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Miller vows silence on questions about personal background

Sean CockerhamMcClatchy-Tribune News Service,Richard Mauer

Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller said Monday he will not answer any more questions about his personal background for the rest of the campaign.

"We've drawn a line in the sand. You can ask me about background, you can ask me about personal issues -- I'm not going to answer," Miller said.

Miller made the statement to reporters following Monday's Anchorage Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at the Dena'ina Center. Standing with his wife, Kathleen, Miller delivered a seven-minute address in which he complained he had been mistreated by the Alaska news media and announced he would no longer be answering personal questions. He took no questions, then quickly left down a nearby stairwell.

Miller said he has been the victim of "journalistic impropriety."

The statement came as new questions were being raised about Miller's time as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Miller spent seven years as a part-time borough attorney before leaving in September last year.

The statement followed the Alaska Dispatch quoting an anonymous source Sunday night saying that Miller used borough equipment in the unsuccessful 2008 attempt to oust state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich. Several Alaska news organizations, including the Daily News, have been asking for borough records about Miller's employment since summer, including information related to any disciplinary action Miller faced while employed there. The Dispatch and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner filed a lawsuit Monday seeking their release.

In March 2008, Miller was the Interior regional chair of the Republican Party and, along with then-Gov. Sarah Palin, attempted to have Ruedrich replaced as party chair at the annual GOP convention. The Fairbanks borough this summer released a heavily redacted set of documents. But other files were denied, including statements made by other employees regarding Miller and "web activity" reports from the day before the state Republican Party convention where Miller tried to oust Ruedrich.

Miller asserted Monday that "members of the media have gained access to my confidential file, my personnel file from the Fairbanks North Star Borough. It is clear violation of law, the access to that file."

Miller did not offer evidence for his assertion that the media had gained access to his personnel file, or cite the law that had been broken. "We are calling upon all responsible members of the media to focus on the issues, the legitimate issues and not repeat basically the lies and innuendos, not repeat the clear violations of law, but to focus on the issues at hand. Now I'll admit, and I've said this before, I'm a man of flaws, there's no question about it. You know, I wasn't born with a silver spoon, I haven't been born wealthy," he said.

Miller said the issue of his time at the borough was just the latest "political attack" against him. "An attack that is based upon avoiding the issues, where we're at as a state, where we're at as a nation and looking at other things that basically distract people's attention," Miller said.

Miller, a little known Fairbanks attorney who became a national figure after upsetting incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the August primary, has faced scrutiny in recent weeks on a number of fronts involving his personal background.

Before making his statement on Monday, he did an on-camera interview with Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren in the back of the Dena'ina Center ballroom. Miller has done few interviews with the Alaska news media in recent weeks, while appearing regularly on Fox News and on conservative talk radio, both in Alaska and nationally.

He has said the Alaska media is reporting what he considers irrelevant issues, such as his past government benefits.

That includes coverage of the fact he and his wife obtained state low-income hunting and fishing licenses after he took out a mortgage and started a $70,000 a year job, and that his family of eight children received state and federal low-income medical benefits in the past.

Miller has been critical of such programs at the federal level, saying the nation suffers from an "entitlement mentality" and is on the brink of bankruptcy. Miller had previously indicated a willingness to answer questions about his background, telling the Associated Press in a Sept. 29 story that "we'll try to answer the questions the press presents to us. We're going to try to be as forthright as we can."

Miller was particularly critical of the news website Alaska Dispatch, saying "one of the major investors, publishers in that blog is a max donor to the Murkowski campaign." Campaign finance records compiled by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics show that Alaska Dispatch publisher Alice Rogoff contributed $4,700 to Murkowski's current campaign -- $2,300 on May 21, 2008, and $2,400 on March 4, 2009. That represents more than half of the political contributions she has made since 2008 (she gave $500 to Democrat Mark Begich and nearly $3,000 to a Democratic House candidate in New Hampshire).

A message left for Rogoff on Monday was not returned. Tony Hopfinger, the editor and founder of the website, said Rogoff didn't buy her majority share of Alaska Dispatch until July 2009, months after the last Murkowski donation. While Rogoff runs the sales and business side of the on-line publication, she's a hands-off publisher in the newsroom, leaving coverage questions to him and other editorial staffers, Hopfinger said.


By SEAN COCKERHAM and RICHARD MAUER
Anchorage Daily News
Contact Richard Mauer at or on