Rep. Johnston apologized for saying what she believes



Anchorage Rep. Jennifer Johnston apologized. So what? What else could she do? Double down on her position that rural Alaskans can’t handle two stimulus checks at once? 

Johnston told Alaska Journal of Commerce managing editor Andrew Jensen, that House leadership, of which she’s a member, decided to delay issuing Alaskans a dividend check in the spring because it would come at the same time as a $1,200 federal check. 

“Have you ever been to the villages at dividend time?” Johnston asked Jensen, trying to convince the reporter rural Alaskans don’t spend money wisely.

[Read: Co-chair of Finance doesn’t trust rural Alaskans with spring check]

Johnston also told Jensen “social services would be overwhelmed” in villages if they got two checks at once. Johnston never denied what Jensen reported. 

For Johnston and her fellow House leadership team to deny Alaskans a $1,000 spring check because they don’t trust the very people they’re elected to serve confirms our worst fears about politicians. There’s never been a time in state history, with thousands out of work, when that check is more desperately needed. What a betrayal.  

It took a couple of days for the media to finally report the story. If Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy had said such a thing the Anchorage Daily News would have printed so many stories and columns on it, they would have ended up destroying three forests. 

Even though the media finally reported the story, they still haven’t asked the big question. Was Johnston telling the truth? Did House leadership really decide to withhold a spring dividend check from all Alaskans because they don’t trust villagers?

It seems easy to find out. Ask House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. Ask other members of House leadership. Of course, they’ll throw Johnston under the bus and deny it. But the media should do its job and put everyone on record on the issue. After all, it impacts so many Alaskans.   

Johnston also told Jensen Alaska’s Congressional delegation lobbied the legislature to withhold a spring dividend because villagers can’t responsibly handle two checks at once.

[Read: Johnston apologizes for hurtful statements about rural Alaskans]

Jensen asked Rep. Don Young, and Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan about Johnston’s claim. All three said neither they nor any member of their staff did such a thing. It’s hard to say who’s being truthful. This we do know. Somebody’s lying.  

Occasionally a politician gets caught telling the truth. Like when former President Barack Obama was recorded at a private fundraiser criticizing middle Americans for being bitter and clinging to their guns and religion.

We know most currently serving in the Alaska legislature don’t trust their constituents and view their jobs as protecting us from ourselves. Johnston simply got caught saying what most of her colleagues believe.

But the fact she singled out rural Alaskans as untrustworthy makes her admission even more telling. 

Dan Fagan hosts a radio show on AM650, KENI, weekdays mornings from 5:30 to 8. Email Dan at[email protected]


  1. Dan, I have been saying the same thing on here since the story broke. Where is the speaker? Hoping this will blow over after Easter? The amount of the 2 checks is still less that a full payout. I asked if they thought we couldn’t handle that amount either… that why they stole our PFD? For the house majority to go along with this without any censure means they accept and maybe agree with it. What say you house? Come out of the closet or from under that rock. Wherever you reside.

  2. But the thought and the feeling is still there…that government is our nanny and we can’t make decisions for ourselves.

    New tourism slogan, “Come to Juneau and lose your way.”

  3. Yes, unfortunately this is the way of many politicians these days… treating their constituents like imbecile babies who are unable to make their own decisions for themselves and their families.
    These politicians are not representing us – We, the people. They are power hungry socialists who want to destroy our democracy. Wake up America!

  4. It’s a vile & repugnant statement from the many in office who are hand in hand with special interests, such as state unions & big oil , feverishly leading us, their constituents, down the garden path of lowest middle class families & largest low income families.
    Rest assured this rising tide will sink 90% of all boats leaving only those firmly attached to the underverse of government big finance.

  5. Frankly, I do not. Believe any of them, none of our politicians are out of work, they still get paid their full salaries every month, none of them have ever had to sit down at the end of the month and try to meet their bills( high heat and electric) or meet the health care of their families, or wonder if the can afford a new household appliance or tires for their car. As far as the government check I haven’t seen mine yet. I have listened to their call in conferences and all I hear is spin. Our political leaders in Juneau starting with the crooked lawyer / Governor Bill Walker started this theft of Alaskans PFD so they could please their handlers, and the few honest ones are afraid to speak up. This country and state have never reached this low in politics. Some thing has to change but I am afraid it won’t.

