Contributed by Josh Fryfogle
In the last installment of this Eastman Ethics story, we learned that if an ethics complaint was made, then the members of the Ethics Committee cannot share that complaint with anyone. If made public before the appropriate time, then that ethics complaint would be nullified. This is of course what Rep. Eastman was accused of, and what my previous article suggested was quite impossible. My previous article also suggests that the accusation that he did share that Ethics Complaint was convenient for Rep. LeDoux. That Eastman would have even known about the complaint, much less shared that complaint with a reporter, and more, told that reporter to immediately go report his malfeasance to the Ethics Committee itself, well... Not only is it completely irrational, but quite convenient for LeDoux.
But why does that rule exist? Why are these complaints kept secret? Why are they erased if exposed?
You’ll like this.
So that the Ethics Committee cannot be used as a political weapon. That’s the reason. The Ethics Committee is aware of it’s own potential to be used, especially near an election time, to undermine public confidence in an incumbent candidate.
Of course, that is what appears to have happened to Eastman, that the Ethics Committee seems to have been weaponized, and I’m guessing it’s not the first time. In fact, I think that weapon is still being wielded while we wait for the committee’s final ruling - even now.
That’s right, they issued a ruling in writing, but they never followed their own rules - go figure - and did not have a public vote. The written ruling that was distributed by the committee, to the media (none of whom actually attended the ‘trial’, remember?), was not done properly at all. Eastman has apparently been hounding them, through his lawyer, to make that ruling official by voting in public.
Now, they’ve resisted of course, but, they finally conceded to following their own rules. But when? When will they finally do things by the book? When will we know who voted how?
That’s right, the election is November 6th. We wouldn’t want the Ethics Committee to be used as a political weapon, now, would we?
Five days before the election, just enough time for the malleable media to spread the word, once again, that Eastman has been found guilty. But not enough time for Eastman to respond - not that the corporate media would report his response, anyway.
Face it, folks, the government is broken, top to bottom. Those who try to fix it will be chewed up and spit out by that very brokenness.
Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully the committee members will use this opportunity to restore public trust in the committee. Hopefully they will reverse their decision, which was based on utter nonsense. I’m not holding my breath.
On to the second installment...
The 1st installment of this long and tangled tale was simply an overview. A summary, meant to give a glance across the landscape of what would have been LeDoux’s undoing, had the ire of the Ethics Committee not been redirected at Eastman.
More recently, Gabrielle LeDoux is accused of more corrupt behavior. Go figure.
There are so many details that needed to be developed for the reader - for us citizens - that I realized I must dig deep, slow and steady, until I’ve unearthed what’s buried beneath the bureaucratic BS that the corporate media has spread on the surface.
As a resident of District 10, and a free citizen with rights and corresponding responsibilities, I am using my first amendment rights to respond as I am able. However, that didn’t stop some from implying that my previous article was somehow motivated by bias in favor of Eastman. Of course, I’m not a paid journalist, so that’s just a weak, tired attack that was developed in a corporate media mindset that often afflicts many of our best People. Some implied that David was advertising with my paper, and that’s the real root of my writing. You’ll notice that there are no paid ads from Eastman in this edition, or since 2016 of The People’s Paper, when Eastman spent $183.00 buying the smallest ad available to candidates.
In light of the recent story about Gabrielle LeDoux being implicated in voter fraud, my last installment seems a little prescient. It wasn’t. Anyone paying attention to the facts could have told you what I told you. But, the problem is that no one told you - no one paid attention - because Eastman doesn’t make friends in the establishment. Eastman isn’t that likable. Honestly, he’s not. And it seems to be by design. He’s not making friends in Juneau, and that’s the most likable thing about him. (I would apologize to Eastman for my opinion of him, but I don’t think he gives a damn what I think of him.)
Part one of this story gave a broad brush stroke to what had occurred up until publication. This and future installments will recount in more detail that same story. Let’s take it back for a minute, take a look at how all this started with Eastman and the Ethics Committee. As I told you in part 1 of this story, this has been going on for a while, so it’s necessary that we look at it in manageable sections.
