Gov. Sarah Palin today appointed Daniel S. Sullivan, a former assistant secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush, to be Alaska's attorney general.
"He has a strong Alaska legal background and public service record in the state," Palin said in a written statement after she made the announcement in Soldotna.
"His leadership and negotiating achievements at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including on issues of vital importance to the State of Alaska, will help ensure that the interests of Alaska and our citizens are advanced and safeguarded."
Sullivan clerked for U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andrew Kleinfeld of Fairbanks from 1997 to 1998 and for then-Chief Justice Warren Matthews of the Alaska Supreme Court until 1999. He joined the Anchorage office of the law firm Perkins Coie in 2000, where he practiced business and corporate law. He is not related to Anchorage Mayor-elect Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan, originally from the Cleveland area, had lived in Alaska for five years when he left the state in 2002 after receiving a White House fellowship. He said at the time that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack inspired him to apply.
He was with the White House as a director in the International Economics Directorate for the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Sullivan, a Marine reservist, was called to active duty in 2004 as an adviser to the U.S. Central Command. Bush then appointed Sullivan to be assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs from June 2006 until last January. He oversaw a staff of 200, according to the governor's office.
The Alaska Bar Association registry lists Sullivan, 44, with an address in Bethesda, Maryland. Records show he received permanent fund dividends at Alaska addresses from 1999 through 2002, and then in 2003 with a Washington D.C. address.
He maintained property in Anchorage and voted absentee in Alaska elections as recently as 2008. Sullivan is a registered Republican, according to records. Sullivan's wife, Julie, is the daughter of former state representative Hugh Fate of Fairbanks and Mary Jane Fate, who is a former co-chairwoman of the Alaska Federation of Natives and was also on the University of Alaska board of Regents.
The state Legislature will vote on whether confirm Sullivan to the job after the next legislative session begins in January. The Legislature in April rejected Palin's previous choice for attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, the first time in state history that a head of a state agency has failed to be confirmed by the Legislature. Her first attorney general, Talis Colberg, resigned under pressure from lawmakers over his attempt to quash legislative subpoenas in the "Troopergate" investigation of whether Palin abused her power and pressed for the firing of an Alaska State Trooper who was her former brother-in-law.
The House and Senate judiciary committees will hold hearings on Sullivan. Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramras, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, predicted the Legislature would approve him "with accolades" on an unanimous vote. Ramras spoke to Sullivan after today's announcement.
"His primary character trait seems be humility, which is in welcome contrast to the last attorney general designee (Ross), and his resume makes him probably overqualified for the position," said Ramras, a frequent critic of the governor.
Ramras said he felt Sullivan would have a particular sensitivity to Native issues.
Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading figure in the Troopergate investigation, said he met Sullivan a couple of years ago when he came to Alaska to deliver a lecture.
French said he remembers Sullivan as being bright, and well spoken.
"He obviously has a very impressive resume, he's got a variety of different modes of public service under his belt. We still need to have a conversation with him about how he feels about issues crucial to Alaskans," French said.
As for the amount of time Sullivan has spent gone from Alaska, French said "there are many talented Alaskan lawyers and indeed, talented lawyers within the (Alaska) department of law."
"And as a former department of law employee, I had some hopes that the governor would promote from within. But I think Mr. Sullivan has distinguished himself in a variety of legal areas. We'll see through the hearing process whether he's able to get a handle on Alaskan issues," French said.
The current chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, Dana Fabe, said she remembers Sullivan from his time clerking for the court. She said he's a very good lawyer as well as a leader who organized the law clerks to participate in the Toys for Tots program at Christmas. "I think he's just a terrific attorney and has all the qualities needed to be an excellent attorney general," she said.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she's known Sullivan and his wife for many years.
"As Governor Palin stated, Dan's recent accomplishments as Assistant Secretary of State have already benefited Alaska. I personally worked with him on a number of these matters, including Law of the Sea and our country's new Arctic policy. Dan's strong advocacy skills and ability to build consensus among different groups were important in advancing these critical issues and will serve him well as our next Attorney General.," Murkowski said in a written statement.
The governor's office said that, as assistant secretary of state, Sullivan dealt with international energy including issues involving the proposed natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48.
Mark Kroloff, the chief operating officer for the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said Sullivan called him up recently and said he and his family were looking to return to Alaska. Sullivan was asking about what was happening within the state's business and political community. "I (told him I) thought there was a lot of opportunity here for him in the political or business world." Kroloff said. He said he wasn't sure how Sullivan came to the attention of Palin.
Sullivan is a graduate of Harvard University with a law degree and a master's in foreign service from Georgetown University.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.Alaska Politics blog: More on Sullivan
By SEAN COCKERHAM