Friday, August 29, 2014

Responses to the questionnaire (supplemented also to reflect those not responding) ...

We requested responses to the candidate questionnaire forwarded last week (and slightly revised earlier this week) by Wednesday.  Out of 80-ish sent (those candidates which posted email addresses with the Division of Elections, and in one case a write in candidate who requested a questionnaire) we received 29 responses. The responses are collected in a folder here.

Readers may conclude there are some surprises among those who took the time to respond and some notable exceptions among those who didn't.  In four races -- House 15, 19, 28 and 36 -- both major candidates responded.  In the others, only one (or in the case of House 22, two) candidate(s) responded.  Eight incumbents responded, four Republicans and four Democrats.  The remaining 21 are challengers.

A list of those contacted and an indication of whether they responded is available here.

With this as background, we are going to do some polling next week and then make decisions on next steps.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Things that make me laugh (and of course it involves the University) ...

An article in the Fairbanks News Miner this morning provoked a laugh.  The article -- Petition launched to protest University of Alaska president bonus -- reports on an effort by a UAF faculty member to gather signatures on a petition seeking to have the University of Alaska Board of Regents reverse its decision to award the UA President, Patrick Gamble, a retention bonus (or alternatively, for Gamble to reject the bonus).

That isn't what made me laugh, however.  What provoked that was the defense that the Board of Regents is using for awarding the bonus in the first place.  Toward the end, the article reports on a memorandum being sent those who write to the Board about the decision.  "[Board Chair Pat] Jacobson defends the bonus, noting that Gamble’s salary hasn’t increased since 2011 and that his pay is at least 25 percent lower than the salary for system presidents at comparable universities."

It is unclear what set of comparables the Board is relying on for the comparison.  The UA system's Division of "Institutional Research & Analysis" lists a number of peer groups which it uses depending on the purpose. If I were to guess based on past experience doing this sort of thing here and elsewhere, it would be that the Board is using institutions with a comparable number of "full time equivalent students" from its "Group 1" peer group, a group that includes only three other institutions:  the Montana University System, the Southern Illinois University System and the University of Maine system.  But it could be that the Board used a different set of peers for this study.

The thing that made me laugh, however, doesn't depend on which peer group the Board used; the thing that made me laugh is that the Board is tying the bonus entirely to comparable salaries, apparently completely overlooking key performance indicators.

There is one set of numbers that I have been tracking closely at the UA system since President Gamble took office.  Those are the financial contribution numbers, alumni support and outside giving.  In this day and age of declining -- necessarily so -- federal and state support for public higher education institutions nationwide, increasingly the measure of an institutional leader's success is his (or her) ability to attract and maintain outside support for the University's mission.

A report commissioned by President Gamble himself in 2011 makes that very point clearly in the context of the UA system:
Today’s higher education environment requires significant participation by private funding sources. The University of Alaska will continually need to secure private dollars that state funds and tuition simply cannot provide. ... The condition of institutional advancement—the management of private giving—at the University of Alaska is mediocre at best. Despite some large gifts (mostly of a corporate variety), UA does not have a history of a well-organized contemporary approach that is standard for a comparable system. ... 
''We’ve always depended upon Ted Stevens and the oil companies to take care of us,' pithily observed an alumnus.  Clearly, this must change, [the report concludes] ... the Chancellors, with appropriate help from the President, must be in the forefront of this fund raising activity.
But Gamble's record in that area is miserable.  Since the time of the 2011 report, private giving to the University of Alaska system actually has fallen, contrary to the national trend.  According to the University's own data, alumni and corporate giving -- the two categories for which they provide results -- was at roughly $11 million in FY 2010, the year before the report.  While it rose somewhat in the following two years -- although by no means reaching the national (or even "peer group" average) -- it collapsed again in FY 2013, totaling only $9 million.  (The University has not yet publicly released numbers for FY 2014, even though the year closed nearly two months ago.)

To put that in context, UAA's new Alaska Airlines Arena cost more than $109 million to build.  The results from all of the University's private fundraising efforts in the two years since the 2011 report was issued is $24.4 million, not even a quarter of what it cost the University to build one building.

The University's explanation?  "Corporate giving and financial support to the university declined 34 percent, perhaps as a consequence of uncertainties surrounding the economic downturn."  I have been involved in a number of fundraising efforts over the years.  It's always a bad sign when someone uses the word "perhaps" in an explanation.  Those organizations on top of the game are in touch daily with donors and know exactly why things move the way they do.  Those organizations that are struggling use words like "perhaps."  UA's definitely falls in that category.

