Alaska News

Amanda Coyne: Dollars and charm flow freely at political fundraisers

Republicans in their finery gathered a week ago Saturday night at the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage to celebrate Lincoln Day, courtesy of the Anchorage Republican Women's Club. All the usual suspects gathered: Gov. Sean Parnell, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who -- with a top hat and a fake beard -- looks amazingly like Lincoln. Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mead Treadwell sat with the governor, while his primary opponent, Dan Sullivan, sat with Rev. Jerry Prevo and his lieutenant, Glenn Clary. Even Joe Miller, the third member of the primary faceoff, showed. A certain low-level buzz follows Miller wherever he goes. Blame it on magnetism. Star power. Black helicopters.

Whatever it is, this was the pleasant Joe Miller. And he was well-dressed, more than can be said for at least one other politician in the room. Apparently, someone told mayoral candidate Dan Coffey that because he co-owns the Alaska ACES and was in charge of the ACES auction item, he should dress in ACES super-fan regalia. The gold beads for the games of "heads and tails" rounded out the image.

"This is embarrassing," he said as someone in a tux walked by.

Parnell introduced Lily Stevens, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as the keynote speaker. Before that, if someone had told me Parnell could melt hearts, I'd have said the pot campaign must be going well. But there was a collective sigh when he quoted Lincoln: "(I)f all that has been said by orators and poets, since the creation of the world, in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice."

Even Judy Eledge, one of the Alaska GOP's grande dames, who's likely heard all the praise and other things that a woman could hear, seemed to flutter.

Then it was Lily's turn. The room erupted when she said, "I'm not going to mince words, my father should have never lost his seat."

Another very different kind of fundraiser was held Thursday night at Cafe Del Mundo: This one for Anchorage Assembly candidate Pete Petersen, who used to be a Democratic state representative and doesn't forget it. You can read all about what he did and what he would do if he were back in the House on his website.


Petersen's running against incumbent Adam Trombley, who isn't a Democrat, and former NFLer Mao Tosi, who filed on Friday. There's going to be a lot of money thrown around in this race, and Trombley will get his share. But his fundraiser likely won't feature Ken Karabelnikoff parked in the corner, playing "Blowin' in the Wind" on his accordion.

Nor will Trombley have the towering Regina Manteufel on his side. For 10 years, Manteufel was Alaska's Tough Woman champion. Now she spends her time gathering clothes for women recently released from prison. She also has worked tirelessly to get politicians to put resources into the Fairview community. How did she do it? "My hips were 45 inches," she said on Thursday night. "I could block doors."

One of my favorite reporters in this state, Jenny Canfield, was recently pounding out stories for the Juneau Empire. Now she's not. Word is the things got heated between Canfield and her bosses. At least some of the drama played out over the phone, in the Capitol press room, in the midst of a group of elephant-eared, rubber-necked reporters, one of whom said she would have made gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson proud.

Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire and Rep. Bob Herron, who serve as co-chairs of the Arctic Something or Other Committee, went to Seattle for an Arctic thing and had dinner with White House staff on Thursday. No doubt the discussion centered on all of that imminent Arctic development, just as Shell is thinking about hightailing from those cold, forbidding waters. And just as the Pebble mine seems all but kaput, the Koch brothers' Flint Hills North Pole refinery is shutting down, taking with it 80 jobs and the Alaska Railroad's largest customer. Apparently, the brothers prefer to spend their money on political attack ads.

But don't lose hope, Alaska. There's always that large-diameter, natural gas pipeline -- the building of which has been right around the corner for 40 years now. You'd think so anyway if you just listened to the testimony of oil executives, who are putting on a united face during legislative testimony. All that esprit de corps, as Sen. Hollis French might describe it, surely bodes well, right?

Except that behind each others' backs, in legislators' offices, two of the companies are sniping at the others.

I don't know what that means, but it's not good. Perhaps a firm woman's touch is needed. Paging Manteufel?

Those oilies are smooth, aren't they? One representative from an oil support association apparently thinks that one way to win the hearts and minds of Alaskans is by making fun of Democrats on Facebook.

At least we can count on our public officials, right? After all, the state does "tend to attract the best and the brightest on a lot of levels," Sen. Pete Kelly said, during a discussion of pay raises for commissioners. But then again, if it doesn't, "I'm OK with that," he said.

If props were votes, Bob Williams, the Palmer teacher who's running for lite gov, would be winning by a landslide. This week, he's using a photo of NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who was here last week for an NEA meeting, holding a Williams for lieutenant governor sign. "Honored that NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, indicated a personal preference" in the race, Williams wrote in the caption. Personal preference? Maybe, maybe not. One thing we do know: Williams is a politician's politician.

Our prayers were heard: Sen. Fred Dyson and Rep. Charisse Millett are both back at work.

Independent journalist Amanda Coyne writes about Alaska politics on her blog You can contact her at