t contribute much to the harvest was pink salmon, though. In the Nome River, ADFG counted 3.2 million of them, obliterating the previous record of 1.6 million, he said. “Luckily for us, this year, the water was higher,” Menard said. “I remember actually (pink salmon) were both about 1.2 million in 2008 and 2016 both, but in 2008 had just a touch lower water and those rivers just reeked.” However, there isn’t much of a market for pink salmon in the area, so there hasn’t been much interest in harvesting them, he said. The same is true for the herring in Norton Sound, which NSEDC is studying as a potential market expansion. The pink salmon burst in Norton Sound is fairly unique among salmon fisheries in Alaska this year. In addition to underwhelming king and sockeye runs across the Gulf of Alaska, pink salmon harvest fell behind expectations, with the total coming in about half of what the department had projected. That includes Bristol Bay, where the pink salmon harvest came in about 55 percent the 20-year average, according to the year-end summary. That isn’t a huge deal for the fishermen, though, as pink salmon don’t typically constitute a huge percentage of the annual harvest, Sands said. “We don’t have a very big pink run compared to Cook Inlet or Prince William Sound,” he said. “It has been better in the past, and it was lower than we would expect in an even year.” Bristol Bay, like other areas, has been experiencing later runs than historical trends in recent years, Sands said. This year followed that trend. The large run led to some rivers overescaping ADFG management goals, and the department will watch what happens about four or five years from now when this year’s offspring will return as adults to see how the large escapements affect production, he said. ^ Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Keystone XL developer plans to start construction in 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline plans to start construction next year, after a U.S. State Department review ordered by a federal judge concluded that major environmental damage from a leak is unlikely and could quickly be mitigated, a company spokesman said Sept. 24. TransCanada spokesman Matthew John said the company remains committed to moving ahead with the project following years of reviews from federal and state regulators. The company has already started preparing pipe yards, transporting pipe and mowing parts of the project’s right-of-way in Montana and South Dakota, but TransCanada said in court documents it doesn’t plan start construction in Nebraska in the first half of 2019. The report issued Sept. 21 from the Trump administration’s State Department drew criticism from environmental groups, who say they’ll continue to fight the project they view as an environmental threat. “The Trump administration sees no problem with building the Keystone XL — in other news, the grass is still green and the sky is still blue,” said Kelly Martin, a campaign director for the Sierra Club. The updated, 338-page report was released a little more than a month after a federal judge in Montana ordered the U.S. State Department to conduct a more thorough review of the pipeline’s proposed pathway after Nebraska state regulators changed the route. The original environmental impact study was issued in 2014, before Nebraska regulators approved a longer “mainline alternative” route that veered away from the company’s preferred pathway. President Donald Trump approved a federal permit for the project in March 2017, reversing former President Barack Obama’s decision to reject it amid concerns over greenhouse admissions. The report said the $8 billion, 1,184-mile pipeline would have a “negligible to moderate” environmental impact under its normal operations, and continuous monitoring and automatic shut-off valves would help company officials quickly identify a leak or rupture. Additionally, the report said TransCanada has a response plan in place that should mitigate the effects if it’s implemented quickly. “Prompt cleanup response would likely be capable of remediating the contaminated soil before the hazardous release reaches groundwater depth,” the report said. Environmentalists, Native American tribes and a coalition of landowners have prevented the company from moving ahead with construction. In addition to the federal lawsuit in Montana that seeks to halt the project, opponents have a pending lawsuit before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the Nebraska case aren’t expected until next month. Critics of the project have raised concerns about spills that could contaminate groundwater and the property rights of affected landowners. In Nebraska, a major battleground for the project, opponents are trying to change the makeup of the Nebraska Public Service Commission in hopes of overturning its previous decision to approve an in-state route for the pipeline. The latest State Department report is a draft that must still face public review and comments, but federal officials say they expect to have the final draft ready by December. In court documents from the Montana lawsuit, TransCanada’s attorneys said they believe all the pending lawsuits will be resolved before construction begins. The pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Neb., where it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs down to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The State Department has noted that TransCanada has a lower overall spill rate than average in the pipeline industry.

