Fritz Pettyjohn: The politicians at the Anchorage Daily News

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By FRITZ PETTYJOHN

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is the latest in a long line of conservative Alaska politicians who have found themselves on the hit list of the Anchorage Daily News. It’s a tradition that goes back 43 years.

In 1994, the target was former two-term Lt. Gov. Steve McAlpine, running against Tony Knowles for the Democratic nomination for Governor. McAlpine had a small financial interest in some racehorses in Seattle. A few days before the primary election, the ADN published a sensationalist account of this minor investment, implying that McAlpine was in league with shady gambling interests. Knowles went on to win election as Alaska’s seventh governor.

In 1998 Knowles was in political trouble, and the ADN found a way to help. Former State Rep. John Lindauer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, narrowly beating conservative State Sen. Robin Taylor in the primary. Lindauer claimed it was his own money, but that was a transparent lie, easily disproven. Only after he had won the nomination did the ADN reveal what it had known all along: The money came from Lindauer’s wife, the daughter of a notorious Chicago mobster.

The Alaska Republican Party disowned Lindauer, and endorsed Taylor’s write-in campaign. But Lindauer was on the ballot as the Republican nominee, and Knowles won reelection.

After Joe Miller beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 Republican primary, the ADN did all it could to discredit him. Their campaign culminated two weeks before the election, when their reporter, acting as an agent provocateur, would not stop harassing Miller at a campaign event. This succeeded in provoking Miller’s security guard to arrest him and made the Miller campaign look foolish and thuggish.

Other recent examples are the endless harassment of Gov. Sarah Palin, to the extent that she resigned from office rather than continue to endure it. And, as MRAK recently described, the 2014 campaign the ADN waged against Governor Sean Parnell.

In 1978 former Gov. and Interior Secretary Wally Hickel was running against incumbent Republican Governor Jay Hammond, and ten days before the primary was poised to win. The Hammond campaign and Kaye Fanning of the Daily News colluded in publicizing an attack on Hickel by “Hands for Hammond”, an imaginary group of volunteers. The chairman of this fictional group issued a press release, accusing Hickel of running for governor only as a steppingstone in his planned campaign for the presidency in 1980. He said Hickel had the job once, quit it for a better one, and was setting himself up to do it again. 

Based on this press release, a reporter from the ADN confronted Hickel with this accusation. Predictably, Hickel erupted in anger, reminding everyone of his notorious temper. This was enough for the ADN to make a major story out of the unsupported fantasy of someone no one had ever heard of. Hammond rallied in the polls and beat Hickel by 98 votes.

I was asked by Bill McConkey, who was running Hammond’s reelection campaign, to issue that press release. I objected at first, since there was no such thing as Hands for Hammond. But Bill said that really didn’t matter. Everything was all set up.

I first came to Alaska in 1969, to meet the original Fritz Pettyjohn, an Army sergeant in 1941, who fought World War II with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505 Parachute Infantry Combat Team. I spent most of the summer with him and learned he was passionately devoted to the welfare of Alaska’s Native people. And he really didn’t like Wally Hickel. He told me Hickel didn’t respect the Natives.

In 1978 I was struggling to keep a law practice going, with a couple little boys, and another one soon to follow. When McConkey called me to ask if I’d help on Hammond’s campaign, I had nothing to lose, and a chance to get into Alaska Republican politics. I could never support Hickel, and Hammond was the alternative.

If you really want to get into politics, buy a newspaper, as Kaye Fanning and Alice Rogoff can attest. I hear the Daily News is always for sale.

Fritz Pettyjohn was named Chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979. In 1982 he discovered he was in a new State Senate district, with no incumbent legislator. He served eight years in the Alaska Legislature.

32 COMMENTS

  1. The ADN is a hyper partisan rag. Not news. What do you propose doing about it?
    The constant failing of the GOP. Complain to the stars, then go home doing nothing.

  2. My friend Lew Williams would have loved this post and everyone interested in Alaska’s news history should take time to read “Bent PIns to Chains”

  3. Fritz Pettyjohn came to Alaska to meet Fritz Pettyjohn ? Wally Hickel didn’t care about Alaska natives? That’s because he lived here before “woke” culture had arrived.

  4. Just another FYI – A judge changed the law the day of Murkowski’s write-in election so that her name didn’t require being spelled correctly as the law indicated. I worked that election.

