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Corruption and influence peddling in modern poltiics, sadly, isn’t merely limited to people in the orbit of Hillary Clinton, or even to the Democrats. There are plenty of Republican career politicians masquerading as conservatives who will do anything to hold on to power. And one of them is certainly Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.
Those with long memories will recall Sen. Murkowski as the RINO who barely held on to her seat after she lost the Republican primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller back in 2010. The incumbent senator, who managed to beat Miller 39 percent to 35 percent through a nasty independent write-in campaign, had lost the primary due to being one of the most overwhelmingly liberal and Wall Street-connected Republicans in D.C.
The intervening six years have changed little for Sen. Murkowski. She still votes with President Obama 72 percent of the time, according to Roll Call. She’s running for Senate again, and her main opponent is again Joe Miller. This time, however, she seems to have upped the ante: illegal fundraising tactics, baseless character smears and insane dirty tricks that have included calling the police to stop Miller’s mailings.
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First, the background. Sen. Murkowski sailed through a four-person primary, mostly because of weak opposition; her most serious challenger for the seat was described by Wikipedia as a “mechanic and candidate for the State House in 1996,” which isn’t exactly bringing your A game.
While Democrats have had sporadic successes on the frozen tundra of America’s 49th state, they seem perfectly happy to punt the seat to the upper chamber’s foremost RINO. Democrat nominee Ray Metcalfe, who currently polls in single digits, has raised $0, spent $0, and has $0 cash on hand. If that sounds like he isn’t really trying, that’s probably because he isn’t.
Miller had decided to stay out this time. In an interview with Conservative Tribune, Katy Miller — Joe’s daughter and one of his campaign coordinators — told us that while he “considered and prayed about it,” the former candidate didn’t feel that he was being called to run in the primary.
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However, when the Libertarian Party candidate unexpectedly stepped aside in early September, the party’s board unanimously decided to offer the nomination to Miller. He accepted, and quickly moved into second place.
“It was just out of nowhere,” Katy Miller said.
And that’s when the “fun” began.
It would be impossible to catalogue all the massive weirdness that has come out of the Murkowski campaign in the intervening month and a half. However, it’s probably wise to start with what looks like, on face, a massive violation of campaign finance law.
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In late September, Murkowski’s campaign made four unusual transfers to the Alaska Republican Party worth over $150,000. Shortly thereafter, the ARP sent out several harsh mailers accusing Miller of being forced to resign from his job for illegally accessing coworkers’ computers.
We’ll get to how those allegations are pretty much untrue in just a second, but let’s start with the fact that the arrangement to pay for the fliers was almost certainly illegal.
FEC law limits “coordinated party activities” with Murkowski for the Alaska Republican Party in this year’s Senate race to $96,100. Furthermore, a single “coordinated party expenditure” is limited to $50,000. If the contributions — tellingly marked “other” in Sen. Murkowski’s FEC filings — were used for that coordinated purpose, the ARP and/or Murkowski would have violated campaign finance law in a massive way.
And these sorts of expenditures are hardly considered standard operating procedure. Miller’s personal site quoted FEC officials who said that the transfers were “highly unusual” and “may require an Advisory Opinion.”
“The whole purpose of campaign finance law is so the voters can know the true source of the message and who is funding it,” Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said. “There appears to be strong evidence in these instances the Murkowski campaign and the Alaska Republican Party are trying to circumvent the law.”
According to Alaska Public Media, Dickensian-named state party chair Tuckerman Babcock doesn’t even deny that the money from Murkowski’s transfers were used for the mailers. His defense is that “it’s not laundering because he, as party chairman, was free to ignore any of the campaign’s recommendations and says he spent the money as he saw fit.”
Of course, the very fact that he indicates he was “free to ignore any of the campaign’s recommendations” indicates that there were “recommendations” on how to spend the money, and it seems to also strongly imply those “recommendations” involved the Miller mailers. That’s prima facie coordination, which is what he’s being accused of. In short, Babcock might want to take some night classes in excuse management.
For all the money lavished on that series of mailers, it turns out that it was all spent on one of the most spurious allegations I’ve seen in a major race in quite some time.
In our interview, Katy Miller explained to Conservative Tribune that the incident in question happened when her father was working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough years ago. According to Miller, her father used a number of “public office computers” to vote “in a poll against Randy Ruedrich, (who) was the head of the Alaska Republican Party.
“And then he felt bad about voting in the poll on those office computers — they’re supposed to be work computers — and so he told his boss and apologized,” Miller said.
Yep, Joe Miller is essentially the cop who wrote himself a ticket for going through a red light. This is the “dirt” that Lisa Murkowski and the Alaska Republican Party spent $150,000 (allegedly, cough cough) pillorying him over. By the by, the Miller campaign also said the candidate didn’t resign until 18 months after the incident, over a completely unrelated disagreement involving vetoed vacation time.
Miller’s campaign made public the connection between Murkowski’s transfers and their relationship to the mailings on Oct. 24. On the same day — quelle surprise! — the Alaska Republican Party struck back with an FEC complaint of their own against Miller’s campaign, although of a somewhat more vague nature.