The problem with awarding a bonus to President Gamble isn't the fact that he was awarded one.  If he was achieving results in key areas I would be the first to support it.  But tying it simply to a peer group pay scale is a bad idea.  If things are not going in the direction the system's own consultants have told them they need to go, they need to change.  The Board's decision effectively to reward current performance despite an important indicator of performance going in the opposite direction not only flies in the face of reason it is -- well, it's why I laughed.

Added note:  Subsequent to posting this piece initially a reader provided the complete response being sent by the University to those writing to Board members.  I post it here, noting that fundraising, which the 2011 report identified as a key area requiring improvement going forward -- and which the report made clear is the direct responsibility of the President and Chancellors -- is not mentioned, at all.  Indeed, many of the factors mentioned are the responsibility of -- and attributable to the success of -- others in the University system, not the President.  Yet the Board appears to be using them to justify a bonus to be given to Gamble.
Dear [          ], 
Thank you for writing with your concerns about the Board of Regents’ decision to offer President Gamble a new contract containing a retention incentive, but no base salary increase. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you, on behalf of the board, the rationale and thinking behind our action. 
The context is that the president’s initial contract expired last May. His annual salary of $320,000 has not increased since 2011. This new contract maintains that same salary for another two years, despite the fact that it is already 25-28 percent under market for system presidents at comparable universities. Given that the board believes the president’s leadership has been exceptional, you might ask why not just increase his annual salary. 
The reality is that increasing the president’s salary would not have provided a direct incentive for the president to stay on the job through the end of the contract period. That was critical to the board. Pat Gamble is an accomplished, nationally known and exceptional leader, who could readily take his skills elsewhere or simply decide to retire. The retention incentive approach addresses market issues while creating a powerful incentive for President Gamble to stay on board.
With the incentive approach, if the president voluntarily departs the university before the end of his contract term, he does not get a dime of the incentive. The president also remains an at-will employee, so the board may terminate his employment for no reason or any reason at any time. If the Board terminates the president’s contract at-will, the incentive amount would be reduced proportionately. 
The Board of Regents believes President Gamble is doing an exceptional job. Evidence includes the Shaping Alaska’s Future initiative (, a collection of 23 different effects or outcomes the university intends to achieve within five thematic areas. Agreement on this important strategic direction for the entire UA System represents unprecedented collaboration between multiple stakeholders. Quite simply, it has never been done before at UA. The board has also seen first-hand strong evidence that Pat Gamble understands and anticipates national and state trends and has learned the details of university operations and educational processes in the State of Alaska.  
President Gamble also has worked with governance and the board to make real progress on longstanding academic issues that will facilitate student access and success. Those include improved graduation rates, student advising, better service to students and working more closely and effectively with the state, the K-12 system, and all of Alaska's employers. President Gamble also has maintained good working relationships and open communication with the legislature and governor. The funding of the UAF heat and power plant and the continued progress on the UAA and UAF Engineering buildings is evidence of that relationship. 
We now need consistent, strong leadership in place to ensure Shaping Alaska’s Future continues to move forward. Some of these important issues include improved retention and graduation rates, a student-centered culture at every level, including comprehensive advising, graduates that reflect the diversity of Alaska, as well as other issues. The board has already seen results from this process and believes this president, at this time, is the effective, results-oriented leader we need. Frankly, we can’t afford to lose him. 
Quite simply, the Board of Regents believes it is in the best interests of Alaska’s university system to retain President Gamble’s leadership through this period of challenge and change. It is also important to the State of Alaska that we be able to offer the system president a salary that can compete with the national market now and with future presidents. Leading the UA System is a complex endeavor, and attracting and retaining top-caliber talent is important. With the current salary so under market, and given the board’s desire to retain our current president, a performance-based retention incentive strikes a reasonable balance while addressing our broader concerns. 
We understand some people will disagree with our approach. We cannot always agree on every issue. Ultimately, however, I believe the board’s decision was in the best interests of the University and the state, and we stand by our decision to offer the performance-based retention incentive in lieu of a market adjustment. 
Thank you again for contacting the Board of Regents. 
Pat Jacobson
Board Chair

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Discussing the campaign ...

Yesterday was an active day for the campaign.  We published an op-ed piece explaining the campaign and did two talk radio shows that provided the opportunity both to have an extended discussion about the effort and respond to some early criticism.

