Scott Ogan: People to watch in the Alaska Senate

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By SCOTT OGAN | CAPITOL INSIDER

Senators Bert Stedman, Click Bishop, and Cathy Giessel — I’ll call them the “Three Amigos” — run the Alaska Senate. The power divide is always over money that protects the union-backed deep state, which means your Permanent Fund Dividend check.

Stedman, Bishop, and Giessel formed a coalition with every Senate Democrat, rather than bring fellow Republicans Mike Shower, Shelley Hughes, and Rob Myers into the fold. This, after Alaskans had elected an 11-Republican majority in the Senate. Talk about dysfunction; this is where it starts.

Senate President Gary Stevens is a nice guy, but make no mistake about it, he is a weathervane politician. But the utter vindictiveness against the Republicans in the unofficial Senate Minority by the Three Amigos over the PFD is palpable.

Giessel recently returned to the Senate after losing her seat to Roger Holland in 2020. Remember her infamous campaign ad when she and her husband talked about politicians stealing your PFD? Well, she’s back! Hold on to your wallet! 

Stedman and Bishop, Finance Committee co-chairs, craft the Legislature’s fiscal policy with impunity. Cross these co-chairs, and one ends up like Senators Mike Shower, Shelley Hughes, and Rob Myers. You pay to play in the Senate majority — with your silence on the PFD and tacit oath to the binding caucus.

After endless Senate Finance “agency overviews” and hearings, the co-chairs dropped their behind-closed-door budget at the last minute during the last session and invoked the “my way or the highway” rule. In the previous session, their arrogance ignored decades of protocol and they didn’t even seek the concurrence of the House on critical budget votes. They rolled the capital budget into the operating and shoved it down their throats. 

The Senate Majority Caucus is not supposed to be as “binding” as it was historically. Then, the co-chairs got rolled two years ago by a coalition of Democats and the now-exiled Senate Republican Minority, who supported a full PFD.

Curiously, rather than align with Pro-PFD Republicans, Democrats like Sen. Scott Kawasaki and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, who voted to fund a full PFD two years ago, are now mostly complicit and accept a mini PFD. It boils down to majority power and influence over principle. Those chairman offices and extra staff are really nice. It will be interesting to see who continues to play by the rules set by the Three Amigos during a pre-election session. 

The political and policy price for sanctioning fellow Republicans was high. Following, is a list of the critical policy positions ceded to Democrats by the “Republican” Three Amigos and Senate President Gary Stevens, to consolidate their absolute power, absolutely:

Sen. Matt Claman is a liberal Anchorage attorney former Anchorage Assembly member, and the powerful Judiciary Committee chairman. Claman assures the Alaska Bar will continue to have a stranglehold on judgeship selections in Alaska, and is a partisan barrier for any Republican House bills that end up in his committee. Sen. Shower figured out a partial statutory fix to provide more balance to the judge selection process.  Prediction: It’s DOA in Dem controlled committees. 

Sen. Forrest Dunbar is a former Anchorage Assembly radical leftist and is the Community and Regional Affairs Committee chair. His views on the U.S. Constitution are interesting. He has run for virtually everything. Ranked choice voting finally gave him a platform. Oh, Boy, need I say more? 

Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson is the chair of the Legislative Council Committee. A well-spoken, nicely dressed woman, the Legislative Council chair makes big decisions like spending millions to remodel an office building across from the Capitol for legislative housing, a move to strengthen Juneau’s stranglehold on where the Legislature meets. It also empowers sleight-of- hand maneuvers that would not survive the light of day, if legislators met where constituents could watch. The after-session booze party will be right across the street. At least it will move out of the watchful eye of Capitol security cameras. Watch for police reports.

Sen. Scott Kawasaki is the chair of the State Affairs Committee. Election reform is now his game, and he supports same-day registration voting with no identification required and no meaningful proof of residency. Illegal aliens, who cares? Data breach? There is nothing to worry about here. Artificial Intelligence threat to election integrity? What could go wrong? He gives lip service to working with Shower and Vance but pulls sleight-of-hand maneuvers on bills. See this? Watch out for that! 

