New Yorker hit piece on Gov. Dunleavy rehashes ‘recall’ group’s litany of grievances



Dan Kaufman, a writer for The New Yorker, infers Gov. Mike Dunleavy has no one to blame but himself for the recall effort that launched against him.

That is an arguable position. Even Dunleavy supporters might yield an inch on that point. But most would say the $1.6 billion deficit left to him by the former governor, and the insatiable appetite of Alaskans for programs that were never sustainable, are equally to blame.

But in Kaufman’s newest long-form article, straight off the talking points of the Recall Dunleavy Committee, his conclusion is supported by dozens upon dozens of half-truths and outright inaccuracies.

In that sense, Kaufman has met the expectations of conservative Alaskans for the type of journalism they’ve come to expect of the East Coast liberal elites.

In his story, Kaufman writes that: “The day after Dunleavy’s budget was announced, eight House Republicans and two Independents joined the Democrats to create a broad coalition that opposed it.”

The timing is off, and details matter if you’re The New Yorker. The coalition was actually forged in late 2018, but had been bubbling on the back stove for Democrats and soft Republicans since the prior session, as the noose tightened around Alaska’s fiscal imbalance.

Dunleavy’s budget was not submitted in its amended format until February 13, 2019, after that coalition was formed. The budget he had submitted in December was merely the placeholding budget of Gov. Bill Walker. The placeholder budget was offered for legislators because Dunleavy had just taken office and had not had time to craft budget revisions before the statutory deadline of Dec. 15.

That budget, built by Gov. Walker, had a $1.6 billion funding gap. Dunleavy met that funding gap in February through drastic cuts to programs. He had not run for office on taxes or giving the the Permanent Fund dividend a big haircut. He said government would have to live within its means.

And yet the entire tale sounds plausible because Kaufman is a great storyteller. It has just enough truth to pass muster with The New Yorker fact-checkers.

Kaufman also has misstated several other items of note, this one being an example that shows the writer and magazine didn’t fact-check what the Democrat sources had told them:

“In early July [of 2019], Dunleavy hosted a separate legislative session in a middle school in the city of Wasilla, a base of his support, with twenty-one legislators who supported the full dividend. The move made it impossible for lawmakers in the state capitol, in Juneau, to override his vetoes.”

That’s a stretch for all but the most leftist among Alaskans. Gov. Dunleavy, as he is entitled to do by law, asked the Legislature to meet in special session in Wasilla, since they had not had any success passing key budget legislation in Juneau and it was well into June. By statute, the Legislature should have adjourned in mid-April.

Legislative leaders could have convened in Wasilla and then recessed to another location, such as Juneau or Anchorage, but the Democrat-led coalition in the House and the Republican-led Senate decided not to go to the heart of conservative Alaska, where a fiscally hawkish public would have more influence.

Thus, one group of legislators followed the governor’s call to the session in Wasilla, and the other refused to go, and went to Juneau instead.

In the end, it mattered little, since the governor relented and called the session to Juneau, and the Legislature finally was unified physically, if not politically.

The story in The New Yorker has more inaccuracies — dozens of them. But this recasting of history we cannot let pass. Kaufman writes:

“In 2013, Palin’s successor, the Republican Sean Parnell, a former executive for ConocoPhillips, repealed Palin’s oil-company tax increase, a move that cost the state two billion dollars in revenue in the first year alone. By then, oil prices had plummeted, which created a gaping financial deficit. The dilemma over what the cash-strapped state should do about the dividend has persisted ever since.”

In reality, the House and Senate passed a repeal of the ACES oil tax regime, and put in place SB 21, a flatter tax structure in 2013, one that was upheld by voters during a robustly argued ballot referendum in August of 2014.

SB 21, also known as the More Alaska Production Act, has taken in more money than the state would have under ACES, because it collects more at low oil prices than ACES would have.

ACES was a progressive tax that scooped more revenue from the oil patch when prices were high, as they were in the Palin days. But by 2014, the prices were dropping, and that’s when SB 21 fulfilled its promise.

