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Dermot Cole

A state commissioner who wrote to state retirees on official letterhead this week and mentioned that he is "very grateful for Governor Parnell's leadership" defended the document by saying it doesn't mention the election next week, so it is not a campaign document.

Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer said he was responding to a letter sent by the Retired Public Employees of Alaska to people collecting retirement benefits. In that letter, which was not sent at state expense, Jay Dulany, president of the retirees' group, urged state retirees as well as retired teachers and retired municipal workers to carefully consider their voting options.

The response emailed by Thayer to retirees had the subject line "Keeping Retirement Promises."...

Dermot Cole

Rep. Don Young criticized Democrat Forrest Dunbar on Thursday for bringing up U.S. House ethics violations in a televised debate for U.S. Congress, arguing that he was found not guilty because he received a letter of reproval, not a sanction.

“I was hoping, Forrest, you would stay away from that subject because I’ve been found not guilty in every aspect,” Young said, portraying a letter of reproval from the House Ethics Committee in June as a vindication of sorts.

In the statewide debate on public TV, Dunbar, 30, had asked Young, 81, if he could honestly say that his ethics violations have not cost Alaska influence in Congress.

“I can honestly say it has not cost any influence,” Young said, adding that his ability to get things done is “very, very evident.”...

Dermot Cole

Gov. Sean Parnell claims Bill Walker is lying about how the governor responded to the first allegations concerning the scandal within the Alaska National Guard four years ago.

In a debate broadcast statewide on public television Wednesday, Parnell said he wanted to “address Mr. Walker’s assertion that I did not act immediately and just call it what it is — it’s a bald-faced lie.”

“And I will not allow you to continue to say that,” Parnell said, repeating a line he has used in other debates.

Walker continued to say it...

Dermot Cole

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan has taken to summarizing his campaign with a sentence about his view of Alaska's virtues: "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right about Alaska."

He doesn't drop this line into debates as regularly as he inserts the names of Harry Reid and President Barack Obama, but it has clearly emerged as a favorite, repeated by his backers on Twitter and elsewhere.

An alert reader in Juneau called my attention to another political parallelism...

Dermot Cole

Rep. Don Young and his Democratic opponent, Forrest Dunbar, a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard, agree that Young has accomplished a lot for Alaska during his decades in D.C.

But while the 81-year-old Young says he remains effective and deserves a 22nd term, his 30-year-old challenger argues that Young’s influence is a thing of the past.

The half-century between them suggests a chasm between the two men on style and substance.

Young, who has been in Congress since 1973, is a curmudgeonly figure given to bolo ties whose name has been on the statewide ballot more often than anyone in Alaska history. He takes pride in telling people he is not a lawyer or a banker and he doesn’t sell insurance or preach the Gospel...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Freegold Ventures has offered to modify a proposed mining lease to accommodate a popular downhill ski area northeast of Fairbanks, according to the mining company and a spokesman for the ski area.

"We have amended our application to exclude the area licensed for the Skiland downhill area as we understand that the application has caused much concern to both the current owners of Skiland and the community," Kristina Walcott, president and CEO of the Vancouver-based mining company, said Tuesday.

Jeff Fay, a longtime volunteer at Skiland, said Tuesday the decision "made my day."

"It was the response from Freegold that I really hoped we would get," he said. "I feel very positive."...

Dermot Cole

With a week to go before the election, the total spent on the U.S. Senate race in Alaska is already in the $50 million range, far surpassing any election in state history.

The campaigns and outside groups chipping in tens of millions to to help or hinder Sen. Mark Begich and challenger Dan Sullivan are on track to spend $150 to $200 per vote.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows $37.7 million has been spent by outside groups, while the Federal Election Commission says Begich has spent $7.6 million and Sullivan has spent $6.7 million...

Dermot Cole

Gov. Sean Parnell argues that the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline is a priceless insurance policy against the possibility that the oil companies will decide by 2019 that they do not want to build a larger pipeline.

Challenger Bill Walker counters that it is a pricey plan that would ensure energy costs in Anchorage would go up. He wants to stop spending money on ASAP as soon as possible.

Parnell said the two gas lines should be pursued for the same reason that the proposed Susitna-Watana dam should remain in the mix for Alaska’s energy future -- it’s not clear yet which one is the best bet.

The list of mega-projects should not be trimmed "until we have something in hand for Alaskans," Parnell said...

Dermot Cole

Less than two weeks ago, Gov. Sean Parnell said that at current oil prices, the state would take in $150 million more a year with the current oil tax structure than the old one.

In Anchorage six days later, he said that at current oil prices, the state would take in almost $200 million more under the new system.

It’s a fluid situation.

Oil prices dropped by more than $3 on the day Parnell spoke in Fairbanks and remain close to $80, accounting for the theoretical $50 million difference.

Both the old tax system and the new one are based on net profits, which means that as prices drop, so do the taxes. The new system is set up so that the state collects more money on the low end and a lot less on the upper end...

Dermot Cole

The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Fairbanks judge misinterpreted the word “may” as used in a phrase in the grand jury clause in the Alaska Constitution.

In doing so, the three-member court reinstated a sexual abuse indictment against Tara Leighton, 32, a former youth hockey coach. She was indicted on five counts for sexual abuse of a minor.

In 2012, the jurors heard a judge advise them that if a majority of them agreed to indict Leighton, they “should” do so. They did...

Dermot Cole