Sen. Bill Wielechowski is the chair of the powerful Rules Committee. He is more of a libertarian than most of his Senate D counterparts. The Rules Committee makes the rule on which bills get scheduled for the floor. If a bill moves at lightning speed in and out of his committee, watch out for fast ones from Wild Bill.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl is the vice-chair of Senate Judiciary Committee: intelligent, well-spoken, respectful, has very good staff, and is from Juneau. He backs up Judiciary Chair Claman effectively and keeps the stranglehold on our judges intact. Every commander needs a solid lieutenant, and he serves this role to Claman well.  

Loki Tobin is the ultra-liberal chair of the Senate Education Committee. She recently issued a public statement laced with profanity about the State Board of Education banning biological males from female sports. Tobin advocates for boys in girls’ locker rooms. Inquiring minds want to know if Tobin supports males exposing their genitals to female juveniles without consent, in light of the fact that it appears to violate Alaska Statute 11.41.458, Indecent Exposure, which can be charged as a felony? Does this criminal violation suddenly become legal by virtue of a person’s self-identification as a female who was born a male? Will the Three Amigos and their sidekick Senate president join Tobin in proposing to repeal Alaska Statutes aimed at protecting children from sexual predators in biological women’s and children’s locker rooms, domestic violence shelters, and public bathrooms? Watch for it! 

The Three Amigos do not recognize minority Republicans as a formal minority and ensure that they are kept in a small penalty box without an equal voice for their constituents. It is just another abuse of their power against the tens of thousands of Alaska residents that Shower, Hughes, and Myers represent. Thus, the Three Amigos choose to not give them the decency of even minority support staff, like a press officer or even token representation on standing committees, with one exception: Myers was given a seat on the Transportation Committee. Will the Republicans ever regain control of the Alaska Senate? Not likely as long as the Three Amigos and their other complicit Amigos are not held accountable by their constituents. Elections have consequences. 

Constituents who elected Republicans to the Senate need to ask very tough questions of the Republican members of the majority. Why did they give the most powerful policy committees to Democrats when a solid 11 Republican majority was elected? 

Why do Valley Republicans keep reelecting other complicit Republicans like Sen. David Wilson from Wasilla? I can answer the Wasilla Senate seat question.  Too many Republican candidates consistently pig pile on the ticket, giving incumbent Wilson the advantage. Just like they did when Republican infighting elected Mary Peltola. Will history repeat itself? 

Meanwhile, Alaskan oil industry investors are watching nervously. Wielechowski is a champion of taxing the goose that lays the golden eggs. And Cook Inlet is running out of booked gas reserves.

Scott Ogan is a former House lawmaker who served from 1995 to 2004, and Senate lawmaker who served in 2003-2004. He is a legislative analyst for Must Read Alaska.

41 COMMENTS

  1. “……..Too many Republican candidates consistently pig pile on the ticket, giving incumbent Wilson the advantage. Just like they did when Republican infighting elected Mary Peltola. Will history repeat itself?……”
    Yes, it will. Republican rank and file are an army of Lone Rangers, and every one of them have zero tolerance from their individual view of the world.

    • 100% clear that these people don’t work for you and me anymore. They have all but said it publicly, if you read between the lines – sometimes in the headlines. But how do we restore the power back into the hands of the people?

      Well, in my opinion, it starts with a strong executive – one with the guts to reduce federal dollars (1/3 of our state budget) coming into the state. This is the first major step to building the Alaskan economy. After all, why should these elected officials listen to you? You don’t pay to put them in office. They’re beholden to those who put them there more than the citizens that elected them. You can see this in their attitude. You’re smart enough to vote for them but not smart enough to understand the complexity of politics once they have been elected. This is admittedly hard when public officials hold closed-door meetings about how to spend your money and then smile and lie right to your face with no concern or consequence.

      Currently, the state is a larger corporation than the private sector and is in direct competition with the weak and fragile GDP growth of the private sector. People are leaving the state, and the ones that are coming are liberals from California who prefer to live off the state then earn there way which the state is all to happy to provide with your money. GDP has not come back since COVID, and the state refuses to shrink, as every failing business should. What it can’t get from the feds in the way of money, it drains from Alaskans in the form of an income tax on the PFD. Must be nice to get an income tax without a vote of the people. And now there is talk of a proper income and sales tax. How much longer before they start the talk of a universal basic income using the rest of your PFD?

