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Politics

Political blogger sues Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, seeking access to state news conferences

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: December 17, 2020
  • Published December 17, 2020

Jeff Landfield talks with potential voters while going door-to-door in the Bayshore neighborhood on Friday, July 22, 2016. Landfield, who has run the Alaska Landmine blog since 2017, is suing Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Alaska political blogger and former legislative candidate Jeff Landfield is suing Gov. Mike Dunleavy, along with the governor’s chief of staff and deputy communications director, for access to Dunleavy’s news conferences.

In a complaint filed Thursday, Landfield asks Alaska Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews to issue an injunction directing the governor and his communications team “to recognize that Landfield ... must receive the same invitation at the same time as other members of the credentialed press to attend gubernatorial press briefings.

Landfield, who is being represented pro bono by attorneys Matt Singer and Lee Baxter, also asks for attorneys’ fees and a declaration that the governor violated the free speech and due process clauses of the Alaska Constitution.

Singer said he intends to ask the judge for speedy consideration and for a temporary restraining order against the governor and his aides while the lawsuit progresses.

Jeff Turner, the governor’s deputy communications director, referred questions to the Alaska Department of Law, which did not immediately respond on Thursday night.

An unsuccessful Republican candidate for state Senate in 2012 and 2016, Landfield has operated the Alaska Landmine since 2017 and regularly reports on the actions of Alaska’s politicians, including the governor. He applied for, then withdrew, his name as an independent candidate for state Senate in Anchorage this year.

He said he’s tried to resolve things with the governor’s office by phone and email without success for over a year and believes he’s being excluded because of reporting critical of the governor’s office. In May 2019, Landfield broke the story that a state-owned corporation had granted a sole-source contract to the grandson of a major Dunleavy campaign contributor.

“I want the administration to know that they cannot just exclude people arbitrarily because either they don’t like them or just for any reason, when they’re a bona fide member of the of the media or the press,” he said.

Though Landfield has occasionally attended news conferences without an invitation, he has been denied an opportunity to ask questions. He said that as far as he knows, there’s no standard for who is allowed to ask questions and who is not.

“There are two rights fundamental to who we are as Americans, and that’s the right to free speech and the right of a free press,” Singer said. “The notion that the governor’s office can pick and choose who who gets to report on the state’s affairs is offensive. It’s offensive to me personally, it’s offensive to me as an officer of the court, and as student of the law and the Constitution. That’s offensive to me as an Alaskan voter who wants the benefit of coverage of state affairs.”

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