Heads and Tails: Palin case against NYT, Haines recall a dud, ACLU

James Bennet, editorial page editor of the New York Times, and his younger brother Michael Bennet, Colorado senator who was opposed by Sarah Palin. (Photos from their Twitter accounts)

ALL IN THE FAMILY: James Bennet, editorial page editor for the New York Times, was in court Wednesday defending himself against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is suing the Times for defamation. She’s got a case: After all, a Times editorial linked her political action committee with gun violence against Rep. Gabby Gifford, an Arizona Democrat. The link was so clear that after public outcry, Bennet went back and edited the editorial to restate the argument.

But the plot thickens. Bennet is the brother of Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat who became senator when Ken Salazar was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Interior.

Palin endorsed Bennet’s opponent, Darryl Glenn, in 2016.

James Bennet testified Wednesday that in a June 14 editorial he didn’t mean to imply there was an actual link between Palin’s political action committee and the 2011 shooting of Gifford. The editorial, titled “America’s Lethal Politics” was published immediately after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, and all but accused Palin of “political incitement” that led to the Gifford shooting. The writer tied an ad from Palin’s political action committee to the mass shooting, due to the stylized target the ad had placed on Gifford’s and other districts.

When asked by Palin’s attorney, James Bennet told the court he didn’t know that Palin had opposed his brother’s election.

HAINES ASSEMBLY MEMBERS SURVIVE RECALL: Just as three Homer City Council members prevailed in a recall election in June, three members of the Haines Assembly also were allowed to remain in office, by a 60 percent margin in Tuesday’s election.

Heather Lende, one of the Assembly members who survived the recall, was quoted by KHNS with a literary flair: “It’s nice to know that the community of Haines hasn’t gone to the dark side in what are really openly troubled times. And it’s nice to know that we still believe in democracy and the process and each other. I do think we’ve sent a message that treating our elected officials this way is not tolerable.”

The “dark side” accused the three of having secret email meetings in violation of the Open Meetings Act, and Assemblyman Tom Morphet and Lende were accused of inappropriately pressuring the police chief to provide the newspaper with a prepared police blotter. Morphet owned the paper until recently, and Lende writes for it.

JUNEAU ASSEMBLY RACE: The three Juneau Assembly incumbents will seek re-election on Oct. 3. Two of them have contested races.

Jesse Kiehl, an aide to Democrat Sen. Dennis Egan, represents downtown Juneau and Douglas on the Assembly. He is being challenged by former bank manager Chuck Collins and anti-cruise industry candidate Loretto Jones.

Debbie White, who represents Auke Bay and the Mendenhall Valley on the Assembly, is being challenged by Rob Edwardson, who works as an aide to Rep. Justin Parish.

Maria Gladziszewski, who works for the State of Alaska, does not face a challenge after Carole Triem, another State worker, dropped out a couple of days after filing.

ACLU FILES TO FIGHT BATHROOM PRIVACY: “Fair Alaska No on Prop 1” registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. It is a group wholly formed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Alaska, which is fighting to make public bathrooms in Anchorage gender neutral. The ACLU actively harassed signature gatherers who worked — successfully — to get enough voters on board to bring the question to the April 3 Anchorage municipal ballot.

Even some ACLU folks don’t like men using women’s bathrooms. The head of the Georgia ACLU resigned in 2016 over the ACLU’s involvement in pushing for blurring gender lines in public toilets.

However, in its description, the Anchorage ACLU is anything but transparent. To APOC, it doesn’t talk about toilets and gender. Instead it says it’s about being welcoming: “To oppose any effort to repeal or weaken Anchorage’s nondiscrimination ordinance. We know Anchorage is a welcoming place to live, work, and play, and that discrimination isn’t an Anchorage value: that’s why we need to keep Anchorage fair.” (So that grown men can use bathrooms with little girls in them.)

OUTSIDE MONEY: A $25,000 check from an East Coast group called “The Fairness Project” is behind a possible initiative to enshrine specific Obamacare provisions in Alaska law, which is being pushed by Lottsfeldt Strategies, a left-leaning, union-allied political operation in Anchorage.

The Fairness Project was founded in 2015 to work on moving minimum wages higher across the country. This year, the organization also began working to expand Medicaid. The group is backing a campaign in Maine to force the state to provide more Medicaid services, and now has given Lottsfeldt Strategies $25,000 in seed money for the same effort.

As reported by Nat Herz in the Alaska Dispatch News, the union-backed organization in Washington, D.C. has enlisted a few doctors in Alaska to front for the group.

One of those doctors is Alan Gross, son of former Attorney General Avrum Gross, who was AG under Gov. Jay Hammond.

The proposal, called the “Quality Health Insurance for Alaskans Act of 2018,” would prevent insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, would require family plans to cover children as old as 26, and ensure that all plans offer 10 different “essential health benefits” like prescription drugs, emergency services, mental health care, and addiction treatment.