The first interview started during one hour and extended into the next (Hour 1 is here starting at 25:50; Hour 2 is here starting at 00:20).  The second interview is a shorter segment, available here (starting at 30:59). At the end of the day we also developed a tag line ("It's Our Future, a campaign to restore fiscal responsibility to the Alaska Legislature"). 

Seeking to deflect its focus on fiscal accountability, some have attempted to paint the campaign as a partisan effort, directed at Republican incumbents.  But as I had the opportunity to explain yesterday in response to that specific question on KFQD's Bernadette & Berkowitz (podcast starting at 07:35) "in a perfect world" my goal would be to receive responses to the questionnaire from incumbents that say, "we were wrong, we spent too much" and describe specifically how they are going to get it right in the coming legislature.  Indeed, two of the questions on the questionnaire are designed specifically to invite that result:
7. In retrospect, do you view the total UGF spending levels set in the FY 2014 and FY 2015 budgets to have been too high? If so, what total UGF spending levels do you believe should have been used instead? 
8. If you were a member of the Majority in the last Legislature, would you have voted differently on the amount of total UGF spending in the FY 2014 and 2015 budgets if the caucus rules had permitted you to cast your vote on the floor independently of the Finance Committee version, without being subject to discharge from the caucus?
I supported a number of the current incumbents in the last election and believe those in the Senate Majority (and those in the House that expressed similar sentiments) were sincere when they listed "[d]evelop sustainable capital and operating budgets for current and future generations" as one of their "Top Three Areas of Focus."  But as I have explained previously, not only did they not achieve that goal, in fact they went backwards in the sense that the sustainable spending level fell during the last two years directly as a result of their actions.  Having not only failed, but in fact gone in reverse the first time it is legitimate to question how they intend to do better if they are reelected.  In my view those that argue the effort is "partisan" because it challenges incumbents to explain what went wrong and how the results will be different this time are simply trying to create a diversion in order to dodge responsibility for those actions.

Others suggest that the effort is not "serious" because we have not "established" an Independent Expenditure, "registered" with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC), done all the appropriate paperwork and established a campaign bank account.  The people I have retained to help with this effort have worked closely with APOC in setting it up.   Because it is an individual effort instead of a group (I am neither soliciting nor accepting contributions from others, this is all on my dime), this effort is governed by different rules than those which govern group efforts.  There is nothing to file -- indeed, there is nothing that can be filed with APOC -- until I select the specific legislative races in which I intend to participate.  That won't occur until after the questionnaires are back and we have finished some polling that I have commissioned.  For those apparently (and overly) concerned with how I conduct my personal affairs, I indeed have established a separate, individual bank account for this effort (recall, this is an individual, not a group effort) and set aside the appropriate assets to support it.

Still others suggest that the questionnaire violates various provisions of the Legislative Ethics Act which  prohibit legislators from "soliciting or accepting campaign contributions in exchange for a pledge to take or refrain from taking specified action."  The questionnaire is no different than if a candidate called me on the phone, as many have done, or asked to sit down for coffee, as others have done, and I asked them what their positions were on certain issues in order to help me decide whether to support and, as many ask, contribute to their campaign.

No one has ever suggested such efforts are proscribed; instead, asking candidates about their positions in order to determine whether or not to provide support goes to the very heart of a representative democracy.  As explicitly contemplated by the ethics rules, I am merely requesting a statement of each candidate's point of view and their intention with respect to future action as part of my evaluation process. Moreover, several candidates, including at least one incumbent, already have responded to the questionnaire -- as others have to questions previously either over the phone or coffee -- without raising any such concerns.  As with the claim that this is somehow a "partisan" effort, the issue appears to be a red herring designed to create a diversion from the central point.

Finally, some have suggested that the effort may produce unintended consequences, by requiring those seeking to form a caucus to "sweeten the pot" in order to attract enough others to constitute a majority.  There are two responses to that.  First, my approach does not prevent the formation of a caucus; it simply contemplates that one of the caucus rules -- the one which requires members to commit in advance to vote for a certain budget before they know what the budget contains -- be changed. There have been other changes in caucus rules in the past; the system can survive this change as well.

Second, while changing the caucus rule would be helpful, success may come even if only a handful of members agree with the position and decline to join a caucus that continues to insist on the rule.  One of the reasons the budget has spiraled out of control over the past few years is because both parties have ignored it.

