Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy failed up to his current office by telling lies about his plans on the campaign trail, lies that were amplified by millions of dollars in out of state “dark” money as well as beaucoup super PAC bucks from his shady brother. Dunleavy’s abysmal professional and political track record suggests he lacks the intellectual firepower to craft his own budget strategy, let alone defend it. Which is why his corporate handlers flew in the laughably corrupt, out-of-state hack Donna Arduin to write the budget, and continue to use propaganda to sell it.
Alaska gives the governor extraordinary power over the budget — we require a 3/4 vote of the legislative branch to override appropriations vetoes. This allows a single person (or in our case, the oil tycoons who flap the jaws of that person) the authoritarian delusion that they alone get to decide what’s best for us.
But even with the Koch Bros manufacturing consent (one of their key industries, btw) via social media and a 5 city, right-wing “roadshow,” the budget has met widespread resistance. Upon its release in Juneau, 150 people rallied against it on the capital steps. One thousand Alaskans then showed up at public meetings held by the House Finance Committee to speak out 5 to 1 against Dunleavy’s plan. (In a sad attempt to obscure how bad he got publicly ratioed, Dunleavy went on statewide radio to claim his supporters were just too busy to publicly support him).
School boards, borough assemblies, and other local organizations quickly passed resolutions opposing the budget in Anchorage as well as liberal hotbeds like Ketchikan (which voted 2–1 for Trump). Several hundred protested outside the governor’s “Koch Show” in Anchorage, and up to 500 came out in Fairbanks. A woman was arrested for the crime of verbally embarassing Dunleavy (always tough for tyrants) at the Nome airport, two women stunned him by dropping an enormous RECALL DUNLEAVY banner at his Anchorage event, and a video of Kawerak President Melanie Bahnke politely skewering Dunleavy at the Nome Koch Show went viral. Nearly one thousand Alaskans signed up to volunteer on a snowballing recall campaign.
This sustained eruption of public anger allowed even some Republican members of Senate Finance to join the ranks of legislators questioning the governor’s extremism. First conceding hundreds of millions in cuts, the legislature ultimately acted as a check on his power by passing a compromise budget that scaled back the Koch/Arduin plan. Tired of noisy protests outside his events and sensing the need to rally his misinformed troops, Dunleavy attempted and failed a fiscally unconservative move of the entire legislative special session from the capital in Juneau to Wasilla Middle School.
But even after four months of feverish and potentially unprecedented public protest from across Alaska, and a bipartisan battering of his Koch/Arduin budget, Dunleavy’s delusions of grandeur hold strong. His Koch Bros, after all, view the separation of powers, public participation, and checks and balances of our democracy as an impediment to the power of the individual, with the total destruction of the public sector as the goal. Their original fortune came from Stalinist Russia, and their current fortune depends on the continued deregulation of oil, gas, and other polluting industries. Their uncanny semblance to Satan, and total control of our governor, cannot be overstated.
So, under their eye, Dunleavy doubled down and shot back $444 million in unilateral line item vetoes of our legislature’s compromise budget, including a staggering $130 million cut to the University of Alaska system (incidentally home to the globally significant climate research that threatens Koch hegemony), or 41% of funding received from the state.
Like clockwork, the vetoes triggered a massive public rally in Anchorage and overwhelming disapproval at legislative listening sessions in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Dozens of op-eds and analyses exposed them as unconstitutional, politically vindictive on behalf of the religious right, unconscionable, and a job-killing death knell to our economy among many other transgressions. Incredulous write-ups have flowed nonstop from the national press (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), including the Washington Post who called the vetoes a “statewide disaster.”
The story of Alaskapocalypse ’19 is complex, with detailed chapters on how the PFD was the most effective tool of manipulation the Kochs ever stumbled across, how the vetoes target our communities by design, how billions in climate-disrupting tax subsidies to Big Oil escaped the governor’s budget cuts, how the climate crisis lit Alaskan wildfires in June that still burn through our most intense heatwave in recorded history in July, and other issues not explored in this post. But it is also very simple. This is the story of how the Koch Bros, a pair of oil tycoons who happen to be the second wealthiest family in America, have given a small-time professional failure of an Alaskan the delusional idea that he alone knows what’s best for our state. Our job as Alaskans is to remember who he is, who controls him, and to continue our highly successful efforts to revoke his social license to destroy us.