Stop me if you've heard this before. I just don't think it's funny.
I'm always curious why people come to Alaska. Born in Homer, I won the ovarian lottery, but my parent's adventure to this great state is one that can entertain the crustiest of old timers.
"So, what brought you to Alaska?" is a question few dare ask a stranger in a bar, but it always manages to conjure interesting stories while sitting around a fire with friends. Strangers in Alaska bars, more often than not, have checkered pasts and damn near sneer at what they perceive as an intrusive question.
After receiving a curious email last week from a friend in New York, I am searching for the answer to that question for one such visitor. Granted, in a year, Alaska has four times as many visitors as we have citizens. Old bumper stickers asked, "If we call it 'tourist season' can we shoot 'em?" The 'visitor' who captured my interest is Tim Griffin. In an interview last month published in a small Arkansas weekly, Mr. Griffin claimed to have come to Alaska "more than 20 times last year."
Who is Tim Griffin? Why was he here? Prepare for less than savory answers.
From September 1995 to January 1997, Griffin worked with Special Prosecutor David Barrett in his investigation of Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of HUD. For two years after that, he was Senior Investigative Counsel for the House Committee on Government Reform. During his time there, the committee was very active. They issued 1,052 dead-end subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton Administration and the Democratic Party. The cost to taxpayers? More than $35 million.
In September 1999, he became Deputy Research Director for the RNC -- special ops for George W. Bush's campaign. Griffin was a legal advisor working closely with Attorney Ben Ginsberg of Patton Boggs, LLP for the Bush-Cheney 2000 Florida Recount Team. In a BBC documentary, Digging the Dirt, Griffin stood next to a sign reading "ON MY COMMAND -- UNLEASH HELL (ON AL)," and stated, "We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war," he said. "We make the bullets."
From March 2001 through June 2002, he was Special Assistant to Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff. In 2004, Griffin was a key player and reunited with Attorney Ben Ginsberg in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry. Ginsberg resigned from his position with George W. Bush's re-election campaign after his Swift Boat involvement became public. Griffin began serving as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director, Office of Political Affairs at the White House in April 2005. His duty was "organizing and coordinating political support for the confirmation of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court."
For a year, beginning in September 2005, Tim Griffin was on military leave from the White House. He served as a prosecutor for Judge Advocate General (better known as JAG) and then went to Iraq. He claimed to have prosecuted 40 cases. Among those was a case allegedly against a soldier gone berserk on his commander. Griffin claimed he put the soldier in the clink for 25 years. The truth is, Griffin served only as assistant trial counsel to three cases that never went to trial. Apparently, Tim Griffin's tall tales were training for those he might later tell in Alaska over a beer in some local bar.
In 2006, due to a little known provision in the USA PATRIOT Act, George W. Bush & Company fired a handful of US Attorneys and replaced them without Senate confirmation. In December 2006, US Attorney Bud Cummings was fired from his district in Northeast Arkansas and replaced with Tim Griffin. In February 2007, Paul McNaulty, Deputy Attorney General, testified Cummings was fired to make a place for Griffin at the urging of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, further cementing Griffin's cozy relationship with the Bush administration.
On May 30, 2007, investigative journalist, BBC Correspondent and best selling author, Greg Palast, turned over 500 emails to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers. The emails were inadvertently sent to the wrong email address during the 2004 campaign. Those wrongly addressed emails revealed the caging of over 70,000 voters in Florida. The targets of registration scrubbing were Black soldiers and poor Black and Hispanic citizens. Disenfranchising voters based on race has been a felony since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Palast's information had been published for nearly 2 years, but on the day it went to Washington, Tim Griffin resigned from his Rovian created job as US Attorney in Arkansas.
Except for short stints working for the presidential campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson, Tim Griffin was off the radar. Until, of course, he showed up in Alaska, which brings me back to my question: Why would Tim Griffin come to Alaska over 20 times last year?
Attached to my email was a news article from the Northwest Arkansas News Source dated February 22, 2009.
NWANews: What are you up to now?
Griffin: I have two businesses. Depending on the time of the year, I am about 50-50 law and public affairs. I have the Griffin Law Firm. I primarily represent businesses in federal litigation in Texas. My public affairs company, I provide communications advice, how to develop a message that makes sense whether for corporate clients or political ones.
NWANews: Can you name a client or two?
Griffin: I went to Alaska last year over 20 times. Worked on a ballot initiative, which we defeated soundly.
NWANews: What was that?
Griffin: It was related to mining industry.
Wow! So Karl Rove's right-hand man and special assistant to George W. Bush, under Congressional investigation for felony vote caging, got on a plane "over 20 times last year" to work against Ballot Proposition 4, the Clean Water Initiative? That's a pretty big gun to get on that many flights-even if they were first class seats. Tim Griffin basically spent 40 days from May to August on planes going back and forth between Anchorage and Little Rock!
Ballot Initiative 4 was an attempt to regulate water quality standards in Alaska. The Target: the proposed Pebble Mine-an open pit, sulfuric acid mine. The Mission: to protect the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run, the largest remaining wild salmon run in the world.
Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown was the Political Action Committee created by the mining industry. According to their reports, they paid Mercury Public Affairs of New York, $106,507.80. That payment included a website and all of Tim Griffin's services and travel reimbursement. The average price for a ticket from Little Rock to Anchorage was about $1000 and takes at least 12 hours. Summer hotel rates are easily $200 a night. After expenses, Tim Griffin wasn't taking a golden salary.
If I were sitting next to Tim Griffin at a bar, I'd have a lot of follow up questions to my initial inquiry of "So, what brought you to Alaska?" Like for instance:
1.) Who called you? With all of your White House and Karl Rove connections - WHO do you know in Alaska?
2.) Did you develop any relationships with Alaskans while working on the Bush-Cheney Florida Recount Team in 2000? Or the Swift Boat Smear Campaign for Truth against John Kerry? Or in any of your illegal electioneering activity? WHO do you know in Alaska?
3.) Why would you waste your vote-caging and election-fixing talent on a ballot initiative in Alaska? WHO do you know in Alaska?
4.) What else did you do up here? WHO do you know in Alaska?
5.) Did you get to meet Sarah Palin? She came out against the initiative in a massive multimedia campaign after an anonymous "journalist" asked her how she would vote on Ballot Prop 4! Were you that "journalist"? WHO do you know in Alaska?
6.) How many frequent flyer miles do you have? WHO do you know in Alaska?
7.) Why didn't the opposition detect your presence? You're kind of a big deal. WHO do you know in Alaska?
8.) With all of your credentials, you seem underpaid. Did you work for free or was some other kind of payment involved? WHO do you know in Alaska?
9.) When you were working as an "informal advisor" to Mike Huckabee, did you talk to Alaska Congressman Don Young, who chaired Huckabee's exploratory campaign? WHO do you know in Alaska?
10.) After learning of your other "bed-mates," I can see how you would ignore Anglo American's environmental track record. Proven environmental terrorists who rape, pillage and plunder resources then leave the toxic clean-up to locals. But you're not local. Again... WHO DO YOU KNOW IN ALASKA?
Oh, so many questions. Like I said... you get at least an hour's worth of conversation when you ask, "So, what brought you to Alaska?" Unless the person in the bar is that stranger with a nefarious background...like Karl Rove Protégé, future felon vote-cager and election-fixer Tim Griffin. I wonder who he knows in Alaska. I wonder who picked up the bar tab.