That is similar to what existed at the federal level in the years preceding the 1992 election.  As a subsequent analysis noted, prior to Ross Perot's campaign in that year on a platform that advocated reducing the federal budget deficit, both parties had largely ignored the issue.  By the time he was done, however, the world had changed.  “'[Perot] was the first candidate really in a big way to float the idea that the deficit was a bad thing,' said historian Michael Beschloss. 'By the time Bill Clinton was elected that fall, if he had not done something about the deficit he would have been in big trouble and that was largely Ross Perot’s doing.'"

If this problem can't be solved by changing the rules, perhaps it can be solved by a handful of members staying uncommitted on budget issues and as a result, reserving their right to shine light on it as the budget bills make their way to the floor.

Either way it is abundantly clear the old way has not worked, despite repeated assurances in 2012 that members would fix the problem.  It's time to make the effort to change the system that is producing the results.

As someone very knowledgeable about the problem and how Juneau works put it in a conversation the other day, bringing the budget back under control is "the fundamental issue" that confronts Alaska today.  As ISER has made clear, if we don't do it the state faces a "fiscal crisis," "economic crash" and the adoption of "a broad based [sales and/or income] tax, and use of a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund."

Alaskans deserve the right to know that and what their representatives intend to do about it.  This is an effort to help that occur.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A discussion about education funding ...

I have been working on a piece on education funding for the past two months, but haven't been satisfied that it captures the competing views fully.  Then a couple of days ago an online discussion that began innocently enough about Proposition 1 turned into a full fledged -- but respectful -- debate on education funding, which along the way captured the competing views completely.   I couldn't have done a better job if I continued working on the previous piece for the next year.

The discussion took place among three people whom I highly respect and me.  Here it is, edited lightly to avoid disclosing the identify of the others involved:
Friend 1: My distilled thoughts on the Alaska oil tax ballot measure. … Sad to see it has become so divisive that people like Brad Keithley is a target of online ridicule, a man I know has only the best interest of Alaska (and UAA for that matter) in his heart. ...

Friend 2: I don't know ... Brad made some pretty outrageous statements about education spending when he was on the education panel--basically that the oil companies wouldn't continue to invest here unless we cut spending on education. I was on the fence until I read what he was saying, now I am 100% in favor of Prop 1.

Me: Its reality ....  At the current rate of growth, the "Big 3" of spending (education, medicare and PERS/TRS) alone exceed 100% of revenues by the end of the decade. The only way out of this mess is both to build revenues, which is what SB 21 is designed to do, and reduce spending. Education is one of the constitutional priorities, but as a practical matter it (along with other categories) are going to need to be trimmed in order to keep spending within the state's means. (And living within the state's means is necessary to ensure investors that we aren't going to change oil and other taxes yet again just about the time new projects hit payout.) That's just reality (which often is not popular, but is). Voting Yes on 1 won't change that situation, and in fact by limiting the potential for revenue growth will just make it worse. But you already knew that.

Friend 1: This is great! Takes me back to the three of us debating [xxx]. And I look fondly on those days because of the caliber of people I got to argue with. I personally think you're both driving toward the same end, a sustainable Alaska that invests in it's own people. [Friend 2] you are correct that the oil companies should not have a say in how Alaska spends its money. But my understanding of Brad's point was more that there is less willingness to invest in a place where the realities of budget are meaningless and fiscal terms are fluid. So ... I'm going to agree with both of you.

Friend 3: There is a lively public debate happening on whether the production tax system makes a difference in investment decisions at all (which by the way it does, once it starts flipping every year). But I think we are really out on a limb if we think that the State of Alaska's educational spending sets the oil companies' investment strategy. The debate is about which system is better for the long term. A system that is unpredictable from month to month and makes it impossible to analyze economics of an investment project hardly promotes a healthy private industry.

Me: [Responding to Friend 3] ... Its not educational spending alone that's the problem; its total spending, which vastly is exceeding revenue (in the last two years alone the state has drawn down $6 billion, or over a third of current savings) and creating an onrushing situation which ISER correctly has described as a "fiscal crisis." Alaska's traditional response when faced with those situations (which actually was the underlying cause for the mid-2000 changes) is to raise oil taxes first, because god forbid, we wouldn't want to use the other potential tools -- institute income or sales taxes, or start diverting a portion of the PF income stream. Believe me, once investors see that picture, they start backing off current investment plans. Once we focus on spending, education spending necessarily becomes part of the discussion because it is both currently the largest single category of state spending [and], as I noted above, on its current trajectory ultimately becomes part of the monster that eats Alaska. In short, this is not a debate about whether education spending alone is good or bad -- of course its good. The problem is, however, that when you back up and see the total picture in context, the current level is simply not sustainable and, along with the other categories, needs to be addressed before we drive this bus over the cliff.