On April 14, 2017, Eastman and his colleagues were on the House floor, doing the People’s business, when he witnessed an interaction between Representatives Gabrielle Ledoux and Lora Reinbold. Later, he says, Reinbold would relay the content of the conversation to him - that LeDoux had threatened to withhold a contribution to Reinbold’s next campaign if she didn’t change her vote.
Now, let’s discuss this vote. What, exactly, was this vote all about? This is an important point, an indicator of motive.
It was a vote regarding political action committees, and how they can operate.
Here’s the ironic part - LeDoux and Eastman both had a group like this, they both were voting together on this topic. Eastman, along with LeDoux, were disagreeing with Reinbold on this vote. Ha!
So here they sit, on the House floor, Eastman and Ledoux on the same page, and Reinbold is not in agreement with them. However, from Eastman’s perspective, Ledoux took it too far.
She allegedly leveraged campaign contributions from her own political action committee - painful irony - against Reinbold’s vote on the topic of political action committees.
To be clear, Eastman was in agreement with Ledoux on the topic, not with Reinbold.
Still, Eastman saw this as a significant issue, and even though it was against his own political interests, he decided to stand up against what he thought was wrong. (It’s stuff like this that probably made him such a viable candidate for the Ethics Committee in the first place, but I digress...)
What did Eastman do? What was his response to this? Many would say that he used this as a political ploy to attack LeDoux, but that doesn’t jibe with the fact that he agreed with LeDoux on this topic, does it? What did he do, then? What was his response that has started all this drama that we are still trying to sort out?
He wrote a memo.
Eastman decided that he would write a simple memo, without naming any names, and without making any political statement - but a simple statement about decorum and rules. (Yeah, he’s ‘that guy’, always following rules...) He didn’t name LeDoux, or Reinbold, but in fact only asked that everyone in the House of Representatives be aware that this interaction was not in keeping with the rules of the House.
Who did he address the letter to?
Well, that’s where things get interesting. LeDoux, who was the chairperson of the House Rules Committee, received the memo.
Now, Eastman didn’t name LeDoux in the memo, but he did ask that she make clear that this type of behavior was out of line. You can see why this might have made for an uncomfortable situation. But again, Eastman’s not one for making friends. Not only did Eastman address the memo to LeDoux, but he copied it to all members of the House. Honestly, I’m glad he did. He didn’t send out a press release naming names, he didn’t hold a press conference. He sent a polite but pointed memo to his colleagues, calling out behavior that any of us common folk would agree was untoward and unfitting of our representatives.
Trading campaign contributions for votes is bad - okay?
Now, this was a bold move in a way, but it was also a guarded move. It tells us several things about Eastman’s intent.
One, he was not trying to ‘out’ anyone. He could have made political hay out of this, but chose decorum instead.
Two, he agreed with Ledoux on the issue at hand. He didn’t have to speak out, but still...
Three, he simply wanted this behavior to stop. His intent in the memo was crystal clear.
It’s hard to infer any other intent from this memo, especially since no legislators were named.
What happened next?
LeDoux did not make an announcement from the House floor, but someone gave the memo, along with a little more backstory on the memo, to political writer, Suzanne Downing. I reached out to Suzanne Downing who says it was anonymous, and that she can’t remember who gave it to her.
Downing wrote on her website, MustReadAlaska.com, about this debacle, that amounted to nothing more than a bold memo from a representative, attempting to hold someone accountable over an issue that would have better served Eastman had it remained unknown.
But Downing’s article suggested, at the end, that someone might end up making an Ethics complaint about it. Actually, that was Downing’s closing thought.
Remember Steve Strait, the witness from the trial, who said he didn’t get the info from Eastman - that he didn’t even know Eastman? He also testified that this is how he found out about the issue, and this is why he made the complaint. While the Ethics Committee claims that Eastman must have leaked a confidential complaint (that he didn’t yet know about) to Steve Strait (who he didn’t know), Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest solution is the most likely. Steve Strait read about it from Downing’s article, plain and simple.
So Strait reads a blog, written by Suzanne Downing, who received the memo and backstory from any one of forty members of the House of Representatives - who chose anonymity - and the rest is history. He took Downing’s suggestion to heart, and made a complaint with the Ethics Committee, and further, he claims to have complained to the Attorney General’s Office and the FBI, too. (I’ve requested info from the two latter agencies, but received none.)
