Koch Brothers-backed group budget roadshow sparks plans for counter-rallies

A Koch Brothers-backed group is sticking to its claim that it is in charge of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget meetings, that it controls access and requires advance registration.

When the Dunleavy administration announced the meetings Monday, it concealed the role of Americans for Prosperity—Alaska, making no mention that the group had arranged the events.

“These presentations will outline our vision for Alaska, take an in-depth look into the direction we’re headed, and further lay our proposals out in the open,” Dunleavy said Monday.

It was only after the Alaska branch of Americans for Prosperity announced that it was running the Dunleavy roadshow, and this became a news story, that the governor’s office admitted that the private group had set up five meetings in Kenai, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome and Wasilla.

It seems clear that Americans for Prosperity chose to rent relatively small spaces for the meetings in hopes of having more manageable and supportive crowds, not critics with questions about Dunleavy’s radical budget cuts. The “prosperity” people say each space can hold anywhere from 150 to 200 people.

Dunleavy could have easily set up these meetings through the governor’s office and chosen large state facilities with the ability for thousands of Alaskans to attend. The University of Alaska basketball arena in Anchorage and the Patty Gym in Fairbanks, for example.

But handing it over to the private group means an audience that may be less inclined to complain that Dunleavy has abandoned his campaign promises to not cut the ferry system, K-12 schools, the University of Alaska, the Pioneer homes, etc.

Here is how the private political group explained its plans to control access and require registration:

“The amount of interested attendees will likely exceed the capacity of the venues, so AFP is directing those wishing to attend sign up via a registration link found on the group’s Facebook page. It is first come first serve and only those that have registered will be permitted to attend,” says the right-wing group.

Dunleavy’s deputy chief of staff, Jeremy Price, is the former head of the Alaska prosperity chapter, so perhaps all this is his doing.

In his state job, Price earns $125,000 a year. Two years ago, Price complained that “plenty of bloat remains to be cut” from state government. The job created for him by Dunleavy is prime bloat.

AFP is saying that the meetings with Dunleavy are both public and private. The public claim is on its press release. The private claim is made on its Facebook page in the fine print where people are asked to register. All that privacy stuff is just about decorum, they say.

Meanwhile, there will be counter-rallies to protest budget cuts outside the venues in Kenai, Anchorage and Fairbanks where the prosperous will host Dunleavy, the state revenue commissioner and the attorney general.

The rally organizers are using a quote for inspiration from Ryan McKee, the prosperity leader in Alaska, who said: “If people want to protest outside or shout support for certain things, they’re more than welcome to do that.”

The Anchorage rally will be at 3rd and G Street Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., while the Fairbanks rally will be Thursday outside the Westmark Hotel at 813 Noble St. from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Kenai rally is set for Monday outside the Cannery Lodge in Kenai from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.


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