Analysis: The ‘Walker Caucus’ House Majority coordinated with Walker campaign to announce ‘energy check’

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By SUZANNE DOWNING

On Wednesday, the leadership of the Alaska House of Representatives announced a very public about-face: An additional “energy” payment to Alaskans, in addition to some, as-of-yet-determined portion of their Permanent Fund dividends.

The purpose of this this relief is something about which Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Republicans have been pounding on the table for months: skyrocketing Biden-induced inflation that is eating Alaskans’ buying power, and the steep climb of oil prices is punishing families at the gas pump and in their heating fuel bills.

The global rebound in oil prices, driven in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has also put Alaska’s treasury in a true surplus position, the first time in nearly a decade. 

The press release from the Democrat-dominated House caucus made two things clear: Anti-PFD legislators can no longer rely on arguing against paying a fair dividend by saying it is unaffordable, and the House majority is — clearly and without shame — a proxy for the gubernatorial campaign of former Gov. Bill Walker. 

Before Alaskans had time to refresh their browser on the press release from the House, Team Walker issued a glossy press statement on social media, complete with focus group tested quotes by both the gubernatorial candidate and his running mate Heidi Drygas, a former commissioner and lobbyist. Walker had advance notice from the House majority.

The timing was more than suspect, and is leading to real eyebrow raises inside and outside the Capitol. This informal collaboration is a sign of more actions that sync up coincidentally for the political benefit of the former governor. 

In September, to much fanfare, the Walker campaign announced its co-chairs, including several sitting lawmakers Bryce Edgmon, Adam Wool, Ivy Sponholz, and Andy Josephson, along with Joey Merrick, the husband of Eagle River Representative Kelly Merrick (a follow-up press release in October by the Walker campaign also announced the recruitment of Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky to the campaign co-chair coterie). 

The “Walker Caucus” in the Legislature has been consistent since 2016, when then Walker unilaterally vetoed the Permanent Fund dividend for the first time: The PFD, long an important and untouchable part of politics, was now a hindrance to the government paying itself first. The legislators in the Walker Caucus have consistently voted every single year against any form of a dividend that is not a surplus or ‘leftover’ amount for Alaskans.

In fact, when the House Majority organized in 2021 after another deadlocked beginning to the Legislature, there was one guiding principle cobbling the members together: To oppose Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s attempts to reconcile the Permanent Fund Dividend issue by acting as fiscal conservatives, and stopping any dividend payments in amounts close to what Dunleavy and Republicans proposed. 

So, what changed? 

Like the national poll-sensitive pivot of the Democrat Party away from Covid-19 mandates in schools and on citizens, Walker’s campaign and proxies in the Legislature are realizing that running against the dividend is a losing argument with voters. After three years of aggressive opposition to the efforts of Gov. Mike Dunleavy to resolve the PFD issue and to get Alaskans what they are owed, the ‘even year transformation’ is beginning, with the apparent dual goal of face saving in Juneau for lawmakers while helping unseat a governor hated by Walkerland. 

After all, the lawmakers quoted in Wednesday’s “energy relief” check announcement included Walker campaign co-chair Bryce Edgmon and Walker campaign co-chair spouse Kelly Merrick. The communication director for the Walker campaign is the former communication director for the House majority. It all fits quite nicely.

It is yet to be determined if the mainstream media is going to cast a skeptical eye on such overt politicking between lawmakers and a statewide campaign. With members of the House being open proxies for Walker in the halls of Juneau, using the media tools afforded them by tax dollars to assist a partisan campaign, we would do well to remember the old adage: Whose friends are these?

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.

25 COMMENTS

  1. The Walker people intend to win. Planned Parenthood and other organizations, most or all of them nonprofits, will be having paid people from Oregon going door to door in Alaska – exactly as they’ve done in the past. Democrats running for office will include Walker campaign door-hangers when they go door-to-door, and so will the neighborhood walkers for the Native rights ballot measure. Print newspapers will be pulling hard to the left and supporting Walker. If Gara throws in with Walker we could see Walker have an easy win in this first year of ranked choice voting. I call this collusion between the House Majority and Walker corruption, but Alaska has unique standards with respect to corruption. People opposing Walker and Gara had better have a very organized and comprehensive campaign. Merely buying newspaper and television ads may not be adequate to defeat Walker. The Governor’s Mansion in Juneau is completely surrounded by Walker signs, and only those signs.

