Empire provided forum for Democratic critics

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The cold call from the Empire reporter caught me completely off guard. I was in my kitchen washing breakfast dishes.

While I was aware of the state's investigation of Alaska's Republican Party chairman, I had no reason to believe I was involved in that inquiry. The proceedings were kept completely confidential until April 12 and during the 5-month-long query into the chairman's activities while he was a state employee I was never contacted by a state investigator.

Most importantly, I have never worked for the state. As a private citizen, it never occurred to me that my communications could ever be plastered on the front page of a newspaper.

It wasn't until the reporter faxed me copies of a few e-mails I sent in the early fall (that ended up on a state computer) that I realized I had been dragged into something with the potential to get ugly.

Having lived in Juneau for 28 years, I am no stranger to the blood sport of politics. And paybacks are hard to pass up. That certain Democrats would accuse me of all sorts of things, the latest being I am a latent capital mover, is hardly surprising. This shows how far they will go to take shots at Republicans and has nothing to do with saving the capital. I'm disappointed the Empire provided a forum for this obvious smear. Maybe someone could explain how putting this on the front page helps Juneau.

To set the record straight, I do not advocate moving the capital and guarantee I have done more than any of my critics to cultivate grassroots support for Juneau among Alaska's opinion leaders.

Regardless of party affiliation, Juneauites agree on keeping the capital. The problem is that Juneau's Democratic legislators consistently do more harm than good to Juneau's relationship with the rest of the state. In my own small way, I do what I can to keep the lines of communication open and project a more mainstream image of the capital city.

Statewide, Republicans outnumber Democrats about 3-to-2. In Juneau, it's the other way around, which as a capital makes us seem out of step with the rest of the state. Trust me, this doesn't help.

I have always used my statewide Republican connections to strengthen Juneau's relationships across Alaska. By developing friendships with people my critics would never think of engaging, I have won many converts for the capital city.

Yes, I've also tried to convince Juneau voters to send mainstream candidates to the state House and Senate. And for the sake of the majority of legislators and staff who come to the capital every year, I've worked to sustain a viable Republican presence in this predominantly left-leaning town.

Over the years, the most compelling argument that has convinced people to leave the capital in Juneau has been the sheer cost of a move - a factor that plays very well among Republicans I know. Promoting an expensive new building hardly reinforces our best argument for keeping the capital anchored in Juneau.

It is also true that observers of - or participants in - an activity that is later reported in the press, be they at a Little League game, a school board meeting or a concert, often have a completely different view of events that transpired than what is spun by a reporter. But readers base their judgments largely on what they read in the papers, and unless they are personally acquainted with the subjects of the story, they are not likely to question the accuracy or context of the articles they read.

My point in all of this is to reassure my fellow Juneau residents that in spite of what my political adversaries would like you to believe, I have always been one of Juneau's strongest advocates and ambassadors for keeping the capital in Juneau. I'd also like to caution anyone who works for the state - or anyone who communicates with a state employee during the work day - that in the current political climate, there is no such thing as privacy. When you are on your computer, think long and hard before you hit "send."

• Paulette Simpson is vice-chairwoman of the Alaskan Republican Party.

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