Gov. Mike Dunleavy has notified the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that he will appeal the decision of a federal judge who said Dunleavy must put specific political writers on his press notification list and notify them of any opportunity he has for group meetings with the media.
The case pits the First Amendment rights of the governor against the news-gathering rights of independent media, such as those who run blogs. In this instance, it’s a media and entertainment limited liability corporation owned by Jeff Landfield, Cale Green, Paxson Woelber and Allison Hovanec. No one outside the corporation knows who funds the operation, but that may become discoverable if the lawsuit proceeds and the governor’s attorney convinces a court that the group is not actually independent media.
That case may put the group’s side work in peril. Green is the campaign manager for Bill Evans for Mayor, and Paxson Woelber does design work for many political clients, including having been the designer for the Dunleavy for Governor campaign in 2018, when he created a series of iconic signs and logos for the governor. Landfield also takes money to run campaigns, as recently as the last election cycle, and occasionally runs for office himself, most recently during the last election cycle. The issue of them being political entities, now trying to appear as independent media, becomes relevant for discovery.
Like the Alaska Landmine, The Midnight Sun AK blog is run by a registered lobbyist and Democrat campaign strategist and manager — Jim Lottsfeldt of Lottsfeldt Strategies. Other political blogs in Alaska are also run by partisan interests. Must Read Alaska is a conservative blog whose owner does not run campaigns on the side.
Judge Josh Kindred, a President Trump appointee who serves on the United States District Court, ordered the governor to include the Alaska Landmine LLC in press briefing notices and in press conferences. The State may view this as an infringement on the political free speech of the governor, by forcing him to give audience to anyone who starts a publication of any weight.
“The balance of equities tips in Plaintiffs’ favor as the requested relief—to add Mr. Landfield’s email address to a media distribution notification list that he has been on before—is not onerous, and, without this email notification, Plaintiffs may not learn of scheduled press conferences in time to participate. The Court finds generally that allowing Plaintiffs to attend press conferences so that they can report to the public is in the public interest,” Kindred wrote.
“Therefore, it is ORDERED that Defendants include Plaintiffs on the email distribution list of members of the “traditional media” in the sense that phrase is used by Defendants, when Defendants invite journalists to gubernatorial press conferences and other press events.”