Let's get one thing straight right here, William Fulton, former FBI informant and one-time Anchorage army surplus store owner better known to most in the 49th state as "Drop Zone Bill," is a lying sack of shit.
Los Angeles Times reporter Kim Murphy might be naïve enough to believe the claptrap Fulton is now spewing about what happened in an Anchorage middle school the evening he torpedoed the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican primary winner Joe Miller, but I'm not. I interviewed "Drop Zone" at some length after he staged a confrontation, handcuffed Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger, and started a national media firestorm. He later said he thought the story I wrote was pretty fair.
Fulton said he was watching Hopfinger because the man had "something in his hand."
"It could have been a camera," the guard said. "It could have been a recording device. It could have been an iPhone." When asked, though, Fulton conceded the something in Hopfinger's hand obviously wasn't a weapon.
Hopfinger said he had in his hand a small video camera, called a "Flip." He was trying, he said, to get an on-camera interview with Miller. In the process of following the candidate, Hopfinger added, he was getting pushed into by people who were crowding the hallway.
It was at that point, Fulton said, that Hopfinger "shoulder checked a guy into a locker."
Fulton did not know the name of who was "shoulder checked." "It wasn't one of our guys," he said. "It could have been anyone. (But) I saw that shoulder check as being violent."
A pot-bellied and overweight writer, Hopfinger wasn't sure what a "shoulder check" is when asked about it. He said the only person he remembers touching is Fulton. Hopfinger said he put his hand on Fulton's chest to try to push the former soldier back.
"I was being pushed into a lot of people," Hopfinger said. "I used my hand. It all happened in seconds. He said it was a private event. He grabbed me and said, ‘You're under arrest.'"
Factually, only a couple things have changed since that story was published on Oct. 17, 2010. Hopfinger has quit drinking, lost weight, plans to stop smoking, and now looks healthier than Fulton. Hopfinger has also learned what a "shoulder check" is, and Alaska Dispatch has spent a lot of time looking for the mystery man Hopfinger allegedly shoulder checked into a locker. The man has never been found.
He could be in hiding somewhere with the gunman of "grassy knoll" fame from the Kennedy Assassination. Or maybe he helped Fulton come up with the revisionist history for the brand new story on what happened on that day in October.
This is Fulton now, as told to the Los Angeles Times:
"'We were doing standard security. This guy runs up to (Miller), 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,' he said. 'We did the same thing we’d done a million times. ... Just like if we have a concert and we have to arrest someone if they won’t leave, same deal. Regardless of what my political views are or were at the time, we did our job.
So, let's deconstruct:
The mystery man has now gone missing, and instead of Hopfinger following Miller down a hallway in Central Middle School as part of a scrum, which everyone back in 2010 agreed was what happened, we have Hopfinger rushing Joe Miller "five or six times." And then we have Fulton grabbing him and doing "the same thing we'd done a million times."
If Fulton has cuffed a million people at public events here or anywhere else on this planet, my dog, Lars, is Albert Einsten reincarnated.
And the day after the now-infamous cuffing took place, Fulton admitted he knew full well that Hopfinger was an Alaska Dispatch reporter, if not editor and part-owner. Fulton had been hanging around the fringes of Alaska politics for at least two years by then. So had Hopfinger. Reporters are usually pretty easily identified. They're the people regularly around candidates asking questions. People in the "security business," which is what Fulton claimed to be, would have either noticed this way before the rally at the middle school, or they'd be incompetent.
Now, Fulton seems to be falling back on incompetence as a defense, i.e.: "This guy runs up to him, and by the way he had no credentialing, we had no idea who this guy was."
Yeah right. That's like me shooting a bald eagle that flies into my duck decoys and claiming I thought it was a giant duck. Fulton knew full well whom he was dealing with. And just so everyone else knows, reporters attending public meetings in Alaska never have "credentials." It might be different in the big city. But here on the edge of the Last Frontier, people are pretty laid-back about politics.
As U.S. Sen. Mark Begich noted the other day, he's always getting stopped and chatted up in Anchorage supermarkets when he's in town. Yes, he does his own grocery shopping. And no, he doesn't have security. Alaska, despite its reputation, is actually a very safe state. People might get vocal, but they rarely get violent, except maybe to go after political candidates "violently" with a video camera that is about the size of a pack of cigarettes.