Indeed, Parnell signed that legislation, which had been crafted by his administration. But it had gone through an extensive legislative process.

Now, Alaska collects more from oil companies because the price of oil has been low for several years. The bill also brought new exploration and production and has stemmed the decline of oil flowing through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

But that didn’t fit the narrative for The New Yorker.

The facts are flattened throughout Kaufman’s hit piece:

  • Gov. Walker did not, in fact, veto the Permanent Fund dividend for the first time in Alaska history in order to balance the budget. The truth is, he sequestered that money into the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve account and did not use it for the budget that year.
  • Dunleavy did, in fact, include back pay of the Permanent Fund dividends in legislation — but it was separate from the budget.
  • The cut to the University System was not, in fact, 40 percent. It was 40 percent of the state portion of the UA budget, but only 17 percent of the UA entire budget, most of which comes from the federal government.

We could go on, but it’s tiresome. Judging from his past work, he considers himself a prophet for the Left, to help them find their way in taking over conservative bastions.

In his book, The Fall of Wisconsin, he writes about the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker. Those fawning praises offered by his colleagues for his work tell what the real purpose is for him — not journalism or truth, but giving comfort to liberal activists:

“Dan Kaufman shows how the state became a conservative test case…. Kaufman believes that Wisconsin’s extreme makeover portends something scary for the rest of us.”

—Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“Kaufman’s taut primer on Wisconsin progressivism hits his mark…. [A]n indispensable guide for activists who wish to have any hope of taking on the vast Republican infrastructure.”

—Jake Wertz, Los Angeles Review of Books

To the intelligentsia of New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, Kaufman tells quite a tale about Alaska, her budget, and her political landscape; it has that ring of “truthiness” to it that will appeal to the East Coast elites.

But it’s the kind of story that will make Alaska political conservatives sigh and shake their collective heads, while uttering that now familiar phase, “Fake News!”

Read The New Yorker article at this link.


  1. I’ve heard it said many times, “The Oil Companies are being taxed out of Alaska”. The Oil Companies are Corporations, and Corporations never suffer a single cent of harm from any tax, because they just tack it on to the prices of their goods and services. Corporations are not tax payers, but instead they are only tax collectors. Yes, Alaska collected way to much taxes because they fund way to many things that isn’t Governments job to fund. A “Constitutional Republic” would never fund schools because that is the responsibility of parents. They would never fund any Bank Bailouts either because Banks are not suppose to be any part of the Government either. Nor Health Care, because that also is not what Constitutional Government was created for. Add just those up and see how much of your tax $$ are being wasted on non-Government spending. Why do Governments fund these things?? To keep their Subjects as Serfs working for the cause, whatever that cause might be. Employees are just Glorified Slaves. We are living in a Feudal System working for the King (Corporations). That is what our Ancestors fled from when they journeyed to America. We use to be living in the land of the free but no more. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • You do not know what you are talking about, Seymour.

      Maybe the big oil companies might not care as much, but you did see the BP pulled out, didn’t you? Why? Alaska is the most expensive place to drill oil. Why put out all the money with unsure taxes when other places are begging them to come and cost much less.

      The oil tax hits the little guy.The people that starting coming up here 10-15 years ago. They have a huge loan with a bank and when all of a sudden taxes are raised on that amount it is difficult for them to pay and stay in business. All oil companies here are not the “big boys!” The smaller ones are coming in to work the old fields.

      • “As of 30 June 2013, the total payments made (by BP) from the (20 billion Deep Water Horizon disaster) fund amounted to $19.7 billion. After paying out remaining $300 million, the remaining claims will be compensated from the company’s future profits.”
        The remaining claims…there’s still billions more, beyond the court ordered 20 billion bond.
        BP’s sale of it’s Alaska assets was their scrounging the sofa cushions to pay off more claims. They needed cash now, not in dribbles from sale of Alaska oil.