Battle breaks out over growth of ‘Super 8s’ in state cod fishery

UNALASKA — The success of the state waters Dutch Harbor Pacific cod fishery in the Bering Sea is scaring both the industrial trawl and longline fleets, and even a local Unalaska fisherman who says a new breed of small boats known as Super 8s are catching way too many fish. In 2014, the new fishery opened with 3 percent of the total Bering Sea cod quota, and two years later it more than doubled to 6.4 percent, by votes of the Alaska Board of Fisheries to promote small boat fisheries. And it may get a lot bigger, as the board will soon hear proposals for growing the fishery to 8, 10 or as much as 20 percent of all the cod available to fishermen in the Bering Sea. Already, the boats less than 60 feet long have caught 10 times the average catch before the new rules took effect in 2014, according to opponent Chad See, executive director of the Freezer Longliner Coalition, representing factory boats that harvest cod with baited hooks anchored to the ocean floor. See called for observers monitoring the catch on the vessels, saying “there is no observer requirement in the state waters fishery.” He also cited conservation concerns, noting that while the Pacific cod decline in the Bering Sea is not as bad as in the Gulf of Alaska at 79 percent, it’s still significant, dropping 45 percent since 2014, according to the federal trawl survey. “Any increase to the state water fishery increases the amount of cod that is unobserved,” See said, adding that while most of the Area O cod are Bering Sea fish, there is some overlap with Gulf fish, especially around Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands. As ocean waters heat up, so do the politics of Pacific cod. Complaining that wide-body “Super 8” 58-foot fishing boats aren’t really small boats, the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Fish and Game Advisory Committee wants them to carry less than capacity, with limits of 150,000 pounds of Pacific cod in the Dutch Harbor state waters fishery, supporting a proposal before the Alaska Board of Fisheries when it meets in downtown Anchorage Oct. 18 and 19 at the Egan Convention Center. “It does not resemble a small boat fishery, and is completely out of control,” said Dustan Dickerson, owner of the F/V Raven Bay, which he said can only pack 50,000 pounds, compared to a quarter-million pounds for a Super 8, at the Sept. 12 committee meeting at the Unalaska Public Library. Dickerson described the Super 8s as “a 120-foot boat cut in half,” and Don Goodfellow, the plant manager of Alyeska Seafoods, said the vessels are 22-feet wide, resembling “a barge with a wheelhouse.” Dickerson proposed limiting the amount of cod allowed on board to either 50,000, or 100,000 pounds of cod, but ultimately joined in the 7-0 vote to support Proposal 15 on the fish board agenda, submitted by Andrew Wilder. Wilder called for the onboard limit in the growing Dutch Harbor subdistrict Pacific cod fishery, now in its fourth year, with 6.4 percent of the federal cod quota in the Bering Sea. With quotas slashed in the neighboring Gulf of Alaska, the Dutch Harbor cod fishery saw an influx of boats from the Gulf. Goodfellow said the big winner is boatbuilder Fred Wahl Marine Constructioon, of Reedsport, Ore., and fishing crews from Oregon. But he predicted that even if onboard capacity is limited, the fishing industry will always look for an angle and loophole, like maybe hiring tenders to shuttle fish to the plants from the fishing grounds. He compared the “arms race” shaping up in the cod fishery to the longtime tendency to build wider and deeper boats in Bristol Bay where salmon gillnetters are limited to 32 feet in length. The fish board regulates fishing in state waters up to three miles from shore, and the new Dutch Harbor small boat fishery is increasingly attracting boats from the Gulf of Alaska, were the cod quota was down 80 percent in the past year. The decline of cod in the Gulf is blamed on the warm water “blob.” The committee also rejected proposals to increase the state waters cod fishery to 10 and 20 percent, to protect the trawl fleet that delivers larger quantities of cod to local plants. “This is way too big of a bite at one time,” said committee chair Frank Kelty. “This is a big hit,” said Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, via teleconference. The committee also opposed a smaller request, for 8 percent, from Ernie Weiss of the Aleutians East Borough. The committee also rejected a proposal, by a 6 to 1 vote, to close trawling in state waters during the pot cod fishery in Dutch Harbor, proposed by Robert Magnus Thorstenson Jr. “Our boats continually lose pots to draggers in the Bering Sea pot cod fisheries,” he said in the written proposal, adding “there should be no trawling in state waters while our fishery is being prosecuted.” “We do not want to catch pots,” said trawler advocate Paine, saying that the trawl and pot fleets coordinate by sharing information to avoid such entanglements, although he admitted it still occasionally happens. The lone dissenter was Steven Gregory, who repeatedly complained the committee prioritizes economics over conservation. Thorstenson wrote that pot cod fishing is a cleaner fishery that “negates the bycatch impact” of cod caught with other gear types. Dickerson said the Super 8s are a conservation menace when they rapidly harvest large quantities of fish, and said the fishing effort should be spread out in space and time. In an effort to gain a local voice amongst the Super 8s, the Unalaska Native Fisherman’s Association decided to join a new small boat advocacy group, the Under Sixty Cod Harvesters, by buying a membership for Dickerson’s boat. The Under 60 group, in its proposal for 10 percent of the state waters cod quota, said their fleet is “largely comprised of vessels that are owned, crewed and maintained by Alaskans.” The portrayal of trawlers as non-local was challenged as a “myth” by At-Sea Processors Association Executive Director Stephanie Madsen, via teleconference, citing the ownership of factory trawlers by Alaska Community Development Quota groups. Kelty said cod landings in 2017 in Unalaska totaled 70 million pounds, worth $22 million at 30 cents per pound, in combined pot cod and trawl-caught fish, with the highest percentage from the trawl sector, paying $1.1 million in state and local taxes. Jim Paulin can be reached a [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Sept. 30

