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Sullivan fails to stand his ground

Shannyn Moore
OPINION: Columnist Shannyn Moore says former AG Dan Sullivan is trying to rewrite his history on Alaska gun law. Pictured: Dan Sullivan at a candidates' debate. Erik Hill

I support the Second Amendment. I have guns and, because we have some lunatics on the loose in this state, I conceal carry. But I didn’t support the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law that allows people to shoot those they fear without trying to retreat first. If you can retreat safely, you should -- rather than take someone’s life.

It was a controversial bill that many believed would lead to more violence, so you can imagine my happy surprise when Sarah Palin’s then-attorney general, Dan Sullivan, opposed the bill and helped kill it in 2010. I was impressed that Sarah Palin had actually hired an attorney general willing to stand his ground against insane gun laws.

Maybe bringing in a guy from Ohio or D.C. or Maryland, or wherever Dan is from, to be our chief law enforcement officer -- one who had seen first-hand too much gun violence Outside -- was going to benefit Alaska.

But now I’m watching as Ohio Dan tries to rewrite the history of his opposition to Stand Your Ground. In a recent radio ad, Sullivan claims, "As Alaska’s attorney general, (I) successfully fought to protect our Second Amendment rights and passed ‘Stand your Ground.' "

This claim is just plain false, according to the nonpartisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact.com. Come on, Dan, don’t weasel on this. Embrace your decision to do the right thing and kill what really was a bad bill.

As a Marine, Dan Sullivan is a chain-of-command guy. As attorney general, he made sure the troops under him -- directors, assistants and others -- toed his line. In fact, just last March, in front of a tea party audience, Dan bragged that he was responsible for “everything” done by the Department of Law while he was AG. That’s what makes Sullivan’s lie about Stand Your Ground so blatant.

How do we know he’s running from the truth? For starters, there’s a March 15, 2010, letter to the House Judiciary Committee expressing “serious concern” about House Bill 381, the Stand Your Ground bill. The letter went on to say the law would be “a bad idea for our state.” The letter is signed, “Sincerely, Daniel S. Sullivan Attorney General” and “By John Skidmore Assistant Attorney General.”

As reported by the Daily News, Sullivan now claims “it’s not my letter,” that it was written by a “staffer,” he had no idea about it and disagrees with it. President Harry Truman, also a military man, famously had a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.” Apparently, Dan left his sign back in Ohio.

So let’s assume Sullivan managed his department in such a way that he had no idea what his assistant attorneys general were writing to the Legislature under his signature. Surely he knew what testimony they were giving to the Legislature on high-profile legislation, right?

So wouldn’t he have known that Anne Carpeneti, an assistant attorney general, Legal Section, Criminal Division, Department of Law, was requested to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on March 15, 2010, “to offer us the point of view of the Department of Law”? 

Carpeneti started her testimony by saying, “I represent the Criminal Division of the Department of Law.” She apologized for the late delivery of the March 15 Sullivan/Skidmore letter, explaining, “We were working on it all morning.”

She went on to testify: “We are confused and concerned about this bill ... The way the department reads this bill, it would really contribute to violence in this state.” She testified again on March 29, 2010, before the House Judiciary Committee. She noted that the Department of Law “still has concerns” about the bill.

The bill passed out of the committee and advanced to the House Finance Committee. Before Finance, on April 8, 2010, Carpeneti again testified that the law department was concerned that HB 381 would increase violence in Alaska. Nonetheless, HB 381 passed the House, 32-8, that same day.

As the discussion moved to the Senate, the Department of Law sent Susan McLean, the director of the Criminal Division of the Department of Law, to testify before the Judiciary Committee. On April 16, 2010, she pulled no punches, forcefully declaring, “I want to make our position very clear here, which is, we are opposed to the law.” The bill died a few days later. The bill didn’t become law until three years later -- long after Dan Sullivan had left the Department of Law.

Does Dan really expect us to believe he had no idea Assistant Attorney General Skidmore was writing under his name that HB 381 was a “bad idea"? That Assistant Attorney General Carpeneti was testifying before multiple committees about the Department of Law’s “concerns” about promoting violence? That his Criminal Division director testified that the department flat out opposed the law?

What does this tell us about Dan Sullivan’s ability to run a department of state government? Did the Department of Law simply go rogue while supposedly under his control? I don’t think so. I think the real question is:

Does U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan have the integrity to tell Alaskans the truth and suffer the consequences?

The answer seems to be no. Sullivan is trying to deceive Alaskans, and he appears willing to turn anyone who gets in the way into a speed bump.

Oh, there’s one more document Dan hasn’t explained. It’s a “fiscal note,” dated March 30, 2010, detailing the expected costs of the Stand Your Ground bill: $400,000 a year for two new attorneys because “this bill will make prosecution of homicide cases more difficult ... and it will probably result in more jury trials.” The note was “Approved by: Daniel S. Sullivan, Attorney General.”

To quote Dan’s former boss, Sarah Palin, “How 'bout ya quit makin’ stuff up.”

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster. You can hear her show, "The Last Word," Monday through Friday 4-6 p.m. on KOAN 95.5 FM and 1080 AM and 1480 We Act Radio in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.