  2. The free programs you speak of are foreign to many Alaskan families. Government must learn the word “no” before Alaska empties like a cheap suit. The many families that do not get a free lunch are getting taken for a ride by the Muni as it makes millionaires out of police officers and others in state and local governments.

    Unfortunately, the programs that are free are the same categories that can bankrupt a proud hardworking Alaskan family. Enough is enough. Can anyone really blame the great Alaska families for leaving??

  3. Sadly, tens of thousands of folks in the decaying East will treat the article as the absolute, incontrovertible truth. Yet the starving people at the Permanent Fund continue to send the States money to New York as if their and our lives depended upon it. We have seen the enemy and they are us.

  4. My question:. Is there really a large enough reader market within the New Yorker circulation to really give a rat’s a$$ about recalling a governor in Alaska?

    • While the overall readership may be modest, those reading the article may be relevant. The article will shape the conventional wisdom of many in NYC — it will become the “everybody knows” of folks with a casual interest in Alaska. And, as I suggest in my earlier comment, some of those people will be in the financial industry and will be making money off of Alaska’s money. They will view Alaskans as idiots or less and that will matter when it comes to investing and borrowing money. That is the bad part.

  5. I came here to live after serving my country Honorably in January 1977 lived in Goose lake park in A aframe structure my brother and I and a friend lashed together with spruce bows and lined the floor also, we walked to the unemployment office everyday talking to the VA rep who assisted us in day labor. In all my years here after marrying into a family who I love dearly that started here in 47’ until know with Gov. Dunleavey Alaska has never seen a Governor more dedicated to the people of the state and has more integrity and for site to know the outside politicians that are corrupt are behind the effort to remove anyone that is for the people. Kaufman is over rated is a lefts game idealist bent on political sway with half truths. That type of reporting is in plain English lies!!! Alaskans you can’t spend your way out of debt and Alaska is rated 51 scholastically and the lowest paid board member in UAA 300k so what are Alaska families really paying for??? The Alaska potential is so much more and under the U. S. Constitution we have a balance of powers that’s states rights for development time we Alaskans get behind a politician that is for that very thing not the RINO in the senate we currently have it starts with the Governor and Dunleavey is the best I’ve seen.

  6. Shabby article, lazy effort put forth by the author. No successes for the R’s, and with Democratic ‘s portrayed as victims .
    When absolute Black and White is put forth, literature is at its lowest.

  7. Let’s cut to the chase here and realize that the reason Dunleavy is being recalled is because he LIED to the citizens of Alaska.
    He said: he would balance the budget without raising taxes, and without cutting K-12, UA, the Pioneer Home, Medicare, law enforcement, and various other things that make living in Alaska worthwhile, and that he would be able to give us all a “statutory” PFD with nothing but blue skies ahead and we wouldn’t have to pay for it, and, like the suckers we are, we believed him, and voted for him, and now we know he didn’t have anything like that in mind, he was just shilling for the oil companies and the mining companies, and the Koch brothers, and everyone else who looks at Alaska like it is one, big pinata to be whacked and bilked so that they can bribe more politicians to do more of the same and it wouldn’t cost us a dime and…pant…pant…pant….

    Sorry. Ran out of breath there. It happens…more often now than in the past.

    Suzanne paints a picture of the “baffle them with bullshit” variety, claiming that imprecise details equate to false conclusions. Dunleavy is being recalled because he LIED to us and we are pissed. Let his apologists step aside and let the citizens of the state decide.

    • Let’s be honest Greg, you didn’t vote for him and you didn’t believe a word he said to begin with. He tried to do exactly what he ran on and was elected to do, those supported by years of government overspending aren’t happy about it.
      If you think politicians lying is recall worthy, would you please provide the list of politicians you’ve recalled in the past and you are currently recalling, or perhaps you can provide a list of those you aren’t recalling since that would be a much, much shorter list.
      You’re mad he tried to cut the budget of whatever special interest/government job you have and you’ve jumped on the bandwagon of those jumping up and down and having a pant…pant…pant hissy fit over it.

