Alaska Legislature

In annual speech to Legislature, Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola cites effort to stop grocery chain merger in call for bipartisanship

For months, U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola has been trying to stop the merger of two of America’s largest grocery store chains.

On Monday, as the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will challenge the merger, Alaska’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives told the state Legislature that the act was the result of teamwork that can and should be applied to other state problems.

“This really was an Alaskan success,” Peltola said.

Monday’s action by the FTC follows a January lawsuit by Washington state and a separate action by the state of Colorado, both of which are seeking to block the merger.

The combination of Kroger — which owns Alaska’s 12 Fred Meyer stores — and Albertsons, which owns 35 Safeway and Carrs grocery stores in the state, could limit competition in Alaska, driving up prices.

Court documents first reported by the Seattle Times showed that according to internal Kroger memos, the company “has recognized that areas with diminished competition are areas where it can pursue a ‘different price strategy’ and raise prices.”

Albertsons “also recognizes that when its stores face less competition, it can take the opportunity to raise prices and ‘margin up,’ ” said a separate communication disclosed in previously redacted court documents.


“You know, in America, we used to break apart monopolies,” Peltola said. “And this was a healthy thing. We saw a lot of growth in different industries when those monopolies were broken apart.”

While Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has taken no action on the merger so far, Alaska’s three-person congressional delegation has been active in its opposition.

Speaking to the Legislature on Monday, Peltola said, “We all banded together to host unprecedented listening sessions so the FTC could hear the concerns of regular Alaskans. And today the FTC informed me that it was those listening sessions — hearing from regular people like they have never heard before — that not only convinced them to move to stop this merger, but it also created a new model for how the FCC will engage with constituents when making big decisions that affect them in their lives. The Alaska model.”

In her speech to the Legislature last year and again this year, Peltola said that the “Alaska model” of bipartisanship is important to achieving progress on legislative priorities.

Right now, she said, Congress is struggling to “keep the train on the tracks,” let alone make gains, in part because both it and the country are divided along partisan lines.

The federal government is nearing another shutdown, with 20% of federal activities set to stop March 2, and the remainder due to stop March 9 because of a lack of congressional action.

“It reflects this very divided country that we have,” Peltola said.

“It reflects the power of a very small minority of elected officials in Congress who don’t seem to value the inherent job of governments to keep things going,” she said, referring to a small group of highly conservative Republicans called the Freedom Caucus.

That group has made steep spending cuts a condition of keeping government functions running. Because House Republicans hold a narrow majority and are unwilling to rely on Democratic votes on key issues, that leaves them vulnerable to the demands of the Freedom Caucus.

Peltola is a Democrat — and seeking reelection against strong Republican opposition — but said she works well with Alaska’s two U.S. senators, who are Republicans.

“Having a politically balanced delegation means we can talk to anyone from any angle. We can get a meeting with a Republican or a Democratic president, we can work with the majority and the minority in a Congress as polarized as this one. That is a powerful advantage for a small state,” she said.

Peltola said she hopes Alaska’s state legislators will keep up the bipartisan spirit.

“Everything is a team effort in this building. I’m sure you all know that,” she said. “And I like to harken back to something that Chancy Croft, a state senator, told his son, Eric Croft … in order to be effective you need 59 best friends. And 59 best friends is certainly a lot easier than 434 or 534 best friends. But that is the mentality that as policymakers and as statesmen, we have to really embrace.”

Originally published by the Alaska Beacon, an independent, nonpartisan news organization that covers Alaska state government.