Reporter Tony Hopfinger got especially lucky after leaving Seattle Weekly a few years back. He not only landed in Alaska, where oil man Bill Allen was busy corrupting ancient Sen. Ted Stevens and helping pave the way for the rise of Gov. Sara Palin (and, in turn, Tina Fey), he got arrested.
At a press conference, [Miller, who was challening incumbent Lisa Murkowski], declared he was drawing "a line in the sand" and would answer no more questions about his background. True to his word, after a Miller town hall meeting, when Alaska Dispatch executive editor Tony Hopfinger - one of the authors of this book - asked him whether he'd been reprimanded for his conduct while working at Fairbanks borough, Miller's wannabe Secret Service security guards - the owner of any army surplus store with ties to the militia, and two active-duty soldiers - put Hopfinger in handcuffs until the local police arrived, rolled their eyes, and took off the handcuffs immediately.
In the distinguished style of Alaska politics, Miller quickly issued a press release blaming Hopfinger's nosiness for his detention: "Liberal Blogger 'Loses It' at Town Hall Meeting," it was headlined. But the bizarre incident backfired on Miller, resulting in embarrassing headlines and a statement from police that Hopfinger was "no danger to the public" (and a denial by Hopfinger that he was a liberal or a blogger). Murkowski capitalized by taking her young nephews trick-or-treating on Halloween dressed as security guards. Though she'd lost the primary to Miller, a Tea Party favorite backed by Sara Palin, she historically beat Miller as a write-in candidate in the general election.
This is the Alaska where oil mixes with snow, where a group of legislators on the take proudly referred to themselves as the Corrupt Bastards Club (and had the baseball caps to prove it), and where the Hulk necktie-wearing Sen. Stevens (the man who shouts "No!" in that clip Jon Stewart loves to run) thrived and died - in a 2010 plane crash, which appears to be Alaska's no. 1 cause of death.
He was beloved: As the king of pork, Stevens' influence on the Alaska economy was so profound that economists referred to it as "Stevens Money." Nonetheless, the longest-serving Republican Senator in U.S. history was brought down by one of his own, oilman Allen, who spilled his guts to the feds to save his own ass, which he'd often exposed to his underage girlfriend and prostitutes.
Allen's remodeling of Stevens' rustic cabin was a gift the senator never recorded on his government financial disclosure report, yet the record shows Stevens repeatedly asked Allen for an accounting to report, and in one note, said:
"You owe me a bill - remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing - compliance with these ethics rules entirely different." (Robert Torricelli was the New Jersey senator who retired in a scandal over his failure to report campaign contributions). Convicted of corruption, Stevens lost his re-election bid, then his life, although the conviction was reversed. Last month a court-appointed investigator found "significant, widespread, and at times intentional misconduct" by the government lawyers who prosecuted Stevens.
In the midst of that mayhem, the state's ninth governor rose to great heights, then tripped over her tongue while becoming a multi-millionaire pop star and foil for satirists, buying a second home in Scottsdale, and ultimately landing in the graveyard of dead and dying Republicans, Fox News. In Alaska, they remember her mostly, however, as a quitter.
"You can get away with a lot in this state," write Hopfinger and Coyne, who are co-founders as well of the online Alaska Dispatch. "You can fall off barstools, have affairs...But you cannot quit the state and still be a respectable Alaskan. You have to stick in there with the rest of us, no matter how icy the road, cold the temperature, tall the mountain, rough the sea...Word had it that she didn't even go to the grocery store anymore."