  5. It is so horrible for residents of Alaska and Anchorage to know our “news” is at best incomplete, slanted and mostly propoganda. This ensures the status quo economically and politically. The younger people are rootless, uninformed and have no idea of their precarious low information status for deciding where to invest one’s life. Keep being tricky.

  6. “I first came to Alaska in 1969, to meet the original Fritz Pettyjohn, an Army sergeant in 1941, who fought World War II with the 82nd Airborne Division, 505 Parachute Infantry Combat Team.”

    What does this mean? You met your father? You met yourself? An alter ego? An imposter? A doppelganger?

  7. That ’78 election is perhaps the nadir of Alaska’s electoral follies. As I described in a column a month or so ago, the Alaska Supreme Court just goes on and on with a litany screw-ups and things that look a lot like outright fraud in the voting process and the count, but then dismisses it all a not sufficient to change the result of an election decided by 98 votes.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Pettyjohn, for sharing your interesting observations of the ADN, certain Alaska governors, and several candidates. High political office is particularly appealing to two sorts of persons, which are the elitist, self-noble “uplifters” (who were mocked by the inimitable columnist H. L Mencken) and the scheming, self-serving sociopaths. We might now pause to categorize our contemporary politicians in either one of these types. Why not start with Gov. Mario Cuomo – an easy call. Anyhow, our duty, as citizen-voters, is to carefully examine the characters of political candidates in order to pick the decent few who have the proper motives for office, which will always be to administer a constitutionally-limited government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. Not now, but I could go on for awhile about how too many unworthy people (for instance, convicted of crimes of moral turpitude) are being permitted to vote.

    • Substitute “Andrew” for Mario. Duh. But, now I will add that voters should always fend off family dynasties in high political office. Can we come up with a good Alaskan example?

  9. Invariably and incessantly ragging on local non-radical-leftist politcos is just about the only thing that the ADN can do or bothers to do anymore, aside from reprinting pro-establishment disinformation screeds from The Washington (Com)Post.

  10. ADN has ALWAYS been a tool for the Dems and Libs.

    When is the news not news? When it’s predictable and the ADN rag is always that.

  11. Everyone ought to see the benefit throwing away your t.v. That will increase the declining news ratings. Maybe the writers will catch the drift people want news not partisan politic. Keep the garbage about one another between leaders. No one needed to know a man fell in love with a mob boss daughter. It was his money it belonged to the family. As his wife he is an heir. I for one think mob money should go to a church sent out into missions

  12. Perhaps the reason the ADN comes across as a bit partisan in and non-Republican was is because the GOP operatives we elect are bad at governing. Take Mr. Dunleavy as an example. Since elected he has essentially done nothing. His first budget director managed to get him into a recall campaign, unfortunately torpedoed by the pandemic, and since then, his main aim seems to doing whatever he can to stop anything from happening.
    If you doubt the failure of the Republican Party to move Alaska forward, simply look at how the state looks now compared to how it looked in 2001, which is when I arrived on the scene. And no, my arrival was not the problem.

      • By RINOs do you mean the reactionary right wingers who in no way represent the Republican party that worked in cooperation with the Dems to move the country forward after WWII?
        They are the true RINOs. Perhaps they should rebrand themselves as Trumpetoons, there in the flesh but lacking any of the attributes that are required to run a successful democracy. What they advocate is a DEMONcracy.

    • Born in the 1980s, born and raised, I am seeing Alaska has always been Democrat controlled behind a Republican facade and raising an antagonistic community of Alaskans against Christ unless it means using Christ as a tool for helping the poor missing the whole reason why Christ is more than a teacher for right living.

  13. I have an idea…but, I don’t know if it is possible. How about Republicans show some balls and start pushing back? Maybe if they showed courage and conviction with their arguments instead of floating them into to the political winds like a pink balloon they might win the middle 40%. If you want to see this in action watch a video of Rick DeSantis. And if you think he is ‘too divisive’ you are the reason we are losing.

    • Ron DeSantis seems to be an exceptional governor – conservative, well-spoken, possessed of a stout spine, and successful in office. Florida is lucky to have him, and congrats to the sensible Florida man and woman. DeSantis is not a good enough reason for me to move there. Can we clone him for Alaska??

