Foraker Group was shadow group behind Walker's Census Commission - Must Read Alaska
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Foraker Group was shadow group behind Walker’s Census Commission

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NO MORE — NONPROFIT GIANT IS NOT THE CONTROLLING ENTITY

Gov. Michael Dunleavy made more board and commission appointments last week, including an entirely new 2020 Census Alaska Complete Count Commission. Only one person was held over on that commission from the Walker era.

In doing so, Dunleavy removed all members who were part of a self-appointed parallel group convened by the Foraker group.

Here’s how it went down:

On Feb. 12, Dunleavy changed the composition of the Census Commission by revoking Gov. Bill Walker’s Administrative Order 301, which was signed one week before the Nov. 6 General Election.

Dunleavy replaced it with Administrative Order 303.

Dunleavy then removed nearly all of Walker’s picks for the commission, several of whom were associated with a parallel group called the Alaska Census Working Group, a creation of the nonprofit Foraker Group in Anchorage.

The Foraker Group specializes in helping other nonprofit groups with their management systems, financial systems, strategic planning and leadership development. Some see them as left-leaning.

A review of the Walker Census commissioners shows that the Foraker Group’s Alaska Census Working Group was actually in charge, including owning the chairmanship of the commission and four of the nine seats.

Walker’s nine-member Census Commission included:

  • One person from Department of Labor and Workforce Development (Eddie Hunsinger)
  • One person from Department of Commerce  (Katherine Eldemar)
  • One person from Department of Health and Social Services  (Heidi Lengdorfer)
  • One person from regional healthcare organization ( Ellen Provost, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium)
  • One person from the Alaska Municipal League (Patricia Branson, Kodiak mayor, who serves on the Foraker Group Governance Board)
  • One person from a tribal organization who is recommended by Walker’s Tribal Advisory Council (Carol Gore, also on the Foraker Group’s Alaska Census Working Group)
  • Two public members (Laurie Wolf, CEO of the Foraker Group, and Becky Hultberg, on the Foraker Group Operations Board).
  • One person from the Foraker Group’s Alaska Census Working Group, who would serve as chair of the commission (Gabe Layman, a lawyer employed by Cook Inlet Housing Authority.)

The Alaska Census Working Group is not one with which Alaskans may be familiar. It was a project ramped up last year by the mother nonprofit (Foraker) for the purpose of having a say — and sway — in the census.

Bruce Botelho, who masterminded the Walker-Mallott ticket in 2014 and also in 2018, is on Foraker’s Alaska Census Working Group and also serves on the governance board of the Foraker Group. This put one of the most partisan heavyweights of the Alaska Democratic Party right in the middle of Alaska’s census commission, without his name ever being actually attached to the work of the commission.

Gov. Walker had budgeted $250,000 for the commission in his December budget, funding that would have been de facto controlled by the Foraker Group. That funding has been zeroed out by the Dunleavy Administration.

The Foraker Group has since taken down the Alaska Census Working Group page from its website. But CEO Laurie Wolf made a presentation to the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee on Feb. 26.

Dunleavy’s commission makeup is now different. And the Foraker Group is not part of it. In taking this step, the Governor has effectively taken back control of the Census Commission rather than allow a shadow group to control it.

The commission now has one representative from the Office of the Governor, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Social Services, a mayor of a municipality in the state, a member of the Alaska Native community, and three public at-large members.

The 2020 Census Commission members are:

  • Darren Deacon of Kalskag, chair of commission
  • Heather Carpenter of Juneau
  • Jedediah Cox of Anchorage
  • Jordan Shilling of Anchorage
  • Justin Larkin of Anchorage
  • Michele Hartline of Nikiski
  • Stephen Colligan of Wasilla
  • Eddie Hunsinger of Anchorage
  • Bryce Ward of North Pole

WHAT DOES THE COMMISSION DO?

The state’s Census Commission is responsible for setting parameters and methodologies to help with the complete census count. Given how population is changing in Alaska, with the Mat-Su as the fastest growing area in the state and population in Southeast decreasing, the Census will play a role in the legislative political boundaries.  Those will be set through a process known as redistricting, which occurs every ten years subsequent to the actual census count.

Alaska is a notoriously difficult place to accurately count population because of its wide geography, the seasonal nature of work and subsistence activities, and a naturally reticent populous that doesn’t like answering government questions. But the count is an important factor in federal funding of over 100 programs, so the State of Alaska has a lot at stake in making sure every eligible Alaskan is accounted for.

[Read: U.S. Census starts a year from now in Toksook Bay.]

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • To Governor Dunleavy….Get rid of every person that Walker and Mallott had any say for employment. All members of boards, offices and then some. Get rid of them all.. The Walker “dirt bag” thinking will go on and damage at every turn. Bruce Bothelo is one of the political dirt bags as known by all who live in Juneau. The 2020 election is going to have a capital ”
    C” for corruption at every turn when it comes to re-districting. Bothelo is one of the many.

  • So, the books will be cooked another way now; same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

    • The left has already begun pushing the narrative that the fix is in because of Tuckerman Babcock’s current role in state government.

  • Thank you for showing these things Suzanne, it’s incredible what Dunleavy is doing. One order at a time.

  • We love your skillful investigative reporting Suzanne, though it may be quite odious at times when you expose the thoroughly rotten sidewinders for who and what they are. You are Alaska’s own Project Veritas.

  • Sure stinks when you get to the bottom of the swamp.

    Go Dunleavy!

    Thank you Suzanne, great reporting.

  • Good on Mike!

  • Seems like gerrymandering was the goal… Who needs Russians when you have Bruce Botelho….

    Remember his name and connections.

  • The census page was not removed. It is located at: https://www.forakergroup.org/speak-up/learn-the-issues/2020-census/

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