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Wasilla, Alaska, City Council member Sarah Palin, a 32-year-old former sportscaster and current housewife, challenges three-term incumbent John C. Stein for mayor. Wasilla is a small town of less than 5,000 residents; Palin is popular among residents for her success in beauty pageants and for her history as a point guard on the 1982 Wasilla High School state basketball championship team. Before the Palin campaign, mayoral elections have focused relentlessly on local issues, such as paving dirt roads and putting in sewers. Personal campaigning revolved around who went hunting with who. (Kizzia 10/23/2006; Yardley 9/2/2008; Anchorage Daily News 9/2/2008) Instead, Palin, guided by advisers such as Mark Chryson of the Alaskan Independent Party (AIP—see October 10, 2008), runs an unusually negative campaign against Stein. Her campaign slogan is “Positively Sarah.” Palin emphasizes her stance against abortion, her membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), and her church work. She runs as an outsider against what she calls an “old boy network” that has controlled Wasilla’s government long enough. She vows to replace “stale leadership” and a “tax-and-spend” mentality with “fresh ideas and energy,” and, in campaign literature, complains that citizens asking city leaders for help routinely encounter “complacency, inaction, and even total disregard.” The Alaska Republican Party runs advertisements on Palin’s behalf, a first in Wasilla politics as Alaska municipal politics are officially nonpartisan. Palin also mounts a stinging negative campaign against Stein, including insinuations that he, a Lutheran, is a secret Jew. “Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Stein will later recall. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits, and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’” Of the Jewish campaign theme, Stein will recall: “I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?‘… The point was that she was a born-again Christian.” Stein, who is pro-choice, remembers a “national anti-abortion outfit sen[ding] little pink cards to voters in Wasilla endorsing her.” Victoria Naegele, the managing editor of the local Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper and herself a conservative Christian, will later recall: “[Stein] figured he was just going to run your average, friendly small-town race. But it turned into something much different than that.… I just thought, ‘That’s ridiculous, she should concentrate on roads, not abortion.’” Palin wins with 638 votes, a 58 percent majority. A local TV station calls her Wasilla’s “first Christian mayor,” though Stein is a Christian as well. (Kizzia 10/23/2006; Yardley 9/2/2008; Thornburgh 9/2/2008; Armstrong and Bernton 9/7/2008; MacGillis 9/14/2008) Palin has a tumultuous first term as mayor (see Late 1996 - 1999).
Wasilla, Alaska, councilman Nick Carney proposes a local gun-control measure that would prohibit residents from carrying guns into schools, bars, hospitals, government offices, and playgrounds. Newly elected Mayor Sarah Palin (see Mid and Late 1996) and her political ally, Mark Chryson, who heads the far-right secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), craft a way to defeat Carney’s proposal. During one council meeting, Chryson and seven allies storm the meeting in an unannounced appearance. Carney will later recall that the proposal was in its formative stages, and not ready for formal presentation, much less public hearings. Instead, Palin insists that the council have an “ad-hoc” hearing to let Chryson and his allies testify. Palin states that “she invites the public to speak on any issue at any time.” Chryson’s impassioned opposition to the measure is so successful that when Carney attempts to have the ordinance discussed officially at the next regular meeting, he cannot get another council member to second the motion. The measure dies. “A lot of it was the ultra-conservative far right that is against everything in government, including taxes,” Carney will later recall. “A lot of it was a personal attack on me as being anti-gun, and a personal attack on anybody who deigned to threaten their authority to carry a loaded firearm wherever they pleased. That was the tenor of it. And it was being choreographed by Steve Stoll and the mayor.” (Carney is referring to another far-right ally of Palin’s, John Birch Society member Steve Stoll.) Asked if he thought it was Palin who had instigated the turnout, Carney will say, “I know it was.” (Blumenthal and Neiwert 10/10/2008)
Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) makes a videotaped address to the annual convention of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), a far-right, secessionist third party that has had considerable success in state and local politics. Palin’s husband Todd was a member of the AIP from 1995 through 2002, when he reregistered his voter status as “undecided.” Palin’s address steers clear of racist and secessionist rhetoric, but is very complimentary. She tells the assemblage: “I share your party’s vision of upholding the Constitution of our great state. My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty can expand. I know you agree with that.… Keep up the good work and God bless you.” Palin has been given tremendous, if behind-the-scenes, support from former AIP chairman Mark Chryson throughout her political career (see October 10, 2008). Her attendance at the 1994 and 2006 AIP conventions, her address to the 2008 convention, and her husband’s membership in the AIP, will become a minor issue when she is named as the running mate for presidential contender John McCain (R-AZ). Chryson will insist that neither of the Palins had any real dealings with the AIP. “Sarah’s never been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party,” he will say. “Todd has, but most of rural Alaska has too. I never saw him at a meeting. They were at one meeting I was at. Sarah said hello, but I didn’t pay attention because I was taking care of business.” This contradicts Chryston’s near-boasting of his access to, and influence with, Palin during her tenure on the Wasilla City Council, as mayor of Wasilla, and as governor. And Dexter Clark, the current vice chairman of the AIP, will claim that Palin was an AIP member while she was Wasilla’s mayor, though she switched to the Republican Party to run for governor so as to have a broader appeal to the electorate. The McCain-Palin campaign will produce documentation that shows Palin registered as a Republican in 1988, and was never an official AIP member. (Blumenthal and Neiwert 10/10/2008) The AIP Web site’s convention page touts Palin’s videotaped message; the message is the only thing on the convention page. (Alaskan Independence Party 2008)
Norm Olson, the head of the Alaska Citizens Militia and the co-founder of the Michigan Militia (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), accepts the nomination of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) as its candidate for lieutenant governor. The AIP selects Olson to run with AIP gubernatorial candidate Don Wright. Olson accepts, and sends an email message reading: “I am asking every recipient of this e-mail to get out there and tell people that we are on the verge of a political revolution: Alaska for Alaskans! Nothing more and nothing less. That is my position. If you want political war, we’ll give you a good fight!!!!… I want your vote, yes! But beyond that, I want your pledge and your sovereign vow to support me as I stand against the Federal Government’s long reach into the private lives of REAL ALASKANS. Our ‘Lexington Green’ is coming soon [referring to the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington]. You must make your decision to take your stand as INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGN ALASKANS or continue to suck on the tit of the federal sow! What’s it going to be?… I’m not playing political games here, folks. I’m saying that together with Don Wright, the AIP candidate for Governor, that I will work to mobilize the ENTIRE ALASKA MILITIA, MADE UP OF ALL ALASKANS, to stand against the rape and pillage of the federal government of this God-Given blessed gift called Alaska.” To a reporter, Olson says: “There’s nothing about the Alaskan Independence Party that I don’t like. It’s just great. And when I was asked to run as their lieutenant governor in the upcoming elections I jumped on the bandwagon and accepted the nomination and threw my hat in the ring, so to speak.” However, Olson withdraws his acceptance within 24 hours. He refuses to say why, but issues a statement saying the decision to withdraw came after he was briefed by his longtime friend and ally, militia co-founder Ray Southwell, of “actions taken in the days prior to the meeting.” Southwell is running as the AIP candidate for an Alaska House seat. According to Olson’s statement, Southwell says, “I’ve known Norm Olson for 25 years and I knew that once he was appraised of the situation or the circumstances leading up to the Friday meeting that he would withdraw his name.” Asked directly what those circumstances were, Southwell tells a reporter: “I can’t really go into a lot of detail, other than I don’t believe the [AIP] voting leadership was fully informed before making a decision on Bill Walker. I don’t do well with politics, and I don’t participate with the political games.” Southwell is referring to Republican Bill Walker, who was denied a slot on the AIP gubernatorial ticket after losing the Republican primary election. AIP officials have indicated in recent days that Wright may step aside for Walker, but that is not now seen as likely. Southwell says he will not go into further detail, reiterating his opposition to becoming involved in “political games.” Olson says he continues to support the AIP: “There were a lot of issues that I would revisit and look at and try to influence. Of course, I’m not a lawmaker in that role [of lieutenant governor], but certainly I’m not quiet, either, and I won’t be. I’ll remain part of the Alaskan Independence Party, it’s just that circumstances would not permit me to go on [as a candidate].” Olson is one of the strongest voices in the AIP for Alaska’s secession from the United States. AIP vice chairman J.R. Myers says he was surprised at the party’s choice of Olson, and says while he respects Olson, he does not support the militia movement and is not a supporter of secession. The AIP is evolving, Myers says, and may be moving away from its far-right, white supremacist, secessionist roots. (Jenny Neyman 9/8/2010)