Friend 2: Sorry, Brad, education spending is special. We shouldn't waste money on things that don't help, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to get my kids a decent education, including going into debt. I expect the government to take a similar view.

Me: The problem, [Friend 2], is that the beneficiaries of the other categories of spending feel the same way about theirs. If all the state spent money on was education we would be fine. But it isn't. And debt doesn't help. It has to be repaid, of course, and the only revenue source the state uses to do that is from oil, which is in decline (regardless of whether we use ACES or SB21). To deal with that the state necessarily must do two things. One, find ways to stabilize and potentially increase revenues -- and SB 21 helps to do that. Two, reduce spending to levels where we live within our means, and because it is the largest category of spending education necessarily becomes part of that discussion. Until we do both investors looking at major investments dependent on long term revenue streams for payout rightfully remain concerned about another bait and switch, where they invest based on one tax regime only to find another applied once the resulting revenue stream commences. And that uncertainty sends them off to other venues. We could wish it was otherwise and that spending is delinked from investment (which would enable me also to be a cheerleader for continuing down the current course), but it isn't.

Friend 2: Brad, I don't equate education spending with bridges, new office buildings, or tax cuts. I have spoken to a lot of people about this and am confident that most people agree with me--education comes first--even if it does so at the cost of short-term economic growth. When you and others began to link education spending cuts with favorable growth in oil company investment, you made a mistake in my view.

Me: So, the House Sustainable Education Task Force was put together to find a way of continuing to satisfy the constitutional mandate of prioritizing education over both the short and long terms (that was the reason for including the word "sustainable" in the title). I realize that today's parents focus on today's spending levels, but the Task Force was charged with something more, to look at the ability to continue to sustain education over the long term as well -- in other words, to look out for tomorrow's generations as well as today's. As ISER has made clear, the real situation the state faces is that if we don't do something in the near term to reduce spending, the state is headed for a crash and burn in which future spending on all things, including education, is going to be reduced much, much more drastically than if we reduce spending some now. The point I was making in the portion of my remarks you are focusing on (which were intended to address the argument made by some that additional revenues would somehow magically appear toward the end of this decade and so we didn't need to worry at all about future generations) is that tomorrow's situation [will] be made even worse if we don't solve the problem now because the intervening investment levels necessary to support the state's future revenue stream [will] be impaired as well. To put it another way, the Task Force's purpose was not only to focus on putting education first today (which it is, because it receives the largest share of state spending now), but how to balance that with making sure that education also receives adequate funding to put it first into the future. I can see how some would have some concern about that if all they look at are today's kids (certainly, more is always better than less), but rightfully the state -- and the Task Force -- was concerned about more than that (we were concerned also about the level of funding available for [Friend 1]'s kids when he ... has some in the years ahead).

Friend 2: Brad, we are just going to have to disagree on this. I'd go broke paying for my kids' education if that was what was required. And yes, that might mean that I'd have nothing left for my grand-kids. But you know what? If I do a good job with my kids, my grandkids will be okay too. Normally, I hesitate to analogize from my household finance to governmental finances, but in this case the analogy is spot on. Providing for a quality education for our kids TODAY is the highest and best investment we can make--all others lag far behind.

Me: Yep, I understand we disagree and I can understand the personal perspective. But at least in my view -- and the view of those who established the Sustainable Task Force -- the state needs to take a longer view. Part of the oil wealth the state is receiving today essentially is being received in trust for the benefit of future generations. The state owes an obligation to both current and future Alaskans and has to balance the interests of both. Thanks for the discussion ...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Maybe the best column ever ...

Amanda Coyne yesterday published a killer column that explains a lot in a few short paragraphs ("Yes or No on repeal, Alaska’s got a big government problem').  Its stuff I try to say a lot of different ways, but she goes to the heart of it quickly.

