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Something’s Fishy in Senator Murkowski’s Office

In the light of Anthony Weiner resigning over a personal problem affecting his professional life, it would seem that someone actually guilty of a professional misdeed affecting her professional life might be called to account. If Mark Begich had been faced with the situation Lisa Murkowski was faced with this week, we’d likely hear the monkeys howling for his resignation.

It’s not uncommon for me to get an email or phone call from someone punctuated with “Have I got a story for you!” December 2008 was no different. I was resting up after a particularly busy and historic election year. Sarah Palin had just come back from her unsuccessful national run.

I answered my phone and watched the snow fall outside. The voice on the other end of the line pulled my fishing strings. He was a career deck man, and he had a story to tell.

The subject was Arne Fuglvog, a prominent, successful commercial fisherman, former member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and fish adviser to a U.S. senator.

Illegal fishing, threats, affairs, it was all so curious. Was it just one side of a double-bitter story? A few months later, I got another call. Someone different. Same story. A week later, an e-mail from another crewman, this one with “proof.”

There are different sets of records kept on fishing boats. An official set, turned in to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) at the time of offloading, often a wheelhouse log listing souls on board and the plotted course and whatever the wheel watcher noted, and then the real fishing log. The latter is an invaluable guide for where to set pots, lines, etc. It’s a treasure map. The highliner’s gospel.

Arne Fuglvog’s true log was in the possession of several people. It had been handed over to the authorities. A grand jury met. And then … crickets. By 2009, Mr. Fuglvog was being considered for the top fish boss position in the country: director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

I was sent part of the proof. It didn’t mean much to me because I couldn’t compare it to the official records turned in to NMFS. But I couldn’t imagine that either Sens. Lisa Murkowski or Mark Begich could have a hint of these allegations and still recommend Fuglvog for the job. I contacted both of their offices as well as several other lawmakers in Washington.

Others were informed as well, including the United Fishermen of Alaska. The message, coming from many directions, and not too subtly, was that Mr. Fuglvog should withdraw his name immediately or be outed as a fish cheat, resulting in much embarrassment for his boss, Sen. Murkowski.

He withdrew his name and blamed it on the long selection process. Murkowski said Alaskans should be proud that he’d been considered. “Surprisingly the process is lengthy and political, and he says, ‘You know, I either need to be focused on what I’m doing for Alaska, or moving forward with another opportunity.’ ”

What other opportunity could possibly be better than America’s Fish Czar?

It may not be obvious to people who haven’t used “c/o Some Cannery” as a temporary mail address, but there is no bigger deal than fish policy in this state. It affects every other industry. Billions of dollars of fish wealth have been consolidated and transferred into private hands over the last decade under the guise of “rationalization.” Many of those decisions were driven by Mr. Fuglvog during his time on the North Pacific Fisheries Council and subsequently as one of the most influential advisers to Sen. Murkowski and others in Washington, D.C.

This week, after days of silence on the matter of her aide’s resignation, Murkowski finally provided a tortured explanation. The reasons she offered for allowing Fuglvog to stay on the job don’t reflect well on her law degree, the management of her staff or her respect for constituents.

She says she believes in innocent until proven guilty — so much so that she believed in Mr. Fuglvog’s innocence even after he’d told her he was guilty. How much evidence must there be for him to accept 10 months in prison and $150,000 in penalties six years after the incident? If he’d told her he had backed a truck up to Costco and stolen $100,000 worth of fish, might the senator have found that a cause for firing?

What he did was arguably worse. Fuglvog stole public resources and was on the run for six years, hiding in her office. Even after Sen. Murkowski admitted knowing of his guilt, she let him collect another $7,500 check from the same federal government that will soon be his jailer.

Clearly Sen. Murkowski doesn’t understand why having a criminal on her payroll might be an issue. Or she has some personal or political reason for not wanting to deal with such an obvious problem. (For example, how might this revelation have affected the tight three-way election last fall?)

Her stumbling explanation in this case is not unlike her response to the controversy over a sweetheart Kenai land deal from developer Bob Penney. She ought to have learned something from that.

Instead, she thanked Mr. Fuglvog for his service and said he had “misstated” where he caught fish, as though he had simply colored outside the lines. Falsification is what the government calls it.

Being a fisherman isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are. The life of a fisherman has tremendous freedom and responsibility: a responsibility to take care of your brothers and sisters on the water as well as to follow the rules that help sustain the fishery.

The responsibility of a U.S. senator comes with enormous power over millions of Americans: wars, health care, the economy, employment, civil rights, the environment, resource development, to name a few.