Reporters and authors Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert compile an investigative report for Salon that documents the large, if shadowy, network of far-right militia support that Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) enjoys. Palin is running for vice president with presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ). Two of her most powerful supporters are Mark Chryson, the former head of the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), and Steve Stoll, a far-right activist and member of the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) known in his home region of the Mat-Su Valley as “Black Helicopter Steve.” Both Chryson and Stoll are large financial contributors to Palin’s various political campaigns, and, as Blumenthal and Neiwert write, “they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during, and after her victory,” referring to her successful campaigns for mayor of Wasilla (see Mid and Late 1996) and, later, Alaska’s governor. Chryson’s AIP fought to eliminate taxes, support what it called “traditional family” values, remove all restraints from gun ownership, and perhaps most controversially, force Alaska to secede from the United States. Still a proud AIP member, Chryson tells the reporters that he still has “enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement,” but assures the rest of the nation, “We want to go our separate ways, but we are not going to kill you.” Under Chryson’s leadership and on into the present, the AIP works to connect with like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South of the US. Chryson is from Wasilla, Palin’s hometown, and during the 1990s his support was critical in making Palin the mayor of Wasilla and later the governor of Alaska. He and Stoll played an equally critical role in shaping her political agenda after her victories. Governor Palin often worked closely with Chryson as he and the AIP worked to successfully advance a wave of anti-tax, pro-gun legislative initiatives, and helped Chryson put through a change in Alaska’s Constitution to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. As both mayor and governor, Palin and Chryson worked together to extract revenge against local officials they disliked. Palin often took Chryson and Stoll’s advice on hiring government officials. “Every time I showed up [in Wasilla] her door was open,” Chryson says. “And that policy continued when she became governor.”
Originally Saw Palin as Too Accomodating with Democrats - Chryson first met Palin in the early 1990s, when he was a member of a local libertarian pressure group called SAGE, or Standing Against Government Excess. He met her through SAGE founder Tammy McGraw, who was Palin’s birth coach. Palin was a leader in a pro-sales tax citizens group called WOW, or Watch Over Wasilla, which helped her win a seat on the Wasilla City Council in 1992. Chryson liked her, but considered her too willing to work with council Democrats to be of use to him. Chryson was then jockeying to become head of the AIP, a powerful political party that in 1990 had elected Wally Hickel (AIP-AK) as governor; Palin wanted to be mayor of Wasilla. Chryson and Palin quickly determined that they could help one another. Chryson became leader of the AIP in 1997, and saw Palin as a chance for the AIP to take its message more mainstream. He helped quiet the more racist members and platform planks of the AIP, and reached out to Alaska’s growing Christian-right movement by emphasizing AIP’s commitment to “traditional family” values and its opposition to gay rights. Chryson even succeeded in softening the AIP’s insistence on secession. Chryson is an expert at crafting his political message to appeal to disparate groups, and succeeded in forging alliances with white supremacists, far-right theocrats, neo-Confederates, and more moderate right-wing groups that do not advocate open racism, rebellion, Christian theocracy, or violence. In 1995, Palin’s husband Todd joined the AIP, further cementing Chryson’s increasing support of Palin.
Palin Secured AIP Support for Mayorality - With Stoll, Chryson helped gain Palin the mayorship of Wasilla in the 1996 election, comforted by Palin’s steady move rightward as she continued her tenure on the city council. Palin’s opponent in that election, Republican John Stein, will later say of Chryson and Stoll: “She got support from these guys. I think smart politicians never utter those kind of radical things, but they let other people do it for them. I never recall Sarah saying she supported the militia or taking a public stand like that. But these guys were definitely behind Sarah, thinking she was the more conservative choice.… They worked behind the scenes. I think they had a lot of influence in terms of helping with the back-scatter negative campaigning.” Chryson helped Palin craft a successful campaign based on personal attacks on her opponents, both Stein and her Democratic opponent. Palin characterized Stein as a closet Jew and a sexist, both mischaracterizations, and falsely challenged the legal status of his marriage. Wasilla resident Phil Munger, a close friend of Stein’s, recalls, “I watched that campaign unfold, bringing a level of slime our community hadn’t seen until then.” Chryson helped Palin thwart a local gun-control measure (see June 1997). Chryson and Palin attempted to name Stoll to an empty seat on the Wasilla City Council, but were thwarted by another councilman, Nick Carney, who considered Stoll too “violent” to be a successful council member.