Fulton's problem is that he is a guy with delusions of grandeur. But don't take my word for it, take his. Again as told to the LA Times:
"Fulton said it did cross his mind after the fact that the very public confrontation with the journalist 'was actually good for us operationally,' in terms of the FBI investigation."
Good for "us?" "Operationally." Can you say, "FBI wannabe?"
It's pretty clear now Fulton took Hopfinger down to attract publicity. Murphy has been good enough to help Fulton get it by providing a platform for him to spin it nationally as to how he was the good guy in the white hat pursuing dangerous miltiaman Schaeffer Cox, an Alaska blowhard if ever there was one. Cox talked about killing Alaska judges, law enforcement officers, and politicians. He'll spend a good part of the rest of his life in prison for it.
I wish the authorities were as thorough about prosecuting the people who said they'd like to kill me, including a state trooper or two if their coworkers were to have been believed back in the day. This state is full of people who talk smack. It's talk. But in that regard, you've got to say one thing for Drop Zone Bill.
He didn't just talk. He put people in prison, and he sunk a Senate campaign while the FBI stood on and watched. Miller, whom I've been trying to talk to about this incident for two years (He erroneously thinks I'm a lefty and doesn't realize I'm just some pain-in-the-ass, old-school journalist who gets fixated on trying to find the truth) seems to be finally, at last, figuring out what happened.
Miller told the LA Times that the handcufffing "'was utilized as a political weapon against us in the state.' He is now troubled that Fulton, whose personal politics turn out to be not at all aligned with the far right, was injecting controversy into his campaign and was also working on the campaign of (Lt. Gov. candidate Eddie) Burke, another right-wing candidate who lost -- all during 2010, when he was a paid informant for the FBI."
Really, Joe? You're now troubled? Remember what you said after the handcuffing? It's still online at Politico.com:
In a statement, the Miller campaign called Hopfinger a "liberal blogger" and accused him of having "chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a 'confrontation' with the candidate."
"While I’ve gotten used to the blog Alaska Dispatch's assault on me and my family, I never thought that it would lead to a physical assault,” Miller said. “It’s too bad that this blogger would take advantage of a ‘Town Hall’ meeting to create a publicity stunt just two weeks before the election.'"
The "physical assault" was a reference to the mystery man shoulder checked into the lockers, the mystery man who was so violently attacked he has gone forgotten in Drop Zone's latest retelling of the night he saved democracy by nabbing a rabid reporter in the private space of an Anchorage public school.
There was a publicity stunt all right, Joe. But it wasn't one staged by Dispatch. It was one staged by your associate Drop Zone, who handed you the knife with which you slit your own political throat. Remember how you took the Central school incident as an opportunity to declare war on the lamestream Alaska media? Not just Alaska Dispatch, either, but all of the media.
That Sarah Palin-esque tactic works great to get attention. It doesn't win elections. Apparently you weren't paying attention when Palin was elected Alaska governor as a uniter, not as a divider. She didn't win a thing after she went the other way. And you followed her, thanks to Fulton's lead. You went all divider, and it cost you the election.
You lost to write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom you'd beaten soundly in the primary. A write-in candidate with a name hard to spell, nonetheless. Nobody in Alaska politics had even imagined a scenario so crazy as a write-in candidate winning this sort of election. Even one named Smith or Jones.
The crazier thing is the FBI doesn't seem to care what its operative did to influence this election. One of Fulton's "handlers," Sandra Klein, told the LA Times this:
"Whatever he did on that part with Joe Miller was not anywhere in our purview that we were interested in."
Can you imagine what the national reaction would have been back in the 1970s if the FBI had caught one of Richard Nixon's dirty tricks gang monkeywrenching an election in this manner, and the FBI had said, "Oh, never mind. It's not anywhere in our purview that were interested in.''
The FBI doesn't seem at all ashamed about standing by and watching Fulton tamper with an election in Alaska. Fulton seems downright proud. And reporters like Murphy don't even seem to care enough to go back and fact-check the story. I wonder what the reaction would have been if an FBI plant posing as a lefty, but moonlighting undercover as a right-wing operative, had found a way last fall to sink the election campaign of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., or any other Democrat for that matter?
Or maybe ensuring fair and free election in this country isn't in the FBI's purview. Maybe it was more important to get Cox and the others. They were, after all, posing as enemies of the state.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com
The views expressed here are those of the contributor. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.