A Loud Whisper
In a rare offensive move yesterday, Lt. Governor and Senate hopeful, Mead Treadwell, released a direct challenge to opponent Dan Sullivan. Treadwell, typically seen as the reserved (read: nice) candidate, had yet to take a truly hard line against any of his opponents. His performance in debates and in interviews has left many voters with a view of a kindly, but extremely intelligent, policy-driven candidate who stays above the mud slinging. Unfortunately, Treadwell’s “niceness,” at times, has left him playing more defense than offense. Besides a few unsubstantiated rumors of a “whisper campaign,” the Treadwell office hadn’t sent any flak up at the other candidates- until yesterday.
Yesterday’s press release from Treadwell was a measured statement, and not a “Whisper”. It seems Mead is making good on his promise to be honest and tough, but is it being tough to ask for honesty? The press release calls on Sullivan to give a clear explanation of his record on “Stand your ground” legislation. As Treadwell puts it in the release, “It’s time for my opponent, Dan Sullivan, to be honest, even if it requires that I’m tough on him.”
In the release, Treadwell called for an honest explanation of Sullivan’s recent radio ads, which purport that Dan fought to pass “Stand your ground.” In the release Treadwell calls for honesty because, he says “Our right to self-defense under the second amendment it too important.” In a confident, yet somewhat humorous, move, Treadwell promises that if Dan can “Produce one piece of credible, time-stamped evidence” that shows he did, in fact, fight to pass “Stand your ground” legislation as AG, Treadwell will put a Sullivan campaign sign in his yard. Unlike invitations to debate Treadwell, this is going to be hard for Sullivan to ignore.
Ready, Aim, Quagmire
Sullivan’s troubles with the “Stand your ground” issue began in June. The Sullivan campaign released a radio ad stating, “As Alaska’s attorney general, Sullivan successfully fought to protect our Second Amendment rights and passed ‘stand your ground.’ ” Unfortunately for Dan, the popular political fact-checking site, politifact.com, found the evidence of Sullivan’s “Stand your ground” support as “dubious at best.” After researching the issue, politifact rated the statement in the radio ad as false.
If Sullivan’s continued rhetoric that he “fought” for “Stand your ground” legislation is false, then what is the real story? Well, the real story has been out for awhile- but few have paid much attention to it during this primary. In 2010, Alaska Rep. Mark Neuman authored HB 381. HB 381 proposed a self-defense policy in Alaska under which victims would no longer be forced to prove that they attempted to flee from an attacker(s) before defending themselves with deadly force. Representatives like Stoltze & Ramras cosponsored that original bill. At the same time that this “Stand your ground” legislation was being proposed, Dan Sullivan was the Attorney General.
There is no evidence to date of Sullivan’s alleged support of the legislation; in fact, there is little evidence of Dan’s involvement whatsoever. As far as time-stamped evidence that ties Dan to the legislation, there are only two: First, there is a 5-page letter, sent directly to the Chair of the Alaska House Judiciary Committee and Committee members, with Dan’s Signature on it. Secondly, was a fiscal note dated March 30, 2010 submitted by the Department of Law which was “Approved by: Dan S. Sullivan, Attorney General.”
Writing a letter may not be “fighting,” but hey at least he supported it, right? Wrong. Throughout the 5-page letter one can only find vehement objection to the passing of “Stand your ground” legislation. Some of the highlights include arguments that HB381 would promote violence and vigilantism, would “encourage the needless taking of human life”, and would be a “recipe for inviting gang violence on our streets.” Sullivan sure put up a fight, but it seems he’s forgotten which side he was fighting for!
If Sullivan has forgotten which side he was fighting for, there are plenty of people who can remind him. One such person is Annie Carpeneti. Carpeneti was one of Sullivan’s deputies in the Department of Law, she also testified against HB381. Having seemingly taken a cue from her former boss, Carpeneti argued before the House Judiciary Committee that “Stand your ground” legislation would legalize vigilantism and invite violence. After Carpeneti echoed Sullivan’s sentiment, Neuman withdrew the bill. He later reworked it with the National Rifle Association and re-introduced it.
Another person who may be able to jog Sullivan’s memory about his stance is Democratic Alaska State Senator Hollis French, who currently chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2012, Rep. Neuman introduced HB80, a successor to the failed HB381. This piece of “Stand your ground” legislation did pass, though not without reservation from French. French, who was against the bill, accused the new AG and bill supporter, Michael Geraghty, of “abandoning the policies of his predecessor, Attorney General Dan Sullivan.” It seems that those who oppose NRA backed self-defense bills miss Dan in their corner.
Sullivan’s response to the mounting evidence is exactly what you’d expect from a DC lawyer; deny, deny, deny.
On Sullivan’s campaign website, they have an entire page rewriting Dan’s involvement on “Stand your Ground”. The page is misleading to say the least. It leads readers to assume that Dan supported “Stand your Ground”, the wording must have been written by a lawyer, as it seamlessly substitutes Sullivan’s name with the “Attorney General’s office”, and “The Attorney General”. This misdirects the less attentive as they’re led to assume that Sullivan is the Attorney General that is being referenced and not Michael Geraghty. There is also a link to a non-time-stamped constituent letter written by the bill’s author, Mark Neuman, which uses the same lawyerese to insinuate that Sullivan supported the bill.