      Why is the government the only entity that is immune from the principles of economics and accountability? Could it be the recent 9.3% voter turnout? I am sure that has something to do with it. Government of all kinds has begun to protect itself from the citizens it has forgotten or outright ignores that it is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship. Who will pay all the bills when there is a mass exodus because few will be able to afford the cost of living in Alaska? How much will the citizens take before they start to vote differently? How bad does it have to get before we as citizens take back control of the monster we created?

      YOU BETTER START THINKING ABOUT THIS EVERY DAY BECAUSE JUNEAU IS OUT OF CONTROL. We must move the Capitol to a neutral place like Eagle River after the exit, of course. We must find a way to stop or limit outside campaign donations. We must build a more robust private sector. We must exercise our Sovereign rights to develop our exports. We must turn out at the polls. We need to purge the voter rolls – no excuses Dalstrom, end early voting. The turnout must be too big to rig. It is up to the citizens to take back control of this sinking ship at the hands of such crappy representation that has landed us in sand bar of stagnation……….!!!!!!!!!

  2. It is too bad that the voters in Eagle River/Chugiak did not pay attention to detail during the last election, but were instead taken in by the expensive, union-backed campaign efforts including door knockings, billboard signs and paid advertising of every kind. That in itself should raise red flags. Her opponent didn’t have a heavily funded campaign and worked with only local contributions. Until people again start doing their own due-diligence and take their responsibility to be informed voters, public office will continue to be up for sale to the highest bidder. The founders of our once great community would be ashamed of the laziness of the low turnout, uninformed, and easily swayed voting community. It is expected of Anchorage, but now seems to be a growing trend, even in the Valley. I can understand being overwhelmed and feeling helpless with current events, but all can make a difference, starting at the local level. Nobody can afford to sit this one out if you want a future for your children or grandchildren.

    • If a parent wants a future for their child they will give them Jesus while they teach their child how to work starting with the completion of k12 learning. Cause this world is dying, it’s supposed to die. Jesus promises mansions and a life after death. Even with a life with Jesus one will be working so we need to work here that goes for kids today. I saw a comment on Facebook a mother share she allowed her 11 year old boy sit in the car while she shoveled. My ten year old daughter already can shovel the snow outside our steps when we were clearing the bottom of the steps last snowstorm. She wanted more money and negotiated to do the bigger job there for fifty dollars. Considering the heaviness of the snow and the space she did it was acceptable amount. They’re still a lot of Anchorage teenagers 15-19 who should be encouraged by their parents they will commit to an employer who can hire them. Cause they can work too. Just like last week south Anchorage could had done more using their own bodies and elementary age kids 5-14 shoveling out streets while they wait for city plows. We are right these generations gotten very corrupt and lazy not to work where they are called. Change starts within our families and with the Word of God if we want to see America experience one last revival. Cause this immorality and corruption today its not new. America has seen it before

    • Yes, the government we have is the government we deserve. If not for MustRead we would have no balance in the Alaska media at all, and the outside money that dominates the media through Public Media (Public Broadcasting), Alaska Beacon, Pro Publica, the Juneau Empire, the Anchorage Daily News, public employee labor unions, and environmental groups – not to mention the Democrat Party – would turn Alaska into a blue state in a minute. We would have the same gun control you see today in Oregon and Washington, and there would be a state income tax.

  3. The Alaskan Republican party is as screwed up as the RNC. They don’t have a spine and
    refuse to punish the rino’s helping the democrats undermine our state. The three amigos are democrats. I don’t support the state or the national GOP anymore because they lack ethics and standards.

    • Andrew, I appreciate your frustration. Please GET INVOLVED! The Alaska GOP needs younger folks with energy and fresh ideas on how to and enough determination to get things done. We particularly need help getting out the conservative vote. In Fairbanks we got our butts kicked because our voters stayed home – less than 20% overall turnout.
      On a side note: “punishment” of RINOs and other traitors is not possible other than recall (diificult) and beating them in the next election (sometimes difficult). Bishop is beatable, if we run the right candidate. Geissel will fall to anyone willing to work harder than the unions. I don’t know Stedman’s vulnerabilities, but everyone has them. Let’s get to work.

