Dunleavy talks upcoming session, lambasts media

In a press conference Monday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy discussed his goals for the upcoming legislative session and took aim at what he claimed was an untrustworthy media.

The governor’s priorities include legislation on missing persons and sex trafficking, supply chain issues and exportation opportunities, opening up more state agricultural land, and the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

“I have to be optimistic that the Legislature is going to get to work, roll up your sleeves (and) make some decisions,” Dunleavy said. “I hope it’s not business as usual. Sometimes we get involved in a system of delaying work, coming up with reasons why we have to leave Juneau and go to other places.”

While the press briefing was billed as a means to highlight Dunleavy’s legislative agenda, the governor also spent time at the end of the conference criticizing members of the local media and questioning journalists’ integrity.

The governor bristled at questions from reporters from various outlets about his involvement in the firing of Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Chairman Angela Rodell, last legislative session’s near shutdown, the increase in per diem payments to legislators, and if his administration plans to release former Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s personnel file after he was caught texting a female junior state employee “uncomfortabl(y).”

Dunleavy said Monday that Rodell’s dismissal wasn’t “orchestrated” by his administration and that the permanent fund “really needs to be left alone to do its business.” When pressed if the governor would make Clarkson’s personnel file public similar to Rodell’s, he said his staff would answer the legal questions.

“I’ll have my staff send you some pertinent statutes that cover personnel law, because there seems to be some confusion, lack of understanding or just ignoring the law,” Dunleavy said.

The governor also said he couldn’t speculate about what the politicians will do about the effective date clause legislation. Last summer the Alaska Legislature narrowly averted a government shutdown while voting on the clause for the state budget.

When asked if he thought the per diem payments for lawmakers were factored into the amount of special legislative sessions the state government had last year, Dunleavy said the question was “difficult to answer.”

“If your question is ‘Do I think it was an incentive?’” he said. “That’s speculation. Maybe for some, but that’s speculation.”

The governor, who is up for reelection in November, reiterated that redistricting and the upcoming elections will also be a priority for many state legislators in the coming months.

Dunleavy also spent time criticizing local media and in particular blasted the Anchorage Daily News, alleging the state’s largest newspaper is “more interested in being a part of a campaign as opposed to a legitimate news outlet.”

“I’m just wondering if we’re going to get a fair shake during this campaign season, or if the ADN is going to be a campaign arm,” he said at the end of Monday’s press conference. “And I think what the people of Alaska really want is accuracy (and) facts. If they want to read stories they read novels.”

The governor took aim at the media in general, citing a specific Gallup Poll about journalistic credibility, which stated that an overwhelming minority of people surveyed had a great deal of trust in the press.

“What does that Gallup Poll say? The percentage of Americans that have a great deal of trust in the press is 7%,” Dunleavy said. “That doesn’t bode well.”

The poll he’s referencing, however, surveyed people by more than one criterion.

According to Gallup in an October article, 36% of those surveyed said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in mass media — 29% with a “fair amount” and 7% with a “great deal.” Additionally, 68% of Democrats surveyed said they had general confidence in the mass media, compared to 31% of independents and 11% of Republicans.

The poll conducted by the organization — taken from Sept. 1 to Sept. 17 last year — indicated that people’s distrust in the media was only four points above the record low in 2016.

The legislative session begins in Juneau on Tuesday.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.