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Who's in charge? Alaska GOP soap opera continues in Hollywood.

Craig Medred
Loren Holmes photo

The latest episode of "As the Alaska Republican Party Turns" aired before the Republican National Committee (RNC) in Hollywood on Friday. Here's what happened, as agreed to by both the Hatfields and the McCoys:

There was a morning meeting involving Ralph Seekins, the Alaska committeeman to the RNC from Fairbanks; Debbie Brown, the recently deposed chair of the party; Peter Goldberg, Brown's newly appointed replacement, and the legal counsel for the RNC.

The latter determined that because of the confusion over who is legally in charge of Alaska Republicans at the moment, neither Goldberg nor Brown would be allowed to take the seat of the Alaska chairman at the general meeting.

There the agreement on what happened begins to fall apart.

Alaska chair (whoever that is) not seated 

"Ralph Seekins and I voiced that we would have preferred that I be recognized, but that we understood and respected the RNC decision. Mrs. Brown voiced objection. We were told that we were welcome to attend the meeting, but would have to sit in the guest section," Goldberg said in an email.

"As the calling of the roll was about to begin, a member of the body of the RNC rose to ask for an explanation as to why the chair from Alaska was not seated. Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, was explaining that Mrs. Brown had been relieved of her position when Mrs. Brown rose from her seat, and without being recognized said that she objected. Chairman Priebus had to state more than once that she had been relieved by the Alaska State Executive Committee from her position. While Chairman Priebus was speaking, Mrs. Brown continued to voice objection."

All of which might be overstating things a bit, according to Brown.

"There was not an altercation, exactly," she said when reached by cell phone. She said she merely got up and stated her opinion because "I've been doing a lot of networking and there are people across the country not happy" about what has happened in Alaska.

What has happened in Alaska, to briefly recap, is an April 2012 takeover of the Alaska Republican Party by supporters of failed Republican presidential candidate and one-time Libertarian Party candidate Ron Paul, along with fans of failed 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller from Alaska. Then came the decision of establishment Republicans still seated on the party's statewide executive committee that the two people elected by the Paulites and Millerettes -- party chairman Russ Millette and vice-chairman Brown -- lacked the requisite skills necessary to run the party.

The key complaint against both was their supposed inability to raise money in a political system where the main duty of political parties is to raise money to help their candidates pay for the costly campaigns necessary to get elected.

'Old guard' sabotage? 

Millette and Brown admitted to their shortcomings as fundraisers, but said their fundraising efforts were sabotaged by the Republican "old guard" in the months between their election to office and the beginning of serious party fireworks in January.

January marked the start of the end for Millette, who was tried, ousted and replaced with Brown, who also didn't last long. Shortly after she seized party headquarters, the party leadership tried her in absentia, decided she wasn't any better at the job than Millette and fired her, though Brown has defenders who think she got a raw deal.

"Although one of the complaints (against her) alleges that chairman Brown has failed to raise money for the ARP, her chosen state finance chairman, a long-time Republican with a track record of raising money, was summarily rejected," Anchorage attorney Wayne Anthony Ross wrote in a letter to the executive committee. "Thus, she has been refused the opportunity to have a state finance chairman that could be raising money for the ARP, but she is now accused of not raising money for the ARP. In other words, the old guard ties her hands and then accuses her of not doing enough with her hands."

Brown, who lives in the small community of Kasilof on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, said Friday by phone from Hollywood that despite the impediments, "I did have commitments for contributions."

As to why she didn't ask some of those people to show up for the April 8 hearing on a complaint to dismiss her, a hearing that was all about Brown's failure to find people willing to donate money, here answer was this:

"I didn't think about that."

'Completely bogus'

She herself didn't attend the hearing -- either in person or electronically -- because she had forewarned the executive committee she was going to be gone from Alaska for the entire month of April, she added. And she didn't send anyone to represent her at the hearing, she said, because "I wasn't planning to have anyone else defend myself for me."

On top of which, none of it really matters, in her opinion, because "I feel that the whole complaint is completely bogus."

This is a view shared by Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblyman Lance Roberts, who Brown appointed chairman of the Rules Committee of the party's Statewide Central Committee after she fired existing rules chair Frank McQueary and others members of the central committee.

Roberts said the Rules Committee subsequently met, concluded the complaint against Brown was unfounded, and dismissed it. Thus, he said in an email, the complaint should never have gone to a hearing before the executive committee.

Asked for details on where and when the Rules Committee met and who attended, Roberts ceased responding to emails until 11:29 p.m. Friday night. He then emailed an explanation of how the Rules Committee appointed by Brown, but yet to be confirmed by the Republican statewide central committee, got together on the phone to review and reject the complaint against her. Here's his full version of events:

The  reason my (sic) Rules Committee looked at these charges is because we had an official complaint about the charges, so we then we were required to look at the charges. The charges were found to not be valid charges according to the rules, not because of whether they were incorrect or correct (the SEC judges that not the rules committee).

Because of the short time-frame, we had a worksession by teleconference, and then the document was sent out for an email vote, for which we have to give two days, but we had all the votes (unanimous) back within a day.  I've never heard of testifiers for the Rules Committee consideration of complaints, though technically it was an open meeting, but we didn't necessarily advertise it broadly.

Ross has raised his own arguments as to why the hearing that ousted Brown was flawed, but he is quick to point out that he is not her attorney.

He can't be, he said. He's the attorney for Millette, who is appealing his ouster, and thus it would be a potential conflict to also be the attorney for Brown. Meanwhile, other attorneys who have examined the case have concluded the Brown hearing was legal.

Among them is Ken Jacobus, the Anchorage attorney Brown herself named the Alaska Republican Party's legal counsel. He was the only Brown-appointee approved by the statewide central committee earlier this year, and he made his opinion on the party chairman clear in an email to Republican leaders Friday:

Brown may not appeal 

"It is my opinion that, at the present time, the chairman of the ARP is Peter Goldberg, and that the position of vice-chairman is vacant.

"There are numerous allegations being made and issues involved... At this point, I cannot provide a knowledgeable opinion on all these points without further legal and factual research. However, even though these questions are out there for subsequent resolution, they do not prevent Mr. Goldberg from presently serving as chairman."

Whether Millette or Brown should be reinstated, he added, is up to "some other authority.'' The first such authority would be the state central committee which is due to take up Millette's appeal at a meeting in Homer in late May. Brown said Friday she doesn't know if she will appeal her ouster.

"I'm not sure I'm going to appeal what was an illegitimate meeting in the first place," she said. "That would legitimize the action."

She was unsure, however, of how to get her job back without an appeal. She didn't want to sue her own party, she said, and she didn't know what other avenues for redress might available. "I don't know," she said. "I'm not an attorney." She is, however, planning to start shopping for one, she said.

"There's still a lot of manipulation and abuse of these rules," she said, and Jacobus is wrong about who should be the party chairman.

"I guess that's his opinion," she said. "I don't believe that is the case....There is no rule (the party chairman) has to raise money. There's a lot more to being the party chairman. I don't know anyone whose been volunteering any more than me. Volunteers should be honored as much as donors. The party needs volunteers. I've been doing this for 40 years. I fulfilled my duties…"

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com