Implementing AIP Agenda as Governor - Chryson recalls helping Governor Palin slash property taxes and block a measure that would have taken money for public programs from the Permanent Fund Dividend, or the oil and gas fund that doles out annual payments to citizens of Alaska. Palin endorsed Chryson’s unsuccessful initiative to move the state legislature from Juneau to Wasilla. She was successful at helping Chryson get pro-militia and gun-rights language into the Alaska Constitution. In 2006, Chryson helped Palin bring Hickel on board as the co-chairman of her gubernatorial campaign; Hickel’s presence meant the implicit endorsement of the AIP for Palin’s candidacy. Hickel later said of his support, “I made her governor.” Hickel now supports Palin’s bid for the vice-presidency, spurred in part by her explicit endorsement of the AIP agenda (see March 2008).
Infiltrating the Mainstream - Chryson has long advocated that AIP members “infiltrate” both Republican and Democratic parties, and points to Palin as a model of successful infiltration. “There’s a lot of talk of her moving up,” AIP vice chairman Dexter Clark says of Palin. “She was a member [of the AIP] when she was mayor of a small town, that was a nonpartisan job. But to get along and to go along she switched to the Republican Party.… She is pretty well sympathetic because of her membership.” It is possible, Blumenthal and Neiwert speculate, that Clark saw Palin as so closely aligned with Chryson and the AIP that he wrongly assumed she was an official member. Chryson understands that as a vice-presidential candidate, Palin has no intention of espousing secessionist or racist views. Indeed, he hopes that her inauguration will represent the beginning of a new and deeper infiltration. “I’ve had my issues but she’s still staying true to her core values,” Chryson says. “Sarah’s friends don’t all agree with her, but do they respect her? Do they respect her ideology and her values? Definitely.” (Blumenthal and Neiwert 10/10/2008) In the days after this article appears, the McCain-Palin campaign will confirm that Sarah Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982, and claim that she was never a member of AIP. AIP chairperson Lynette Clark will say that her husband Dexter’s recollection of Palin as an official AIP member is mistaken, and reiterate that she and AIP support Palin fully in her bid for the vice presidency. (Tapper 9/1/2008; Alaskan Independence Party 9/3/2008)
Author and reporter David Neiwert appears on CNN’s Newshour program to discuss a recent article he co-wrote for Salon that revealed details of Governor Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) support from far-right militia and secessionist groups in Alaska (see October 10, 2008). Palin is now running on the Republican presidential ticket with John McCain (R-AZ). CNN interviewer Rick Sanchez is particularly interested in discussing Palin’s connections with the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), a political third party in Alaska that advocates an array of far-right initiatives, including the secession of Alaska from the United States. Sanchez notes that between 1995 and 2002 Palin’s husband Todd was a member of the AIP, and according to Neiwert’s article Sarah Palin has had her political career shaped by AIP leaders such as Mark Chryson. Neiwert explains the AIP to Sanchez, saying, “Well, what we have known about the AIP for some time is that they were basically the Alaskan contingent and the ‘Patriot Movement,’ which, in the lower 48 states, manifested itself as people who form militias, tax protesters, constitutionalists, and that sort of thing.” Neiwert refuses to directly compare the AIP to the ideology of the far-right militia groups that spawned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), as Sanchez asks, but says that McVeigh and the AIP “basically come from the same sort of ideological background.” Neiwert does not consider the AIP a particularly violent group, and calls it “a pretty benign organization,” but affirms that most AIP members “despise” the US government. He notes that Chryson told him and co-author Max Blumenthal that Todd Palin was never particularly active in the AIP, saying, “Basically, he signed up, joined the party, and then was not active at all.” He also confirms that Sarah Palin was most likely not a member of the AIP, but, as Sanchez says, “[S]he does have some ties to either members or its causes.” Palin rose to power in Wasilla, Alaska, through the auspices of the AIP, Neiwert says, both as a city council member and later as mayor (see Mid and Late 1996). Sanchez runs a video clip of Palin’s videotaped address to the AIP convention in 2008 (see March 2008). Sanchez confirms that Palin attended the convention personally in 2006, because, Neiwert says, “she was campaigning there for governor. And the AIP did not have a gubernatorial candidate that year. And its members essentially endorsed Sarah as their party’s standard-bearer.” Neiwert then explains Chryson’s program of “infiltrating” AIP members into positions of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, and notes that the Salon article quoted Chryson as being particularly proud of having “infiltrated” Palin