Not only did Mr. Fuglvog dishonor his responsibilities, but Lisa Murkowski did as well by either not being curious enough to investigate what many of us have known for years, or ignoring it when she did know.

 

Comments

comments

Comments
24 Responses to “Something’s Fishy in Senator Murkowski’s Office”
  1. thatcrowwoman says:

    “Being a fisherman isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are. The life of a fisherman has tremendous freedom and responsibility: a responsibility to take care of your brothers and sisters on the water as well as to follow the rules that help sustain the fishery.”

    Powerfully spoken, Shannyn.
    Powerfully spoken.

    and this parallel springs immediately to mind:

    fisherman // citizen
    on the water // in the community/country/world
    sustain the fishery // sustain the community/country/world

    Enough with the ALECs and the greedy grabbers and their enablers.
    Thank you for calling them out, Shannyn.

    thatcrowwoman

  2. Lacy Lady says:

    Off subject, but just saw this.
    http://www.politico.com
    Perry to be in the Mix? Sounds like it.
    And our Iowa Gov Brandstad is WARNING the Dem to not vote in the straw poll in Ames. What a Joke he is.

  3. Man_from_Unk says:

    Thank you Shannyn. Perhaps now the Lisa M. staff in Anchorage can pass on citizen grievances especially about the CDQ ‘closed society’ and Arne won’t be there to block the grievances anymore. I was starting to wonder why she wasn’t that interested in the blatant and obvious situation where the poorest people of the state are SUPPOSEDLY supporting the Pollock Fishery which is killing off their culture and tradition of living off the salmon.

    As penance, she needs to make sure the 20 year Review of the CDQ happens. That’s coming fast, 2012. It’s mandated in the Magnason-Stevens Act. It’s a LAW that can’t be ignored for the sake of the thousands of poor Alaska Native people living in the Western Alaska Coastal area who are getting cheated and swindled by a handful of their own people. If she’s hearing otherwise, she needs to take off her rose colored glasses and get the truth from her aide in Anchorage, Nome grown Bob Walsh.

    • UgaVic says:

      You are so right on ALL points on this argument. I am going to be looking, and continuing to speak out, about the review that is due this coming year.

      Now that Robin Samuelson, the CEO of BBEDC, has been voted out of his position by the board there might be still more hope that the truth can get out about what all the CDQs are up to!!

      Thanks both of you for continuing to bring these issues to the attention as often as possible.

  4. fishingmamma says:

    That apple did not fall far from the tree.

  5. Elsie says:

    Thanks, Shannyn, for explaining the situation so clearly. In particular,
    “Billions of dollars of fish wealth have been consolidated and transferred into private hands over the last decade under the guise of ‘rationalization.’”

    The fishing issues in Alaska and elsewhere are so completely confusing to me most of the time. The only thing on that subject that I routinely trust is that it appears a great deal of damage has been done to small local operations by massively wealthy and frequently out-of-state corporations and sanctioned by federal mandates, with no relief in sight for “the little guys”.

    • Pinwheel says:

      Elsie,

      Seattle has controlled the Alaska Fishing Industry for over 100 years. SOA has been culpable with its management practices as well. Never forget what limited entry did to local fishermen. Have IFQs (Fed & State) been any better?

      The confusing fishing policies in Alaska, and yes elsewhere, are designed to confuse you and me and endear politicians of both parties to folks like “The Seattle Seven”. Resident Alaskans and local communities are lost in the shuffle.

      • Elsie says:

        Yeah, and mixed into that somewhere are CDQs which are supposed to help the 60-odd local Western Alaska fishing villages they were to serve with jobs and special fishing benefits, but actually operate, more often than not, with no transparency, hiding great wealth, pretty much ignore their constituents, and are run by boards of officers who answer to no one. Did I get THAT part right?

        • Man_from_Unk says:

          Nice, short, concise and clear Elsie!

        • Man_from_Unk says:

          I forgot to say Thank You Elsie for this summary of the CDQs. I’ve been pointing out the farce and the cheating going on since 2005. I’m very happy to have someone else on board saying pretty much what I’ve been saying all these years.

          • Elsie says:

            You da man, Mr. Dude. I’m just trying to get a hold on what’s really going on here. I respect your efforts to get people to listen and learn and act like they should instead of allowing the powerful boards to roll over the poorest citizens who deserve so much better.

      • Elsie says:

        So you think the various layers of fishing politics are absolutely intentional, to keep everyone off-balance, to cook the books and hide other shenanigans, to cover up greed, and make reasoned enforcement damn near impossible?