  6. Johnston is obviously a bigot, and perhaps there are others of the legislators who are also bigots. Alaskans didn’t elect any of them to protect us from ourselves. That’s a bit like asking a chicken to protect the fox. We did elect them to represent our wishes, which it would appear the legislators have forgotten. Do we need to call each of them out by name and embarrass them by publicly listing their betrayals? The people elected are supposed to vote according to what their constituents want, not by what the individual legislator wants. These people have forgotten their civics lessons…if they even learned them in the first place. Those lessons should be know by simple common sense, but I’m believing that perhaps none of them have common sense OR common decency!

    • Karen, The speaker of the house is a self proclaimed native. He ran on the fact. Where is he during this? He should be outraged. He should be protecting his bloodline, his culture. Where is he??????

      • A couple quick questions for you, Greg, and please note that I ask not in defense of Johnston nor Edgmon at all as they’re both a part of the swamp who need to be canned, but should all politicians be acting on behalf of their bloodlines and the cultures they came from and should voters keep these attributes in mind at the ballot box?

      • Alaska demographics report a rich 14.8% layer of our population is either Indian or Eskimo. Mr. Forkner, you may want to consult the Dillingham, Manakotak, Perryville, Gambell think tank before assuming that a racially bigoted voting strategy might benefit the minority.

        That, or just contemplate the strategy of conquer and assimilate that has worked in 100% of the areas where cultures encountered one another throughout history. Surely there’s a smarter way, Mr. Folkner?

  7. I teach in my American Government class that there are two types of legislators: delegates and custodians. It seems that our legislature in Juneau, and in DC as well, is full of custodial types who think that they are better, smarter, and more able to make decisions than are the voters. A sad state of affairs. Shame on them for being that way, and shame on us for electing, and re-electing them.

    • Respectfully disagree, Prof…
      Might be simply semantics, but representatives versus rulers seems like a better fit.
      And don’t forget the lobbyist half of Alaska’s lobbyist-legislator team; they’re the other partner in this Danse Macabre.
      No shame on us, Prof…
      Remember, the Great Alaska LeDoux Vote Experiment worked, the perfect crime about which productive Alaskans can do nothing.
      Some places have only one candidate for office, maybe because nobody else in his right mind wants an all-expense paid pilgrimage to the Holy City of Juneau or because productive Alaskans have something better to do with their time, like earning a living.
      Sure it’s a sad state of affairs and it’ll get sadder until what resembles one big RICO enterprise gets cracked by authorities with the muscle and determination to do it.
      It could happen.

  8. I’m wondering why anyone would even question if King Edgemon would be critical of Rep Johnston. After all, without her, he wouldn’t be the king walking around in new clothes.

    Just like his statement last night, his acceptance of Johnson’s apology is every bit as transparent as his new clothes.

    Long live the King.

  9. Thanks Dan, a good column. At the heart of this isn’t that Rep. Johnson is racist, I do not believe that she is, I do believe however that she is an elitist. Whether you live in Kwethluk or Ketchikan, are of Yupik or Norwegian origin it doesn’t matter. What matters to her is that you cannot be trusted with YOUR money. She and her group are far wiser than you. She knows that despite Oil Tanking from 60 to 27 and Corona crisis unemployment off the charts it was better to NOT CUT any State personal expenditures. It was better to protect a massive State Job’s program with your money for your protection than to trust you with getting your full PFD. She looked out for the public employee class very well.

  10. Thanks, Dan, for a great article telling the truth about Alaska legislators. It’s too bad that we cannot read their minds. They worry about regular Alaskans spending PFD money, while raking in $9,000 a month in per diem–while doing nothing.

  11. This woman needs to either put a sock in it or get a handler. There are simple enough ways to better articulate her comment but to humbly apologize later confirms intent. That’ll leave a mark.

  12. “This we do know. Somebody’s lying. ”
    Knowing which ones are lying is easy. Just watch to see who’s lips are moving.