into such a high level of influence. “[T]he AIP has specifically had a program of infiltration aimed at getting members and their sort of camp followers promoting within the other political parties,” he says. “And, obviously, the Republican Party is a lot closer in Alaska to the AIP than the Democratic Party is.” The McCain campaign sends a message to CNN during the Neiwert interview from campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb that reads: “CNN is furthering a smear with this report, no different than if your network ran a piece questioning Senator [Barack] Obama’s religion. No serious news organization has tried to make this connection. And it is unfortunate that CNN would be the first.” Sanchez notes that CNN has been trying for hours to get the McCain-Palin campaign to prepare a response to the Neiwert interview, which begins after 3:00 p.m. EST. Neiwert notes that the AIP is not a religious organization, saying: “Some of the members are very definitely fundamentalist Christians, but the AIP, itself, is not involved in religious issues, except to the extent that it is involved with the Constitution Party of the United States. This is the larger national umbrella that they organize under. And the Constitution Party is definitely a theocratic party.” (CNN 10/14/2008) After the interview, Neiwert posts on a liberal blog, Crooks & Liars, that like CNN, he attempted to elicit a response or rejoinder from the McCain-Palin campaign and received no response until the broadcast. Neiwert notes that his interview was not in any way a “smear,” because “[a] smear by definition is untrue. However, everything in our story is fully documented. We’ve even posted the relevant documents here so readers can judge the accuracy of the story for themselves.” He also notes that the interview said nothing about Palin’s faith or religious beliefs, but was strictly “about her conduct as a public official.” He concludes, “If Team McCain wants to convince anyone this is merely a ‘smear,’ they’re going to have to demonstrate some falsity or distortion first.” Neiwert says that some Palin defenders respond with the accusation that he is attempting to find Palin “guilt[y] by association.” He counters: “But ‘guilt by association,’ by definition, involves an entirely irrelevant association.… Palin’s associations with the ‘Patriot’ right, however, are entirely relevant, because they reflect directly on her conduct as a public official and her judgment. They also, I should add, reflect on a deeper level the kind of right-wing populism she’s been indulging in recent weeks.” (Neiwert 10/14/2008) In the days after this interview appears, the McCain-Palin campaign will confirm that Sarah Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982, and claim that she was never a member of AIP. AIP chairperson Lynette Clark will later say that AIP party officials’ recollection of Palin as an official AIP member is mistaken, and will reiterate that she and AIP support Palin fully in her bid for the vice presidency. (Tapper 9/1/2008; Alaskan Independence Party 9/3/2008)
Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the Republican candidate for vice president with presidential contender John McCain (R-AZ), learns of a recent CNN report about her ties with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP—see October 14, 2008) and the Salon.com article that sparked the report (see October 10, 2008). Palin is on a campaign jet en route to New Hampshire when she sees part of the segment, along with a graphic on the bottom of the screen touting “The Palins and the Fringe.” The segment discusses her husband Todd Palin’s former membership in the AIP, and her own videotaped message to the 2008 AIP convention (see March 2008). During a rally this afternoon, someone on the rope line shouts a question about the AIP. Palin determines that the campaign is not working hard enough to downplay her connections to the AIP, and quickly sends an email to Steve Schmidt, the campaign’s chief strategist, and to campaign manager Rick Davis and senior adviser Nicolle Wallace. The email, titled simply “Todd,” reads: “Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that’s cropped up all day today—two reporters, a protestor’s sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd’s involvement in an anti-American political party. It’s bull, and I don’t want to have to keep reacting to it.… Pls have statement given on this so it’s put to bed.” Palin is worried in part because her vice-presidential debate with Democratic contender Joseph Biden (D-DE) is coming up in hours, and she has no desire to delve into the Palins’ associations with the AIP during it. Five minutes after Palin sends the email, she receives a reply from Schmidt, saying: “Ignore it. He [Todd Palin] was a member of the aip? My understanding is yes. That is part of their platform. Do not engage the protestors. If a reporter asks say it is ridiculous. Todd loves america.” Palin is unsatisfied, sending another email to the three original recipients and cc’ing it to five other campaign staffers, including her personal assistant. CBS News will later report: “Palin’s insertion of the five additional staffers in the email chain was an