This constitutes the timeline of events that support Steve Strait’s effort to file a complaint against Ledoux. Strait said he read the blog by Downing. Downing says someone leaked the memo to her - not the Ethics complaint, but the memo that Eastman initially wrote, so no foul - and suggested in her article online that someone might file a complaint. Strait took the bait.
The question remains the same as before - why would Steve Strait sabotage his own complaint, by telling Eastman about it?
If Eastman would benefit from that complaint, why would Eastman sabotage the complaint that he himself had inadvertently initiated when writing his in-House memo? Why would Eastman break rules, overtly, and take all this heat, knowing that LeDoux would be released from response to these allegations?
Now that the primary election is behind us, we see that LeDoux is under the microscope of scrutiny. She’s accused of voter fraud. Just before those new accusations came to light, I had one fearful politician send second-hand warnings that my reputation, and that of my publication (which is not a reflection of my own thoughts, but is written by the community) might be damaged by defending Eastman, and that LeDoux was just the bee’s knees. “An example of ethics!”, they opined. Ha.
To the scaredy-cat politician, I will offer to you what I’ve offered to every member of the public for 11 years. Please, by all means, use the pages of The People’s Paper to prove me wrong. Don’t tell someone else to send me unquotable messages. If you saw something, say something. Even if it’s not in your political interests. You know, like Eastman did.
(Considering the heat that Eastman has taken for rocking the boat, I can see why these politicians are always playing it safe. It’s wrong, but I get it.)
I suppose that public servant won’t take me up on my offer, because if they could, they would have already - rather than make vague statements against the validity of a community newspaper that is NOT my mouthpiece, but is instead the devoted space for everyone to express themselves. In fact, I have held back over the years from using The People’s Paper to the extent that everyone else is able to use it, for exactly this reason - the appearance that it might be perceived as a weapon of words wielded by me, instead of We, the People. The only reason I’m writing this particular article about Eastman is because I live in district 10, and Eastman is my Representative. As a constituent, I have a constitutional obligation. I would certainly do the same for whoever represents me in Juneau, and as a publisher, I would publish opposing articles. But, you know what? Not one damn thing that I wrote in part one has been refuted.
Also, it’s important to note that rather than send me the files that were officially and undeniably made public at the public ‘trial’, the ‘Ethics’ Committee instead chose to request that the State legal department find some loophole to allow them to not reveal what is already made public. Why? Good question. Just another strange anomaly in this ongoing saga of misinformation, government corruption, and political maneuvering.
Why would the Ethics Committee seek legal counsel for a simple information request of public information? How can I know that what they deem public includes all that it should, if they must first consult a team of lawyers before providing the public with what is rightfully our information?
It’s important to end with this disclaimer. I don’t like Eastman all that much. I don’t dislike him, but I don’t like him. I barely know him. I have a lot of friends in my community, people that I seek out, and spend time with. I get to know their lives, their stories, because I feel affection for them. With Eastman, this is not the case. This is probably because Eastman isn’t trying to make friends. He’s a little sharp in his... well, in every way. He’s not the type to glad hand. He doesn’t say what I want to hear. He’s the type of guy that lives by a very rigorous standard of behavior, to the point of being a real drag.
I say that to say this. What do you want in a representative? Do you want someone you’re friends with? Do you want someone who will tell you what you want to hear? Or do you want someone who will suffer a smear campaign for holding a colleague accountable, even when he would benefit by remaining silent?
I am weary of politics as usual. And what is that ‘usual’? It’s favors and favoritism. It’s compromises on the public’s interests and worse, of personal integrity. And we’re all told that this is how the game is played. I’m tired of the games.
This is not an endorsement of Eastman. Let me be clear. This is an endorsement of right action, regardless of personal or political benefit. If Eastman is willing to buck the system, enduring the fallout of this overt corruption, even when he stands to benefit from remaining silent, well, he deserves to have the same honest review of that behavior from a constituent like me.
Part 3 is forthcoming, and perhaps there will be more revelations regarding LeDoux in the meantime. We shall see.