  14. Don’t think your conclusion is valid, Fritzi. Johne Binkley bought the ADN; he is no longer in politics; and the ADN is not for sale. Smart guy, that Binkley. He can run the entire state show without being elected to ……anything……and make money while doing it. You ought to know. You worked alongside Binkley in Juneau, when he was a state senator.
    Also, some additional relevant facts you excluded:
    .
    John Lindauer ran for governor in 1990 under the AK Independence Party, a Joe Vogler led outfit. Sturgelewski won the Republican primary that year. Jack Coghill refused to run with her, so he went to Vogler and together they talked Lindauer into withdrawing his candidacy and put in a Hickel-Coghill ticket, which won.
    .
    In 1998, Lindauer, a PhD in Economics and former university professor won the Republican Primary, defeating the establishment jackass Robin Taylor. Lindauer was slightly blighted with a good-looking wife and a string of mistresses. But he was the true Conservative Republican, not Robin Taylor who turned sour grapes and tried a failed write-in candidacy.
    .
    Democrat Tony Knowles won in 1998 with the extraordinary assistance of Republican Johne Binkley. Binkley in turn was appointed as CEO and Chairman of the Alaska RailRoad by Knowles. Binkley still sits on that Board today. He is the Chairman of the
    Redistricting Board. He was President of the Alaska Cruiseship Industry. He runs multiple tour business. He’s a mega millionaire. The only thing Binkley couldn’t do was get elected again. His arch nemesis, Frank Murkowski, put Lisa in the US Senate, not Binkley. Sara Palin put both men out to political pasture in the 2006 race for governor.
    .
    But Binkley purchased the ADN for a song and now he is the king-maker. He can cause Dunleavy a real headache next year. Binkley is also in great position to affect the race between Lisa and Kelly. And it can all be done via the ADN and a Binkley style campaign.
    .
    So why get into politics again when you can purchase the ADN and run everything? Ask John Lindauer. He would have been governor if he had gotten to Binkley before Tony Knowles did.

      • Fritz makes a great point. If one is not electable, there are other ways to influence outcomes and seek control. Essentially, it’s all about politics and making money for yourself. It has little to do about the good of the state, or the overall economy. Knowing who the player is and defining his psychology, and true motive, will at least alert everyone to BEWARE!

      • If Frank Murkowski passed over Binkley for appointment to the US Senate and instead, appointed his own daughter, Lisa, then why would Binkley campaign for Lisa Murkowski? I think Kelly T. better get over for a visit with John Binkley before Lisa starts sucking up to him. It sounds like Binkley wants to control everything in Alaska politics. That’s probably why he purchased the ADN. Unfortunately for him, the ADN doesn’t exactly create loads of journalistic credibility for it’s owner.

  15. Not surprising seeing they (ADN) were “in bed” with the corrupted not only in Alaska, but all over, i.e. Ghislaine, et al.

  16. Fritz makes a great point. If one is not electable, there are other ways to influence outcomes and seek control. Essentially, it’s all about politics and making money for yourself. It has little to do about the good of the state, or the overall economy. Knowing who the player is and defining his psychology, and true motive, will at least alert everyone to BEWARE!

  17. As opposed to Obama and Let’Go Brandon, ….. Pelosi and Schumer and Doc Fauci …… all who want us masked-up, vaxxed, and silenced for the next ten years while our constitutional republic takes a huge swing to the Left? What they advocate is a TOTALitarian dictatorship. PolPot, Mao, Marx, Stalin…..YOUR heros.

  18. In 1998, I was active in Republican politics in East Anchorage but hardly any sort of political insider. I did, however, have a variety of minor dealings with John Lindauer dating back to his sole term in the legislature. Four months before the primary, I was advised by a prominent Republican to distance myself from Lindauer. Based on that conversation, I believe party officials knew something well in advance of the primary but sat on it because they were intoxicated by the money he was spending. I was familiar with many party insiders of the day. It seemed obvious to me that Tony Knowles was far more amenable to their way of thinking than Lindauer or Robin Taylor or Jerry Ward. So why not sandbag their own party’s ticket? It’s precisely what the Democrats did in the Senate race two years prior. Many of the people responsible for that debacle through their lack of action were the same RINOs who propped up Bill Walker for years prior to his 2014 departure from the party.

    • …….and undoubtedly the same RINOs who propped-up Lisa Murkowski for her write-in campaign in the general election of 2010. RINOs would rather have a Democrat in office than an independent thinking, resource development, liberty-minded Conservative Republican. John Lindauer, Joe Miller, Dick Randolph, CR Lewis, ……..all enemies of the wealthy, establishment RINO class.

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