apparent attempt to rally her own troops in the face of a decision from the commanding general with which she disagreed. Her inclusion of her personal assistant was particularly telling about her quest for affirmation and support in numbers, since the young staffer was not in a position to have any input on campaign strategy.” Palin writes: “That’s not part of their platform and he was only a ‘member’ bc independent alaskans too often check that ‘Alaska Independent’ box on voter registrations thinking it just means non partisan. He caught his error when changing our address and checked the right box. I still want it fixed.” Palin is misrepresenting the nature of Alaskan voter registration documents: they contain the full name of the Alaskan Independence Party, not “Alaska independent,” as she seems to assert. Schmidt sees Palin’s second email as an attempt to mislead the campaign and sends a longer response about the AIP, which says: “Secession. It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years. If this is incorrect then we need to understand the discrepancy. The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country[.] We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this.” CBS will call Schmidt’s pushback against Palin’s insistence on a correction “particularly blunt in that it implicitly questioned her truthfulness. Furthermore, his unwillingness to budge an inch on the matter was a remarkable assertion of his power to pull rank over the candidate herself.” Palin does not respond to the email. (CBS News 7/1/2009) The McCain-Palin campaign will issue a brief statement denying that Palin was ever a registered member of the AIP. “Governor Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982,” campaign spokesman Brian Rogers will say. “As you know, if she changed her registration, there would have been some record of it. There isn’t.” AIP chairperson Lynette Clark will confirm Rogers’s statement. (Tapper 9/1/2008; Alaskan Independence Party 9/3/2008)
Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey lambasts CNN for what he calls an attempted “smear” against Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R-AK). Rainey is referring to a segment recently aired on CNN (see October 14, 2008) that interviewed author and columnist David Neiwert, who recently co-wrote an article about Palin’s connections to the far-right, secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP—see October 10, 2008). Palin has already demanded that the McCain-Palin campaign issue a statement repudiating the CNN segment, a decision the campaign did not acquiesce to (see October 15, 2008); it is unclear whether Rainey had any knowledge of Palin’s demand, though McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb sent a message to CNN calling the segment “a smear” that was aired during the segment itself. Rainey writes that the Neiwert interview was little more than “a reheated, overwrought, and misleading story that seemed designed to yoke Sarah Palin and her husband to the most extreme secessionists in Alaska.” He acknowledges that Palin’s husband Todd Palin once belonged to the AIP, and writes, “[H]is wife, the governor and now Republican vice presidential nominee, has been friendly with some of its members.” (The article by Neiwert and co-author Max Blumenthal goes into significant detail about how AIP leaders such as Mark Chryson have steered Palin’s rise to power from her days as a Wasilla city council member.) Rainey accurately notes that neither Neiwert, Blumenthal, nor CNN have shown that Palin has echoed the AIP’s central platform call for Alaska’s secession from the United States. He calls Alaskan politics “eccentric,” and says that in Alaska, the AIP “is not so far out on the fringe. An AIP member won the governorship in 1990. And party members have been in the thick of the state’s public life for decades. Members run the gamut from states-rights enthusiasts to radical secessionists who have advocated extreme measures to free Alaska from the United States.” Rainey criticizes CNN interviewer Rick Sanchez for “front-loading” his segment with “outrageous pronouncements from AIP founder Joe Vogler, now deceased,” including Voger’s famous pronoucement: “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won’t be buried under their damn flag.” Rainey draws a comparison to Democratic candidate Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s “old pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.,” then writes, “[T]o my knowledge, no direct connection between Vogler and Gov. Palin has been reported.” (Rainey 10/15/2008) In a rejoinder published on the liberal news blog Crooks and Liars, Neiwert notes that in the CNN interview, he was careful not to associate Palin directly with far-right radicals such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), as Sanchez attempted to do, and notes, “Part of covering and writing about the Patriot movement involved listening and watching carefully to distinguish them, because to some extent, you had to give the mainstream conservatives the benefit of the doubt when it came to their actual intent in getting involved with these groups.” However, Neiwert goes on to say, the connections between Palin and the AIP are quite strong and well detailed. He also notes that AIP vice chairman Dexter Clark said flatly in 2007 that Palin “was an AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town (see Mid and Late 1996)—that was a non-partisan job. But you get along to go along—she eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won’t go into that. She also had about an 80 percent approval rating, and is pretty well sympathetic to her former membership.” He also notes that Clark later disavowed his claim of Palin’s membership in the AIP. However, Neiwert writes, “it’s clear that Clark and many others within the AIP viewed Palin as ‘one of ours.’ And as we have demonstrated, they did so with good cause.” He concludes that it is a “cold reality that Palin has a real history of empowering these extremists, and pandering to their conspiratorial beliefs, from her position of public office. And the question is whether that would continue from a position of real power in the White House.” (Neiwert 10/15/2008)
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican candidate for vice president, tells a crowd of Republican activists and tea party members in Little Rock, Arkansas, that the tea party movement must choose between the Republican and Democratic parties if it is to survive as a political force that elects its members to public office. “Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this tea party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party,” she says. “Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the tea party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they’re going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: ‘R’ or ‘D.’” Palin recommends that tea partiers choose the Republicans, though she notes that her husband Todd Palin is not a registered Republican and the movement should be open to including independents. (Both Palins have been affiliated with the far-right, secessionist Alaskan Independence Party—see March 2008 and October 15, 2008). Much of her speech is drawn from her 2008 campaign speeches. Much of the 18,000-seat Verizon Arena is empty, with the entire upper level closed off and the bottom level less than half full. In the hours before the event, the Arkansas Republican Party slashed prices on tickets to the speech to $20. The dining tables on the arena’s floor are crowded with donors who paid $175 for a ringside seat. Palin’s recommendation for the tea partiers to join the GOP draws mixed results from influential bloggers. “Allahpundit” at HotAir says Palin is correct in her statement about embracing the GOP over running Quixotic third-party races that are doomed to fail, and such races will just put more Democrats in office. Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice says the tea party is through as an independent movement if it follows Palin’s advice; many tea partiers are equally critical of both parties, and joining one to battle the other is just more politics as usual. And John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent says Palin’s recommendation is essentially moot, as the tea party has always been “a subsection of the Republican Party.” (Conroy 2/17/2010; The Week 2/18/2010)
Investigative reporters and bloggers learn that the private security firm hired by Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK) is also active in right-wing militia and paramilitary activities. They also learn that some of the guards employed by the firm, the Drop Zone (DZ), are active-duty military soldiers, and that the firm is unlicensed and therefore operating outside the law. (Moore 10/18/2010; Mauer 10/18/2010; Greenwald 10/19/2010)
Senate Candidate Has History of Armed Intimidation, Association with Militias - Miller himself has a history of armed intimidation: according to blogger and reporter Shannyn Moore, in 2008 he attempted to stage a “coup d’etat” of the leadership of the Alaska Republican Party, appearing during a meeting with a group of armed security guards. (The attempt, as such, was unsuccessful, and Miller currently enjoys the support of the Alaska Republican Party.) During the 2010 Senate campaign, Miller’s supporters drew media attention by brandishing assault rifles during campaign rallies (see July 19, 2010). (Moore 10/18/2010)
Security Guards on Active Duty with Army - On September 17, Miller’s security guards forcibly detained and handcuffed reporter Tony Hopfinger for attempting to question Miller about disciplinary measures taken against him while he was a lawyer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough (see October 17, 2010). The security guards work with DZ, and two of the guards who roughed up Hopfinger are on active duty with the US Army. The two guards, Specialist Tyler Ellingboe and Sergeant Alexander Valdez, are members of the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Richardson. Army public affairs officer Major Bill Coppernoll says neither soldier has permission from their commanding officers to work for DZ, and the Army is still looking into whether previous company or brigade commanders authorized their employment. “They’ve got to be up front with the chain of command,” Coppernoll says. “The chain of command needs