    • That’s why myself and many other people I know don’t support the repubs. They are nothing more than a bunch of misfits who couldn’t get out of an open paper bag. Politicians are out for themselves and will lie and cheat to get the power. We need to clean house in Juneau and start over with people who care about more than money and power.
      The lazy non voter is the problem and will not change until it affects them in the wallet.
      Wake up citizens we are being lied to and stole from our politicians.

  4. Now that is a real sight to see when too many pigs are feeding at the trough. The Solution is a larger round trough with more food to go round and round.
    Wont be much left of the PFD but if you are into squealing feeder pigs that eventually turn into large fat boars and sows that only have one purpose… Is it time for a sequel to Deliverance???

  5. Next year is a presidential election year so I predict a bigger pfd than this years amount like at least 2600. They shouldn’t be playing politics with the PFD amount, they should be giving the statute amount and cut government spending like cutting education, Medicaid even if it hurts some people. I have to give things up I want because my monthly income averages 2000 however because of winter now my monthly income is more like 1400. The pain is the risk one takes being an employee within government cuts and even layoffs should be inevitable since government work makes no money through products that contributes into the NYSE and world markets.

  6. This is a concise and worthwhile account of the Alaska Senate today. The executive branch makes pronouncements of what it is going to do, and then we never hear from them again on that topic. Only the Alaska House Majority fights to make a difference for every-day Alaskans.

  7. Forrest Dunbar and Loki Tobin are separated by maybe one degree.
    They are both completely dysfunctional and need to take up residence in some other state or country for that matter.
    Some country in the Middle East could most likely use their talents.

  8. And Lyman Hoffman sits drinking at his Anchorage Hillside home laughing at the fact he slid past this article, totally incognito.

    He spent his 90 days in purgatory (Bethel) for his pretend residency requirement.

    Alaska Department of Law, really needs to do some due diligence.

    • Not sure if claiming to represent a district that is not where your primary residence is located is a statutory violation after your got elected? Muni. of Anchorage (easily avaialble PUBLIC search) property tax information: ARID: 01547215000 LUC: 101 Owner: HOFFMAN LYMAN F & LILLIAN R, 10960 SNOWLINE DR. Deed Book/Page 015/47. Transfer of deed took place in November 2, 2015.

      YEP, District S residents should be proud that their legislator lives in Anchorage and not in Bethel. Yet the western Alaska constituents keep electing him to office.

  9. > Senators Bert Stedman, Click Bishop, and Cathy Giessel

    How about a focused primary on all of them? They seemingly like to steal from Alaska residents to give money to their friends and also have zero interest in shrinking the size of the state. Any interest in targeting them politically?

    > Gary Stevens

    I would put him in the same category as the three above.

    • Roger Holland primaried Giessel. Next election she booted him out of office. Bishop and Steadman bring home the local bacon and aren’t going anywhere.

      Face it. This is the government we want. We keep re electing them.

  10. Just what can we do to control of out PFD back from the corrupt government in Juneau ? We need to figure that out and spread the word to the Alaskan public ! Our government is stealing us blind !

    • Get involved at the grass roots. Vote in every election, not just the beauty contests. Select better candidates. Work hard to get them elected.

      And purge the “leadership” of the AK GOP.

      All things most conservatives won’t bother doing.

  11. I hope that the Alaska State AG is going to investigate Loki for pushing the sexualization of our children. She needs to be locked up for pushing the illegal perversion!

  12. Thank you Scott for a well-written and accurate article.
    I had a conversation with Sen Stedman at the 2022 AKGOP Convention: After telling us that the Senate Finance Committee had cut the budget everywhere they could, I called him out – he then admitted that the budget they passed was larger than the year before. I asked him to stop stealing the PFD. He said, do you want a State income tax? (as if there were no other alternative…). I asked him what would he do if oil prices went up over $80/barrel (they were less than $50 at the time)? His response, “well that would cure the problem and we could pay out the full PFD.”
    First, the PFD is not your money legislature! Stop stealing!
    Senator Stedman – you have your $80/barrel oil – where’s my full statutory PFD? …BSer. Long past time to throw the pigs out.