  2. Alaska’s treasury is in a surplus. Just imagine how much of a surplus we would have if we stopped buying oil from Russia and filled up our pipeline. As a side benefit we could cripple the Putin war machine. Maybe so many innocent civilians wouldn’t be dying by the thousands. Funny, a few thousand die from COVID and we shut down the world. A war? Not that important, we have to think about climate change. if Putin detonates a nuke, we’ll have some climate change we can all agree on.

    • Seems like the world’s reliance on the oil of a cruel dictator would add value to inexhaustible energy resources like wind and solar.

  3. “With members of the House being open proxies for Walker in the halls of Juneau, using the media tools afforded them by tax dollars to assist a partisan campaign, we would do well to remember the old adage: Whose friends are these?”

    As opposed to Dunleavy using ‘state business’ trips to get to his campaign events?

    Nice one Suzanne keep up the good work showing 0 partisanship at all here

    • You are clearly and unabashedly comparing (or trying to compare) mole hills to mountains, Mavrik. Your attempted false equivalency is disingenuous and hypocritical.

    • Mavrik:
      You’re a joke and a half-wit. Walker would use state money to cover-up the dirty deeds of his Lt. Governor. Then, he will steal the Alaskans stakeholder’s share of oil money (called the PFD for half-wits) to reward his corrupt union buddies and environmental wacko donors.
      .
      And Mavrik, get a new name.

  4. The sad part of all of this is that there are people out there that VOTE. And they listen to CNN and the local Walker minions. If they would read you for a week and maybe listen to Mike and Crash for a few afternoons maybe a few of them would open their eyes and minds. And maybe if there was a PSA on every radio station in the state that the Governor doesn’t have the power to add anything to the PFD or to determine the amount. We are thankful for you and KENI.

  5. How about they give back what Walker took first?
    This is a smoke screen being used to fool the rubes into voting for them.
    Alaska better vote like their lives depend on it. Because it does.

  6. Keep in mind that when Governor Palin gave Alaskans an energy credit, we also got a full PFD. The fact that this is coming from the money that Walker took from every single Alaskan is sublime.

  7. To be clear….they are calling it an “energy check” rather than fully funding the PFD. The last thing they want is Alaskans expecting to get full OFD checks in the future.

  8. So, it sounds like the legislature is trying to change the language of the Permanent Fund to an “energy check” that can be limited by the cost of oil, or whatever they want, instead of the statute that is on the books that they are ignoring. More word play. More games. More crookery by the legislature.

  9. The Republican campaign folks should consider also canvassing all citizens door to door.

    But I would encourage asking what keeps them up at night, what can the party do better in their opinion, and what issues are important to them that may not be getting attention.

    Anyways, my two cents. Listening is a better tool then a sales pitch.

  10. They should just change the statutory language already, of course if they did that then they couldn’t weasel out of their votes as usual.

  11. If you’re thinking Walker was or is good for Alaska, I’ll guess and say you voted for the pedophile-in-chief. The democrats are the only ones that took money away from the Alaskan people. Please vote informed maybe we can fix the circus in Juneau.

    • Yes I keep saying that over and over. I don’t remember her having to consult with the legislature either. Am I wrong? Please tell me if you know.

  12. Walker is utterly shameless.
    First he steals everyone’s PFD’s, and now is working behind the scenes to engineer giving a little tidbit of what was stolen, back to the people, in order to get re-elected….so he can steal more PFDs.

  13. The voters are well aware what we will get with Bill Walker. Another round of horse dung mixed with effluent from the sewer. Bill Walker couldn’t keep his own governor’s office in order when he had the chance. An embarrassment to all of Alaska. A coward who couldn’t even stand up to his pedophile political partner, but instead got the news media to give him cover, long enough so that he could run away and hide for four years. And he failed to rescue the underage victimized daughter of one of his employees.
    Now Walker has assembled a rougue’s gallery of allies in the Legislature to do his bidding. Union thugs, a bar owner who got rich on sending drunk patrons out the highway, disgraced legislators who lost favor with voters, a few wacko snowflakes and bunch of sissy boys. This is Walker’s gang, out of touch and corrupt individuals who think Alaskans are too stupid to see through the real Bill Walker. A corrupt old man, hell bent on revenge.

  14. So Walker is taking credit for this? Why am I not surprised? Oh, and if there are no campaign limits, expect tons of Soros money to help him. Of course, I can always hope that the stench from him will drive away voters. Then I remember that Biden got elected. More work has to be done – immediately!

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