  8. You are correct. I did not vote for Mr. Dunleavy. The reason I did not vote for him is because his math didn’t add up, and it was obvious that it didn’t add up, and that it would never add up, and he kept saying the same things over and over i.e. that he would not cut funding for K-12, nor for the university system, nor for the Pioneer Home, nor for the ferry system, nor for public broadcasting, the list goes on, and he would pay a so-called “full” PFD and on and on. Well, we now know what happened there, don’t we?
    He either lied or is incredibly stupid at arithmetic. I don’t think he’s stupid, at least about arithmetic.
    But to anyone who was paying attention to what he was saying, and who had basic questions about how, say, he could cut every job in state government and still not cover the budget deficit so how was he going to do, and listened to him come up with the same non-answers over and over again, should probably figure out that he was lying.
    These are the same people who are saying he did exactly what he said he would do. No he didn’t. He lied, and it is proving disastrous for many residents of this state, some of whom are your and my neighbors. And no, they aren’t all fat cat union employed bums sitting on their bums and doing nothing and collecting a big, fat state check (Clark Penny excepted, but no more). Some of them are out there plowing roads and fixing pot holes and checking on children and seniors in dire situations to make sure they are OK and patrolling the cities and boroughs to control crime and stuff like that.
    I don’t have a state job. I don’t have a special interest in the state, other than seeing that it thrives and grows (at a reasonable rate), and educates our children, and takes care of those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in desperate situations (like when their health insurance runs out and their can’t afford the meds), and provides a stable economy that includes good schools and museums and arts programs that make living here worthwhile and that makes Alaska the kind of place that people want to come to with their families.
    And yes, I’m mad. I’m mad because I see the potential this state has and is squandering so that some of us can have a little bigger PFD, or because some of us think someone is making too much money because they work for the state or the municipality or the school system or the university.
    There’s this old saying, “you get what you pay for.” Have you ever heard of it? Sounds like maybe not. If you want nothing from Alaska and don’t want to pay anything for Alaska, that’s what you will get. At least you’ll have your own, sweet self with whom you can enjoy your aloneness.
    And I apologize for the hissy fit. That one and this one. For some reason, I’ve been having more of them lately. I hope they will go away, along with the governor.

    • I’m really tired of lies about Governor Dunleavy.
      He is doing what we asked him to do, and what he promised to do.

      Alaska’s budget is in dire straights. We spend 2-3 more per capita on state government than any other state. We do so because we had a spike in oil income a number of years back, and we started programs and spending that the majority of our legislature is not willing to cut back on now that our oil revenue is drastically diminished. They would rather put the burden of their own blind spending on the people of Alaska by stealing our PFDs. That will soon be gone and then they will go after the Permanent Fund itself, as our population will never be enough to tax us in support our out-of-control spending.

      Wake up and deal with the facts and stop the finger pointing or we will go bankrupt.

  9. This isn’t about finger pointing, this is about basic arithmetic. He lied to us. In case you want evidence, check this out These are the words from the man himself. If you don’t believe this one, there are others. Many others. Let me know if you need to see more.
    You might recall that, when all this high priced oil income was flowing into the state coffers, the Republicans were running the state. They had a majority in both houses and were in the governor’s office. They were the ones making the decisions you are ruefully regretting here. Now we have the Republican grifter-in-chief (state version) running the show, with nowhere to go because of past policies, made his own party. They are the ones who were doing the “blind spending” as well as protecting their oil industry handlers from the push of our citizens to recover some of that oil money largess, or from people who think the state owes them an annual stipend in the form of a PFD for doing nothing (sound like socialism?).
    You are living in a fantasy world where you think that what you believe is true. Did you not read the part about cutting every employee of the state and still not being able to balance the budget, or do you just choose not to believe it. If so, your math is no better than Dunleavy’s, and you will end up with the same political beliefs that have put this state where it now finds itself, on the verge of bankruptcy.

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