In the complaint, Tuckerman Babcock listed a number of ill-defined offenses, mostly having to do with Joe Miller’s personal website, Restoring Liberty. According to KTUU-TV, accusations include that Miller “illegally accepted extremely valuable in-kind campaign contributions from corporate sponsors,” “accepted email and other lists from corporate entities without paying fair value” and “solicited donations via radio communications without a proper disclaimer.”
Even the Alaska Midnight Sun, an alternative paper not exactly amenable to the Tea Party movement or conservatism in general, admitted the state GOP’s charges were ostensibly hogwash.
“Miller’s defense is that he owns the website so any revenue from it is his personal money and he can use as much of that money to fund his campaign as he likes,” the Midnight Sun wrote, noting that since Miller is using it as self-funding, it’s perfectly legal.
“The massive irony here is that the Alaska Republican Party is making this charge. They continue to use party resources to pay their communications director to operate a party created website to attack party opponents such as Miller and solicit donations for the party and their candidates without adhering to any public disclosure or reporting rules,” the Midnight Sun article continued. “If Miller’s website is illegal then the Alaska Republican Party’s website is a flat out criminal enterprise.”
You would have hoped this would have been the end of it, and you would be wrong: On Monday, Babcock filed a police report claiming Miller’s latest mailer was stolen property.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the issue at hand involves a series of mailers from Miller’s 2010 campaign that were donated to his 2016 campaign by a member of the ARP. Babcock, ever on the make, decided that this constituted theft and went to the police. Thankfully, and to nobody’s surprise, law enforcement doesn’t seem to be actively pursuing the matter. However, someone probably ought to remind Babcock that filing a false police report is usually considered a crime.
The Alaska Republican Party has resorted to other dirty tricks impugning Miller, as well, including rehashing a strange incident from the 2010 election where an FBI undercover informant who had wormed his way into the Miller campaign had handcuffed a journalist at a Miller event.
Leaving aside the dubious-appearing presence of an FBI informant inside the senatorial campaign of a Tea Party favorite, the Alaska Republican Party has claimed on their Facebook page that Miller was present and that the informant was part of his paid security staff. In fact, reports say that Miller had left and that the informant, Bill Fulton, was not paid security.
When Katy Miller — who is still a registered, active Republican — tried to answer users’ questions and weigh in on the kerfuffle on the ARP’s Facebook page, her comments were promptly deleted. Not before she got a screenshot, however:
Miller also says her comments were deleted when she brought up an issue that may be far more touchy to the ARP — the fact that Miller supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, while Murkowski has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics.
“Offensive and inappropriate statements made by Donald Trump throughout this campaign have caused me to withhold my support or an endorsement,” Murkowski said in a statement after the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked.
“I have always supported the Republican presidential nominee and I had hoped to do the same in 2016. The video that surfaced yesterday further revealed his true character. He not only objectified women, he bragged about preying upon them. I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for President — he has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee. He must step aside.”
The Alaska Republican Party, as an official state branch of the GOP, supports the Trump/Pence ticket. However, they’re also supporting one of Trump’s most vocal (and most liberal) critics within the Republican Party at the same time they’re supposed to be pushing the GOP presidential nominee.
Again, the ARP deletes comments from users on their Facebook page who point out the incongruity of the state Republican Party vigorously supporting a RINO, although not before they were screenshotted:
In our interview, Katy Miller wondered “why they could push so much for Trump yet, at the same time, they’re pushing so hard for the one Alaskan … (who is) a very outspoken critic of Trump at the same time. They’re trying to get both of them elected, which seemed really hypocritical to me.”
There’s also the fact that while Alaska does lean red, it still has the possibility of being a swing state. If Tuckerman Babcock really was at liberty to dispense the funds as he saw fit, spending them on turning out the vote for Trump would inarguably be a better use of resources.
For a short, underfunded campaign, Miller has taken a large chunk out of Murkowski’s support. There has been little polling done for what the media has assumed is a safe seat, but those polls that have been conducted show Miller in a solid second place, picking up between 15 and 18 percent of the vote. Murkowski, meanwhile, hovers in the 40s.
The gap is narrowing, and it’s clear that Murkowski is afraid of Miller. She was in 2010, too, when there were several allegations of voter fraud made against her write-in campaign.
In one of them, a voter said in a sworn affidavit that “there was already a stack of ballots in the box which in my opinion numbered in the hundreds,” adding that they “were very neatly stacked and approximately 4 to 5 inches thick.” The problem? The voter in question was only the tenth person to vote at that location.
We don’t know whether Murkowski will be engaging in that kind of voter fraud this year. What we do know is that she’s engaged in campaign finance shenanigans that have a strong odor of illegality about them. We also know that she’s using the state party apparatus to attack her opponent — another Republican, although this time running under the auspices of the Libertarian Party.
And what is she doing this for? So that she can go back to Washington and vote 72 percent of the time with the left, all the while maintaining her connections to Wall Street.
The people of Alaska have a chance to take out one of the most conspicuous RINO’s in America on Nov. 8, and Murkowski knows it. That’s why she’s willing to break laws and sling mud. We would hope the people of the state will see through the mailers and the wild accusations and vote their conscience.