The campaign for the Alaska U.S. Senate seat has taken a dramatic turn in the past days. Joe Miller, the candidate chosen by Sarah Palin to take out her enemy, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has been accused of ethical violations that may have led to his forced resignation as a part-time local government lawyer last fall.
He has also been accused of using other people’s computers without their permission to vote for himself by proxy when he ran (unsuccessfully) for chairman of the Alaska Republican Party in 2008. A job he sought, he said, in order to weed out corruption in the party.
Miller, a rookie in major league politics, has reacted to the controversy by stonewalling the media, a move that has had the predictable effect of bringing the local media’s interest in the story to a rolling boil.
Alaska Dispatch, which took an early lead in the investigation, recently sued Miller’s former employer, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, in an attempt to discover whether Miller was forced to resign or was fired outright. Over the weekend, the Dispatch framed its pursuit of information this way:
Alaska Dispatch is now seeking information from the borough on two distinct issues: the circumstances leading up to Miller’s resignation, and a series of entries in his file chronicled over a one-week period in March 2008. That timeframe coincides with the Alaska Republican Party’s annual convention and Miller’s failed effort alongside the state’s newly installed governor, Sarah Palin, to get rid of party chair [Randy] Ruedrich.
The fact that Ruedrich was Miller’s target in 2008 lends irony to the story:
The activity Miller is accused of is similar to what got Ruedrich in trouble in 2003 when it was brought to light that he was using state computers and e-mail to conduct Republican party business while working for the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. His then-co-worker Sarah Palin blew the whistle on Ruedrich’s activities, and he ended up paying a $12,000 state ethics fine.
More irony: Palin’s ethics charges against Ruedrich helped raise her political profile in the state, which eventually led to her successful run for governor — a job from which she resigned before her term was up, at least in part because she grew weary of fending off ethics charges.
The current controversy blew up this week after Miller invited the media to a news conference on Monday, during which he announced he would no longer respond to questions related to the controversy:
JOE MILLER:We’ve drawn a line in the sand. You can ask me about background, you can ask about personal issues — I’m not going to answer. I’m not. This is about the issues. This is not about continuing the personal attacks, it’s not about continuing the diversions based in illegal acts. This is about moving the state forward. And that’s our commitment.
Reacting to Miller’s announcement, former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, a Republican, came forward to confirm that the allegations are correct:
“It did make me angry,” said Whitaker, who was mayor … from 2003 to 2009. “That event (politicking on borough time) happened on my watch, and I am obligated to tell the truth.”
According to Whitaker, Miller — a part-time attorney for the borough from June 2002 to September 2009 — used other employees’ computers to send “proxy votes to get himself elected as the chairman of the Republican Party.”
…Whitaker called the computer use a “significant breach” of borough policy over which Miller likely would have been fired had it not been for his crucial role in a borough case involving the value of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Miller was reprimanded and was supposed to receive leave without pay, Whitaker said, although he didn’t recall if the discipline was ever carried out.
While Miller resigned from the borough in 2009, Whitaker said that had Miller not left on his own he would have been fired.
According to another source, Miller’s campaign platform for party chairman focused on ridding the Alaska GOP of corruption. “That’s what this is all about,” Miller said during the 2008 campaign, “to make sure the public understands that the Republican Party is a party of ethics and not corruption.”
Despite allegedly voting for himself by proxy multiple times, Miller lost the election that year.
So why is the corporate media ignoring this story? It is not because Miller’s candidacy is insignificant. His upset over Murkowski in the primary was big political news.
To give them the benefit of a doubt, maybe it’s because they don’t have the assets on the ground in Fairbanks to do the shoe leather work required to confirm what local outlets are reporting.
More likely, however, corporate media is uninterested because they have settled on a narrative for the Alaska election. They have already written the headlines for November: “Palin Pick Elected Senator” and “Joe the Tea Bagger Goes to Washington.”
They’re simply not interested in allowing something as complicated as investigating ethics complaints disrupt that narrative now.