  13. Johnston’s attitude illustrates why people detest politicians so much. The fact that she can deny greatly needed funds to villagers, (and all Alaskans for that matter) because she “knows better” is the height of arrogance. Perhaps she should be recalled? Alaska politicians need a little history lesson on the original purpose of the PFD. It’s always been the people’s money, a share of the oil wealth, and was never intended to be touched by greedy politicians. In addition, if Ms. Johnston did not make this statement, why is she now apologizing for it?

    • I think it was February that we had a townhall in Kenai where several legislators made a presentation on the budget. This was sponsored by Rep Gary Knopp.

      During that presentation House Speaker Bryce Edgmon made statements concerning the PFD that sounded oddly familiar to the ones being questioned here. He was talking about the PFD and the benefits of that cash. Essentially he said people get those checks, and though acknowledging they are free to spend them how they wish, often it’s not in the best interests of the state. The inference being if the state gets the money it can be used more judiciously. I don’t recall exact examples he gave but I believe trips to Hawaii was one or maybe Las Vegas. But the point was made. More importantly the other legislators there did not contest this. They were Representatives Stutes, Knopp & Foster. This parallels Representative Johnston’s inferences though her’s were more direct.

      Finally, if she really feels this way I’d have more respect for her if she had not apologized. But instead she says she is sorry but she really isn’t. This is what’s going on. This is how these particular legislators think. They are not changing their stripes anytime soon.

      • “There’s also the social aspect of paying a big PFD. I know in the district I represent there’s people that don’t use that Permanent Fund Dividend for the right things….” Rep. Bryce Edgmon Feb 22, 2020 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Chamber, Soldotna, AK

        • Following that line of thought from those two legislators, why wouldn’t right now be the most perfect time ever to distribute the PFD in a large chunk??

          All of us derelicts living in the villages are locked down. We can’t leave this village and expect to be able to return. No booze stores and from what I hear, the pot has already gone up in smoke.

          Anchorage and Fairbanks would reap most of PFD back by selling and shipping boats and motors, four-wheeler, shotguns and ammo, halibut hook, and pixies. Then we can ship lots of money to the grocery distribution companies. Then there’s always the off-the-wall chance that water and sewer and electric bills get paid.

          Well King Edgmon, now that you have all us village derelicts caged and locked up, what’s your excuse for not giving us a full early PFD?

  14. With respect to all those neighbors of mine that are worried during these times we are in right now. I want to say we will get through this! That said I want to say I’m really pissed at the utter disrespect that some in the House of Representatives have displayed in the past two years towards WE Alaskan’s.

    Take a moment to consider the influx of money that the 1.9 billion in PFD dollars, provides to local economies.
    Consider these dollars are spent on local goods and services. Imagine that each of the local vendors who earned those dollars then re-spends that money on more local goods and services.
    In 2019 the Alaska legislature prevented the full funding of the 1.9 billion dollars of PFD checks to Alaskan’s. This single action prevented the recirculation of these funds in communities up to seven times state wide.
    Members of the House of Representatives chose to ignore current 1982 law that could have recirculated as much as 13.3 billion dollars in Alaskan’s homes and communities.
    Now let’s consider the loss in revenue to schools of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Schools receive 3% of every dollar that is spent with the Borough. In 2019 using this recirculating calculator that would have been 8.2 million dollars “if” the PFD had been fully funded. This act cut school funding!
    Now consider the lost of revenue to the cities of Kenai and Soldotna in lost sales tax of 8.2 million dollar
    Now just skip all the above stuff and consider this more importantly. The actions by some in the legislature who chose to ignore the law have cost families on the Kenai Peninsula. By not allowing the payment of a full dividend of 39 million dollars in 2019.
    “In 2020 it’s all going to be a repeat all over again”

    • A couple questions for you, Kel…

      If two farmers repeatedly sell the same horse to each other how many times must they sell it before both farmers are rich?

      How many trailer loads of Costco and Walmart big screens and durable goods must be sold at dividend time in order for the typical Alaskan to be prosperous?

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