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Absurd swipe at Alaska Democrats signals deep GOP desperation

  • Author: Mike Wenstrup
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published October 15, 2015

In an op-ed printed by Alaska Dispatch News on Oct. 12, the former president of the Alaska Federation of Republican Women mischaracterized the Alaska Democratic Party's Joint Fundraising Agreement and falsely alleged that we are raising money for Hillary Clinton. Not true. The state party is neutral in this contested primary. The agreement simply provides a transparent mechanism for donations to the state party in advance of the general election, regardless of the outcome of the Democratic presidential primary.

It should be no surprise that Republican Party leaders are grasping at straws to distract from their failed policies and inability to govern, given the recent widespread conservative losses in local elections across the state, chaos among their ranks in the U.S. House of Representatives, and a presidential primary that resembles a circus. Alaskans want real solutions, not more of the same tired rhetoric.

In the last election, more conservatives were elected to Congress than any time since the 1920s.

"We'll turn this country around," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged at the time.

Less than a year later he was forced to admit his conference may be ungovernable, going so far as to say, "Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom." The Republican Party is undeniably in disarray and has proven it cannot govern; Republicans are unable even to elect a speaker of the House. The Republican presidential candidates have shown little interest in rational debate on the important issues facing our country, with most of them struggling to out-Trump each other with outrageous remarks and name calling. How does this vacuum of sensible Republican leadership benefit Alaskans?

Fringe tea party activists and the moneyed Koch brothers are running the party at every level. What was once the Party of Lincoln is now led by extremists who are more interested in fighting and obstructing compromise than in governing. After his decision to retire, Speaker Boehner denounced the GOP radicals as "false prophets" who "whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know – they know! – are never going to happen." How is this Republican foolishness good for Alaskans?

In 2013, Republicans shut down the federal government for 16 days, and just weeks ago they set the stage for another shutdown this December. A member of the influential ultraconservative Freedom Caucus warned, "This December is probably going to be the worst ever; I think some really bad things could happen." How is the threat of mass furloughs just before the holidays good for Alaska families and businesses, especially when the state faces a financial crisis?

After more than 42 years of Rep. Don Young, 13 years of Sen. Lisa Murkowski and a Republican-controlled Congress, the Republicans continue to find fault with everyone but themselves. How does refusing to take responsibility for their inability to address the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and the failures of the federal government they routinely decry benefit Alaskans?

At the state level, Alaska Republicans are emulating their D.C. counterparts. Although they control both houses of the Legislature, Republican leaders have put forward no plan or vision for getting Alaska out of the fiscal mess they created by voting for the largest budgets and running up the largest deficits in state history. Alaska Dispatch News reported that the Republican Majority effectively has no intention of closing the budget deficit. Their plan? Unspecified cuts, depletion of the remaining budget reserves, and avoidance of any tough decisions because elections are coming up. How does kicking the can down the road in an effort to protect political careers while jeopardizing our bond rating help Alaskans?

Our fiscal situation is serious, and it's time to address it. Let's be clear: Alaskans deserve solutions. Last session, Democrats pushed to help address the deficit by cutting $600 million in excess oil production tax credits. Republicans said no and wouldn't even hold a hearing. Rather than looking at emergency oil production tax credit reform, Republican legislators went straight for education and our kids. They've even considered raiding the Permanent Fund dividend.

One has to question Republicans' commitment to the values they espouse when they continue to authorize shameful wasteful spending. The extravagant remodel of the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, the frivolous Medicaid expansion lawsuit, the pocketing of thousands of dollars in per diem despite living in their own homes, overpriced junkets and mega-projects we can't afford are just some examples. How do these priorities serve the best interests of Alaskans?

We have come a long way since the economic recession that began under President George W. Bush. President Obama's administration opened up Alaska's outer continental shelf and granted Shell the ability to drill in the Chukchi Sea. In the end, Shell found "indications of oil and gas" that were "not sufficient to warrant further exploration." How does casting blame on Democrats for the absence of oil help to develop Alaska's resources?

We need leaders who can and will make smart decisions. Republicans promised Alaskans a million barrels a day of oil production if we just cut taxes. Yet, Republicans gave away tax credits with no requirement to produce more oil, despite Democrats' opposition. As a result, we are no closer to 1 million barrels a day. How does giving away our resources without conditions achieve resource development that benefits Alaskans?

No political party or individual has all the answers. In these challenging times, we need honest and rational leaders who have the courage to work together and put Alaskans' interests first. Alaska Democrats know we have to work together and put forward serious solutions to our fiscal problems if we are going to move Alaska forward.

Alaska Democrats stand ready to provide leadership in addressing our state's challenges and will do what's best for Alaskans.

Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, lives in Fairbanks.

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, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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