 If you haven't read it, you should. It begins like this ...
The IBEW and the Alaska State Employees Association—both of which represent thousands of government workers–have endorsed “Yes” ballot measure 1, to repeal the oil tax. Meanwhile, four trade unions – Teamsters Local 959, Plumbers & Pipefitters United Association Local 375 in Fairbanks, Operating Engineers Local 302 and Laborers Local 942 –have urged voters to vote “No” on the repeal. Those unions get substantial amounts of work from the oil fields. 
The debate is complex. Production curves. Rates of return. New versus old production. Legacy fields versus non unitized areas. Personalities and conflicting numbers. All of these things and more add to the stew that’s makes up the oil tax debate. 
But the public union endorsements add to my suspicion that at its heart, the most recent incarnation of the fight over oil taxes—a fight that the state has been having since Prudhoe was discovered in 1968—is really more simple than all of this. When you get down to it, the biggest elephant in the room lives in the state coffers, where it involves, among other weighty things, public employee versus private sector jobs. And that’s an elephant that few, at least in government, want to talk about. ...
There's more, lots more, but you need to go to her blog to finish it ....

Monday, August 11, 2014

Launch of It's Our Future ...

Last Wednesday, I announced an additional step in my part of the effort to help restore fiscal responsibility to state government.  I committed to spend up to $200,000 personally on selected legislative races in an effort to educate and change the dynamics for the better on fiscal issues in the state legislature.

The press release discussing that effort is available here.  For those interested in a deeper dive, subsequent to the release I discussed the effort on a series of talk radio shows; those with podcasts are here:  The Rick Rydell Show, KENI 650 AM (podcast starting at 74:45), The Dave Stieren Show, KFQD 103.7 FM (podcast starting at 00:00), Bernadette & Berkowitz (Mike Dingman and Dani Bickford, guest hosts), KFQD 103.7 FM (podcast starting at 07:40).  I also discussed the effort on the Bob & Mark Show, KWHL 106.5 FM, The Mike Pocaro Show, KENI 650 AM, and the Tall, Dark and Handsome Show with Duane Bannock, KSRM 920 AM.

The effort also received some press coverage, with a piece by Rich Mauer in the Alaska Dispatch News ("Anchorage consultant to form personal PAC targeting state deficits"), and a column by Amanda Coyne on her blog ("Keithley to spend big targeting big-spending lawmakers").

As is to be anticipated, the effort is receiving pushback from those concerned about the potential effect of the effort on incumbent legislators and those interested in preserving the big spending status quo.  For example, I understand from a summary that after initially commenting favorably on the effort on their show in a discussion with Amanda Coyne the day it was announced, Dan Fagan and Glen Biegel turned on it the following day (perhaps after receiving talking points from others) suggesting that it was a disguised effort to help Democrats against the current Republican incumbents.

Others have sought to defend the spending and in order to divert attention away from that pattern, have taken to attacking me personally.  For example on the same day Fagan and Biegel turned to defend the very incumbents responsible for draining over a third of Alaska's cash reserve the last two years, big spending defender Frank McQueary reprised his personal attack (podcast beginning at 5:30) that he had launched last year when he concluded I first was threatening the big spending, "stimulus-related" status quo he favors.

McQueary is one of Alaska's "Tom DeLay Republicans," a term which the Wall Street Journal coined in a 2010 editorial to describe those in the party who favor spending and prior to the termination of earmarks following the return of the Republicans to majority in the House of Representatives, earmarks as well.  The Journal used the term to describe why the Republicans had lost the House in 2006, explaining:
 ... the number of earmarks multiplied from nearly 1,500 in 1994 to a little under 14,000 in 2005—before voters ousted what had become the Grand Old Pork Party. It isn't easy to spend so much money so egregiously that even Nancy Pelosi could campaign as a relative fiscal conservative, but the Tom DeLay Republicans managed the feat in 2006.
I have previously responded to McQueary's personal allegations here ("The subtext of this story (income taxes, dividend cuts … or not) …"), here ("Wow, is that all he's got"), here ("My morning mail, continued ...") and here ("Alaska Politics| Ya gotta chuckle ...").  He didn't raise anything new this time around that he didn't try the last.  It is slightly humorous, however, that those who express concern that I am using this effort unfairly to challenge Republican incumbents based on their actual voting record stand silently by while McQueary goes off on his specious personal attacks, but I have become used to that.

This effort is not going to be easy and its going to come with some cost.  But its the right thing to do. All that the attacks have done -- especially by the state's "Tom DeLay Republicans" -- is make me more certain it is necessary.

This is a battle for Alaska's future -- our future.  It's not going away.