        Or did the layers just evolve over time from local native villages, the larger native corporations, ANCSA, the vast borough governments, on up to state-wide mandates, federal laws mandated by such boards as the North Pacific Fisheries Council, cronyism, payoffs, subterfuge, and, finally, and most importantly perhaps, Seattle-based and foreign moneyed interests that want Alaskan seafood so badly that they are willing to buy the management of the boards that determine the policies?

        Phew.

        Where do we go from here?

        • Man_from_Unk says:

          Let’s not forget the manipulation of the ignorant and the illiterate out here in Rural Alaska! Along with that comes the bullying and the threats from those in control.

          We just have to keep hammering away at our State and Federal regulators, and elect some honest people into high offices.

          Right now I’m feeling sorry for those “Seattle-based …moneyed interests” especially those that gave up profits for the CDQ programs. The CDQ managers did not honor the intent, instead they went back into the sea to compete against their founders. And on top of it all, the State and Federal governments were dropped from ‘oversight’ responsibilities in 2006. The crooks have been going hog wild for 5 years!

          We need to make sure that the 20 year Review of the CDQ program takes place next year, 2012.

          One thing I’d like to see for the Norton Sound CDQ program is stricter rules and regulations on the expenditures of the public monies, a check and balance process for the villages to monitor. Perhaps maybe even the monies going directly into the qualifying villages coffers rather than into a bogus corporation looking after their own best interests.

          It’s very obvious that southern Norton Sound dominates the CDQ program – millions pumped into a salmon fishery that is most likely intercepting those salmon heading toward the Nome area rivers, which by the way have had heavy restrictions for going on 20 years. The villages to the northwest of Nome are getting jack-screwed, Diomede, Wales, Brevig Mission and Teller. The balance is not there and the present CDQ program seems to care less of their less fortunate villages. This has got to change.

          • Elsie says:

            So how do we clone a few thousand of you?

            Are you a lonely voice of one, or do you have kindred spirits supporting these lofty goals of transparency and checks-and-balances?

            Does anyone up there seem to care about how wrong things are? Is ANYONE listening to your claims about the Norton Sound CDQ jack-screwing the villages northwest of Nome?

  6. Dagian says:

    “She says she believes in innocent until proven guilty — so much so that she believed in Mr. Fuglvog’s innocence even after he’d told her he was guilty. How much evidence must there be for him to accept 10 months in prison and $150,000 in penalties six years after the incident? If he’d told her he had backed a truck up to Costco and stolen $100,000 worth of fish, might the senator have found that a cause for firing?

    What he did was arguably worse. Fuglvog stole public resources and was on the run for six years, hiding in her office. Even after Sen. Murkowski admitted knowing of his guilt, she let him collect another $7,500 check from the same federal government that will soon be his jailer.

    Clearly Sen. Murkowski doesn’t understand why having a criminal on her payroll might be an issue. Or she has some personal or political reason for not wanting to deal with such an obvious problem. (For example, how might this revelation have affected the tight three-way election last fall?)”

    So…it sound as though Scott has another shot at the top job. I’m not in Alaska, but he strikes me as the Real Deal. I hope he runs and wins!

  7. Diane says:

    Why are we, meaning Democrats, allowing republicans to get away with everything?
    Why aren’t we saying, enough is enough?
    I’m sick of being wimps. We need to stand tall and say, NO MORE!!!!

    • bubbles says:

      Diane i may not stand tall (i am 5’2″) but i will stand up with you and say “NO MORE”!!!

      • Man_from_Unk says:

        Glad to have you join the “NO MORE” troop. Some of us have been at it for a really long time out here in Rural Alaska.

  8. Mo says:

    IAOKIYAR…It’s all OK if you’re a Republican, eh? “Everyone makes mistakes, we’ll just sweep this lil’ ol’ one under the rug…”

    You’re absolutely right, the howling and hooting and pooping would have been worthy of feeding time at the zoo if Arne Fuglvog [name to remember for infamy] had been on Begich’s staff.

  9. Alaska Pi says:

    Excellent Shannyn!
    Simply excellent.
    And , yes, she dishonored her responsibilities to us and America as a whole

    • Man_from_Unk says:

      So right, so true. We have people in Sean Parnell’s administration that are dishonoring their responsibilities to private citizens out here in Rural Alaska. Covering up for cheaters seem to the norm these days. Civil Rights are being ignored.

      • Elsie says:

        “Civil Rights are being ignored.”

        Seems to me that “civil rights” are dirty words to Republicans, like Medicare, Social Security, unions, health insurance, birth control, tax equalization, etc…

        As long as conservatives remain in power and continue to eviscerate the rights of ordinary citizens and protect their wealthy friends, theocrats, and corporate bedmates, then the middle class and the poor are screwed.