The campaign is currently putting money into search engine optimization to make sure that their claim is among the first that comes up through a Google search.
As Amanda Coyne wrote earlier this month, “the Sullivan campaign calls Politifact’s false claim false.” Although very convincing, it’s going to take a bit more than a game of “Yes I did” and “Neuman-said” to sway the voters about this issue. Sullivan’s solution; he denies ever knowing about HB 381 or the subsequent letter sent from his office in the first place.
Even though Sullivan’s name is on the letter, even though it was printed on Sullivan’s letterhead, even though it came from Sullivan’s office, and even though the Anchorage Daily News reported the letter as his; the Sullivan campaign is stating that it was Sullivan’s Assistant Attorney General, John Skidmore, who authored the letter.
According to information obtained by Amanda Coyne, Skidmore has apparently confirmed Sullivan’s account. Skidmore added that, “he never spoke with Sullivan about the legislation, and to his knowledge, Sullivan didn’t know about the letter or have any information about it, which isn’t unusual.” (http://amandacoyne.com/politics/assistant-ag-who-penned-stand-your-ground-letter-confirms-sullivans-account/)
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Let’s say, for a moment, that Sullivan is telling the truth; he supported stand your ground and his immediate subordinate sent a 5-page letter, with Sullivan’s name on it, opposing a huge piece of pro-2nd Amendment legislation to the House Judiciary Committee. This is incredibly telling. First, it’s clear that Sullivan can’t keep his house in order. If, as the AG, his assistant AG is sending out such incredibly important correspondences, without his knowledge, how is Sullivan going to run a Senate office? Second, even if it is proven that Skidmore wrote the letter, thus proving that Sullivan didn’t directly oppose the legislation on paper, where is there any proof that Sullivan supported stand your ground?
Sullivan said he fought to pass it, yet he’s claiming to know nothing about the bill. These two statements cannot co-exist.
There is, as previous mentioned, an undated letter from Neuman leading readers to believe that Sullivan aided the legislation in some way. However, as written by Amanda Coyne, “Neuman didn’t work directly with Sullivan, but he assumed that Sullivan was kept abreast of the discussions.” http://amandacoyne.com/politics/sullivan-stands-up-for-his-support-for-stand-your-ground/)
It’s a bit odd of Neuman to be thanking Sullivan for his effort, when Neuman himself had no idea if Sullivan even new about the “Stand your ground” legislation. To be fair, Neuman cannot be called a liar, as the letter was very carefully written and lets the reader fill in the gaps.
Finally, and perhaps most terrifying, if Sullivan is telling the truth, then as many sources have commented in his defense, he had no idea what was going on. How can Sullivan support a piece of legislation if, as his defenders assert, Sullivan didn’t know anything about it.
If Sullivan and his camp are to be believed, then Sullivan has effectively jumped from the frying pan into the fire. He may be able to escape allegations of flip-flopping and deceit regarding “Stand your ground,” in the Primary Election, but if he does, do you think that Mark Begich will let that die during the General when he gets an endorsement from the Non-Partisan NRA?
If Sullivan had just come clean in the beginning about his past position on the issue and explain why his views had changed since then, this wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, he chose to exaggerate to the point of deception. The stance of honesty and explanation is sure to resonate better with voters than outright deceit.
So far, Sullivan has either proven himself incapable of handling public office, or has shown himself to have a fundamental problem with honesty.
So Where Do We Stand
In this hotly contested Primary I mirror Gail Phillips’ sentiment in a Peninsula Clarion article titled, Voices of Alaska: Who vets the candidates?” Gail wrote, “As a Republican, I want to know what measure of responsibility my Party is taking to make certain we send our best candidate forward to the General Election in November.” Whoever we Republicans put our support behind on August 19th is the man we want in D.C., but first he has to beat Begich. After months of mudslinging with Begich, Sullivan already has a target on his back. After problems like Sullivan’s residency have come up, and now this “Stand your ground” snafu, it’s hard to see Sullivan putting up a credible fight. This is only the Primary, all the dirty laundry needs to be put out there so Begich has nothing to attack. So I ask, have we seen all of Dan’s or is this just the beginning?
Stand for Something
Treadwell attacked what he saw as an inconsistency, he did not attack Dan on the administrations stance, he asked for honesty through clarification. Even when Treadwell attacks, he does so as a statesman, he does so honorably. Nobody can criticize somebody for seeking honesty, and this was a very smart stance to take.
I look forward to seeing a response to Mead Treadwell’s challenge that isn’t “Neuman said” and “Yes I did”, but I don’t think that will happen. Will Dan be able to clear up his “Stand your ground” mess, and more importantly; at this point, will it even matter if he can?
Written by Matt J. Beck a resident of the Matanuska – Susitna Borough