to agree they can do that without affecting the readiness and the whole slew of things that are part of being a soldier that they need to do first.” DZ owner William Fulton, who was one of the guards who restrained and handcuffed Hopfinger, says it is not his job to ensure that the soldiers complied with Army regulations. “They’re adults—they are responsible for themselves,” Fulton says. (Mauer 10/18/2010; Greenwald 10/19/2010) Hopfinger identifies Ellingboe and Valdez as two of the guards who stood over him during the time he was handcuffed. Hopfinger says Ellingboe and Valdez refused to give him their names and would not identify their company or who they were working for. At one point they told him they were volunteers, he says. (Epler 10/19/2010) A Defense Department directive from 2008, entitled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty,” states in part, “A member of the armed forces on active duty shall not:… [p]erform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign.” (Department of Defense 2/19/2008 )
Security Firm: Ties to Militias, Blackwater - Fulton is an active member of the Alaska Citizens Militia, where he is titled a “supply sergeant.” The organization is led by former Michigan Militia leader Norm Olson (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), who recently attempted to run for lieutenant governor of Alaska under the auspices of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP—see September 6-7, 2008). (Hartman 10/20/2010; PalinGates 10/20/2010) Many DZ employees have bragged about their connections to far-right elements in Alaska’s political and paramilitary scenes, and have said that the firm employs a number of former Blackwater security personnel. The firm displays a large poster of President Obama as “The Joker” in its front window and a link to InfoWars.com, a right-wing conspiracy Web site hosted by Alex Jones. The owner of the Drop Zone, William Fulton, has boasted to patrons about his partners’ participation in renditions and “black ops” overseas, and likes to show his .50-caliber sniper rifle to prospective customers. Fulton has frequently told patrons about his fondness for Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, saying to one, “Glenn talks to the crazies,” who are his best customers. Fulton also has suspected ties to the Alaskan Independence Party, which once claimed Todd Palin, former Governor Sarah Palin’s husband, as a member. (Moore 10/18/2010; Mauer 10/18/2010; Life in Spenard 10/18/2010; Greenwald 10/19/2010)
Miller's Ties to Militias - Alaska Citizens Militia leader Ray Southwell, a longtime crony of Olson’s and a fellow leader of the Alaska Citizens Militia, recently wrote of meeting Miller at a militia leader’s home in Soldotna, Alaska. Southwell wrote in a militia forum that he recently encouraged Miller to run for state office: “We need leaders here to stand against the feds.” In that same forum, Olson posted his endorsement of Miller’s candidacy. (PalinGates 10/20/2010)
Expired License - Investigating bloggers also find that the Drop Zone’s license to do business as a security firm (under the name “Dropzone Security Services”) expired in December 2009. The firm updated its license on September 18, 2010, the day after its guards detained and handcuffed Hopfinger, but only renewed its license to trade, not its license to provide security. (The Immoral Minority 10/19/2010; Hartman 10/20/2010; PalinGates 10/20/2010) Fulton tells a reporter that he is not a security guard and that DZ is not a security guard agency, therefore he needs no license to operate as a security firm. Instead, he says, DZ is a “contract agency” and that he and his people are considered “security agents,” not guards. “We don’t do anything covered under the security [statutes],” he says. “We don’t do anything that the state has any authority to tell us what to do.” He denies having any employees, and says he hires specific people on a contract basis. DZ is primarily a military supply store, Fulton says, and only does security contracts “three or four times a month.” He admits to doing business with Miller in the past, but refuses to go into detail. He goes on to say that his guards at the Miller event were unarmed, and his “contractors” only carry weapons when they undertake “fugitive recovery” jobs: “All the guys we use are professionals, and they act professionally and dress professionally.” Hopfinger disagrees with Fulton’s contention that he is a security “agent” as opposed to a “guard,” saying: “He certainly acted like an aggressive security guard and he may have broken the law. It was an illegal detention and an illegal arrest.” Of Miller, Hopfinger says the candidate is exhibiting “poor judgment… to have Fulton and active-duty soldiers be his bodyguards.” No other Alaska political candidate he has interviewed, including Miller’s Republican opponent Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), has security guards with them, he says. (Epler 10/19/2010)
Investigation - The firm is being investigated by the Alaska Department of Public Safety, both for its handling of the Hopfinger incident and for its unlicensed status. (Epler 10/19/2010)
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