Alaska News

U.S. Senate candidate Sullivan says he was never consulted about National Guard allegations

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general and natural resources commissioner, said he was never approached by Gov. Sean Parnell or anyone else about the problems in the Alaska National Guard that have erupted into a scandal in recent months.

Sullivan was attorney general from the summer of 2009 until Dec. 5, 2010, when he became natural resources commissioner. Parnell's office first received serious allegations about the guard no later than October of 2010, and asked the FBI that month to investigate allegations that included sexual abuse, drug trafficking, misuse of resources, and transportation of weapons involving National Guard members -- an investigation first reported by television station KTVA.

But in a phone interview Monday, Sullivan said he was never consulted about and had no knowledge of the FBI's inquiry, which did not corroborate any of the allegations, according to Parnell's office. Sullivan also said no one ever approached him directly about the problems at the guard, which he said he learned about in a newspaper article.

"Within the military, a lot of these things are dealt with through the chain of command," Sullivan said. "So there's a lot of avenues that, obviously, I'm sure the governor sought to deal with it. And I wasn't one of them."

The problems in the guard have dogged Parnell since early September, when his office released a report by federal investigators that described harassment, fear, and sexual misconduct that guard leaders failed to stop. Parnell fired Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, the guard's adjutant general, the same day the report was released.

Democrats are seeking to tie Sullivan to the unfolding scandal, citing the overlap between his tenure as attorney general and the FBI's investigation. His opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, is running a new radio ad that accuses Sullivan of being "completely silent about the National Guard sexual assault scandal."

Sullivan said Monday that Begich was "shamefully politicizing" the guard situation.

In an email Monday, a spokeswoman for Parnell, Sharon Leighow, wrote that Sullivan wasn't consulted about alleged sexual assaults because such cases are turned over to law enforcement to investigate, "not prosecutors."

The other allegations that led to the FBI investigation -- including drug trafficking and transporting weapons -- were referred to the FBI because they "pertained to federal crimes, over which the state does not have jurisdiction," Leighow wrote. The allegations were faxed to Mike Nizich, Parnell's chief of staff, Leighow said.

A spokesperson for the FBI didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.

Sullivan said he thought Parnell had appropriately handled the allegations about the guard.

"I think demanding investigations and getting to the bottom of it, which is what the governor was focused on trying to do, is what I would have done," Sullivan said.

Nathaniel Herz

Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He’s been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at ADN and Alaska Public Media. He’s reported around the state and loves cross-country skiing.