  13. Great article. About time that the record was set straight. This is exactly why term limits are needed. And why on earth elect Giessel again? This is why no governor has a chance to get his or her agenda even looked at because the Senate is in actuality a dictatorship. But instead of giving up, conservatives and like-minded independents need no do the work to unseat these people once and for all. Stop believing the ads and do the work on their records, then hit them hard every week. Don’t wait for election cycles. If these people are not replaced, it won’t matter who is elected governor, these people will continue to screw up Alaska.

  14. Scott, thanks for a great summary of what’s very wrong with Alaska politics. It shines a light on what really matters to state legislators–Power and Money. Our AK Legislature is merely a microcosm of our US Congress. And this is why most of us totally dislike politicians and their values. We are fed up with the arrogance and deceitful elected officials.

  15. Who? Scott Ogan? Isn’t he the never-was has-been senator from Palmer who resigned rather than getting booted by a recall because of his pay-to-play scheme with an energy company?

    Why, yes he is, that’s him: “ The 2004 recall effort against then-Palmer Sen. Scott Ogan was the first against a sitting legislator in the state’s history. Ogan was targeted by a group contending he used his legislative position to help an energy company that employed him as a consultant. The state allowed the recall to proceed but Ogan resigned before the recall election could happen.”

    He’s moving from irrelevance to irrelevance.

    • VC for Peace,
      Yeah Ogan was a player, that experience helped him understand how the game is played and how you are getting played now. Interesting that you attack Ogan and not the validity his report. Typical commie left wing tactic. 🙄

    • VC 4 Peace Title sounds like a “hide your identity” title for a non-conservative troll. Why not respond to the validity of Ogan’s article. He never got recalled. A recall was started. Go back and look at who was behind the recall attempt, it speaks volumes. Sort of like who was behind Dunleavy’s recall attempt. A recall is based on prima facia evidence. Just like the democrats treat ballots for voting. No verification of accuracy, just take it at face value. The judge said it did not have to be true, just properly stated, in order to let it proceed. What Ogan has stated from my vantage point is incredibly accurate.

    • In addition…

      Tony Knowles and the democratic Senate majority committee under wrote volunteers going door-to-door in Ogan’s district. They had a list of people that were opposed to coalbed methane. They hammered them with mailers and then had people stopping by knocking on the doors supporting Tony Knowles. Tony won hisGov seat by a small margin, and they were aggressively working in the coal bed methane issue as a wedge in Ogan’s district that was very conservative. The guy that spearheaded the recall, had a contract to sell windmills on fire Island to the power company. Coal bed methane threatened the deployment of the windmills, and he very aggressively pushed the recall attempt. Knowles piled on later, when he figured out the wedge issue to win the election.

      • Are you related to Ogan. What are you talking about? Knowles was termed out as governor in 2002. He won by a landslide in 1998 when lindauer’s campaign fell apart. Ogan resigned in 2004 as he was going to be recalled. Knowles lost to Lisa Murkowski in the Senate race that year.

  16. yea he is a player. liked that state benefits plan so much got Frank Murkowski to give him a job at DNR. Managed to bounce around sponging off the state for 18 more years. maybe he should explain how ranked choice voting gave Dunbar a platform. He won with 50% of the vote while splitting the democrat vote Tarr.

  17. I appreciate the insightful analysis of the listed senators.
    .
    Regarding the PFD, I think we should have 2 PFDs per year. The extra one, would be the return of the original classic 1980 PFD program that favored long-time Alaska residents. However, this proposed 2nd PFD, would have some modifications to make it “U.S. Supreme Court proof”. I explain at my website http://www.pfdbudget dot com.
    .
    The existing 1982 PFD program should be modified, by writing into the PFD statute, that the “base amount” set aside for the PFD program, shall be 12.5% of the “Percent of Market Value” draw that is harvested annually from the Permanent Fund.
    .
    A PFD “expansion clause” should also be written into the PFD statute, that says that the PFD payout shall be higher than the “base amount” if there is a state budget surplus. This will encourage citizens to advocate for trimming any excessive spending on government services and infrastructure. The important thing, is that all government expenditures should fit within a balanced budget. Thankfully, this year’s state budget is balanced.

  18. A bunch of stinking commies. And, Claman, wasn’t he the architect of the soft on crime bill that made crime jump by orders of magnitude? He still brags about it.

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