Elliott Bay Design Group has added Sarah Nichols as a full-time marine engineer to its Ketchikan office. Nichols will provide onsite technical engineering support to some of the firm’s major clients. Her background includes six years of project engineer and project management experience within a shipyard environment. Dick Stallone, owner of Stallones in Anchorage was recently elected to a one-year term as vice president of the NW Buyers board of directors. Founded in 1920, with a membership of more than 300 independent men’s clothing stores, NW Buyers is the oldest and largest menswear buying group in the United States. The organization is owned by its member stores and operated solely for their benefit. NW Buyers corporate offices are located in Plymouth, Minn. The 2018 YWCA Alaska/BP Women of Achievement awardees have been selected. An independent selection committee chose to recognize the following ten women who have demonstrated qualities of leadership and excellence in their professional and personal endeavors, as well as their contributions to the larger community. Now in its 29th year, this award has been presented to more than 300 women who devoted their lives to positively impacting the community, many of whom continue to work toward eliminating racism and empowering women throughout Alaska. The 2018 Awardees are: Amy Coffman, special assistant at Municipality of Anchorage-Office of the Mayor; Col. Patricia Csànk, Commander, 673d Air Base Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson; Ella Goss, CEO of Providence Alaska Medical Center; Mary Katzke, producer and executive director of Affinityfilms; Heather Kendall-Miller, senior staff attorney at Native American Rights Fund; Lourdes “Lo” Linato-Crawford, board president at Bridge Builders of Anchorage; Beth Rose, vice president of Alaska Community Foundation; Doreen Schenkenberger, executive director of Partners for Progress; Krista Scully, Pro Bono director of Alaska Bar Association; Aliy Zirkle, Iditarod musher and owner of SP Kennels. These women will be honored at the Annual YWCA Alaska/BP Women of Achievement &Youth Awards on Nov. 7 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts Discovery Theatre. Chip Arnold has been appointed chief operating officer of the Alaska SeaLife Center. Arnold joined ASLC 17 years ago in the IT department, but has served the Center in many ways from facilities to oiled wildlife response. Arnold was promoted to COO from his most recent position as Operations director. In this new position, Arnold will be in charge of daily ASLC operations and oversee Human Resources, Husbandry, and Operations (Life Support, Security, and Custodial). He will also continue to serve as the Dive Safety officer and manage Oiled Wildlife Response Programs.

OPINION: Walker-Mallott drags Kavanaugh into Alaska’s problems

The fact that Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott need to pull votes from Mark Begich, the other Democrat in the race for governor, is no secret and it was therefore no surprise to see a press release out of Walker’s office on Sept. 20 announcing their opposition to Brett Kavanaugh to join the U.S. Supreme Court. After declaring Kavanaugh “does not demonstrate a commitment to legal precedent that protects working families,” whatever that means, and stopping just short of asserting he favors repealing the Alaska Statehood Act, the so-called “independent/Alaska first/unity” ticket went lower than a North Slope drill bit: “Finally, we believe a thorough review of past allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh is needed before a confirmation vote takes place. Violence against women in Alaska is an epidemic. We do not condone placing someone into one of our nation’s highest positions of power while so many key questions remain unanswered.” Opposition to Kavanaugh — even on nothing more than the pure partisan basis we saw before his name was released or uncorroborated allegations from his high school years were dropped on him like slime at a Nickelodeon awards show at the last possible moment — is one thing. It is quite another to conflate the unsubstantiated charges against Kavanaugh with the documented, ongoing and as-yet unchecked problem of violence against women in Alaska that Walker and Mallott describe as an epidemic. Walker and Mallott refer to this epidemic as if they are mere bystanders to the problem and not the most powerful person in Alaska and one of the most respected Native leaders in the state, respectively. What, exactly, have Walker and Mallott done to address or even reduce violence against Alaska women and children? And what, exactly, does Kavanaugh have to do with any of it? Mallott, for his part, appears more interested in climate change than actually changing the climate for women and girls in rural Alaska. After nearly four years of their administration, virtually nothing has improved, they’re offering no hope that it will, and yet they are using an unsolved issue they have the ability to do something about as the basis to attack Kavanaugh. Oh, but they just want the questions answered, as if that matters after they’d already come up with a series of bizarre allegations about his legal views that aren’t backed up by either Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Sen. Dan Sullivan, whose wife is an Alaska Native. How difficult would it be for anyone who went to high school with Walker or Mallott to make up a similar charge against them as has been leveled against Kavanaugh? How would they, their wives and their children feel if suddenly they had to defend themselves against a horrific allegation with no date, place or even a year for which to present a defense? How would they react to calls to drop out of the race for governor, or to suspend their campaign until a thorough investigation of a charge with no possible defense other than a denial was available? We are going down a dangerous road here where a person in the public eye for decades can be destroyed over such an unprovable accusation after being the subject of not one, not two, but six FBI background checks over the years that, yes, include interviews with high school and college acquaintances. If the GOP falls for this scam they can kiss the Senate goodbye, or if they manage to hold it thanks to the difficult battleground facing Democrats in 10 states won by President Donald Trump, they can expect nothing short of a repeat of this character assassination against Kavanaugh on any other nominee. Just imagine what’s going to happen if Trump has an opportunity to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This will look like the good ol’ days. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

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