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Why was FBI militia informant involved in Alaska politics?

Kim Murphy

SEATTLE -- Now that the mole who helped bring down the Alaska Peacemaker Militia has talked publicly, the question on some Alaskans' minds is: Why was FBI informant William Fulton involved in political campaigns?

Fulton, an Anchorage military surplus store owner who gathered evidence against militia leader Schaeffer Cox, also managed right-wing former radio host Eddie Burke's unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010 and provided security for U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller -- all while penetrating Alaska's far-right fringes.

Fulton has since left Alaska to avoid the chance of reprisals stemming from his work with the FBI that helped send Schaeffer and three others to prison. He said federal law enforcement agents had no involvement in his political activity.

"The only thing that they ever asked me to do was to look into Schaeffer Cox and a few other people," Fulton said.

He added that the only comment the FBI made when agents learned about his political activities was: "'Hmm, Bill, maybe you shouldn't be doing this.'"

The issue has caused a brouhaha of sorts, with the Alaska Dispatch, an online news site, asking, "Should the FBI have kept a tighter leash on its militia mole?"

Fulton's contentious relationship with the Alaska Dispatch began when he provided security at a campaign event for Miller, who was running on a tea party platform. Fulton handcuffed and detained a man who had aggressively followed the candidate in an attempt to ask questions. As it turned out, the man was a reporter and editor for the Alaska Dispatch, and the specter of a beefy security guard handcuffing a journalist undermined Miller's campaign.

Though Miller had won the Republican primary against the relatively moderate U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, she launched a write-in campaign and beat him in the general election.

Miller recalled the 2008 election, when longtime U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens lost his bid for re-election after he was found guilty of failing to report gifts from an oil industry lobbyist as a result of a long FBI investigation in Anchorage. The charges were dismissed in 2009 because potentially exculpatory evidence had not been turned over to the defense. By then, Democrat Mark Begich had defeated Stevens.

"This is the second U.S. Senate race in Alaska that the FBI has had some involvement in," Miller said. "I'm certainly not expressing any type of conspiracy theory about the FBI causing any kind of trouble to my campaign, but it's conceptually troubling to me that you have a paid informant working on multiple campaigns answering to the FBI."

Sandra Klein, who was Fulton's FBI handler, has said his role was purely to meet with Cox and his associates in connection with their illegal attempts to collect guns, silencers, grenades and explosives as they plotted to kill judges, police and other government employees.

"The bureau had absolutely no role in Fulton's business dealings or his relationships with his clients." Klein wrote in an email.

Fulton said he agreed to take two of his guards with him to Miller's town hall event as part of his business, which typically provided security for concerts and other events.

As for the confrontation with journalist Tony Hopfinger, Fulton said: "This guy runs up to him, and by the way he had no credentialing, we had no idea who this guy was. He had something in his hand and he was like running up to the candidate. We of course get between him and the candidate because that's our job. After that happened five or six times ... we decided to arrest him."

Fulton said he agreed to help run Burke's campaign because the former radio host had frequently promoted his military surplus shop on his program. "Then when he became a candidate for lieutenant governor, of course he brought those listeners with him, which were of interest as customers," he said.

Burke said he had no idea Fulton was working on his campaign at the same time he was working for the FBI.

"I'm a little disappointed that he didn't say something to me up front about it," Burke said. "But then again, I understand the situation he was in, working with the FBI, trying to do the right thing, and not being able to tell people about it."

Fulton has since been the subject of venomous talk on Alaska militia forums on the Internet.

"FBI paid informant, Bill Fulton, was found dead last night from what sources say appears to be an assassination. His hands were bound and a hood was placed over his head. Militia literature was left near the body with a note scribbled, 'payback's a bitch,'" said one entry Fulton found on the Alaska Citizens Militia site. Norm Olson, the author, said the posting was written tongue-in-cheek.

Olson had earlier co-founded the Michigan Militia, which rose to prominence in the heightened national attention given to right-wing militias after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Said Fulton, after forwarding the post: "I don't think the militia guys in Alaska are so happy about me right now."


By KIM MURPHY
Los Angeles Times