Murkowski office overwhelmed with calls on Obamacare and education secretary

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski's offices in Washington, D.C., and Alaska have been overwhelmed in recent days with calls urging her to vote no on education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos and urging her to stop the overturn of the Affordable Care Act.

But most of those calls aren't coming from Alaskans, according to her office. Murkowski, R-Alaska, posted on Facebook this week urging Alaskans to use an online form if they want to get in touch with her office, to avoid busy phones and sometimes-full voicemail boxes.

"Yes we've seen an uptick in callers. As you've probably seen, there are active Twitter campaigns directed to not just our D.C. office, but our state offices," said Murkowski's spokesperson Karina Petersen.

Messages have been posted across social media urging the public to call Republican members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions about repealing the Affordable Care Act, and, most prominently, urging them to vote no on DeVos.

"Our state director said that in all the years he's been in the state office, this is the first time he's seen outside campaigns list all our state offices encouraging people to call. One of our state offices guessed they received over 150 calls in one day, and all but a couple were from out of state," Petersen said.

Petersen did not provide specific numbers of calls received in recent days, though Murkowski's Facebook page says calls and emails are logged and receive a response. She said roughly 85 percent — a "conservative" estimate — of the callers to the Washington, D.C., office were from people in the Lower 48.

Nevertheless, Alaskans have joined others on the senator's Facebook post urging her to vote against DeVos.


Other groups have also targeted Murkowski, urging her and other lawmakers to recuse themselves from the vote over DeVos, who has contributed widely to lawmakers and political action committees, as have other members of her family.

Murkowski received $43,000 from DeVos and her family during the last campaign fundraising cycle.

Murkowski raised her own concerns about DeVos at her confirmation hearing last week. DeVos is a longtime advocate of school choice, but in rural areas of Alaska, where choice isn't an option, some worry the nominee's leanings could result in less funding for public schools.

Murkowski said she heard from hundreds of teachers in Alaska who were concerned about DeVos' nomination.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C.