Alaska News Nightly: June 8, 2012

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Police ID Body Found in Near Island Channel

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

The body of a 64-year-old Kodiak man was found just outside the mouth of Saint Herman Harbor late this (Friday) morning. Kodiak Police Chief T.C. Kamai said the body didn’t appear to have been in the water very long.

“At about 10:53 this morning we received a 911 call reporting that a body was observed floating in the channel. It was subsequently recovered by harbormasters who responded to the area with a skiff and brought to shore where they were met by EMTs from Kodiak Fire department and they pronounced the subject deceased,” Kamai said. “We’ve subsequently identified him as 64-year-old Donald Werbe of Kodiak. We’ve been able to establish he was in St. Herman Harbor on the floats earlier in the day.”

Kamai says there was no obvious sign of trauma but that Werbe’s body will be sent to the medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for autopsy to pin down the cause of death. The chief says the police would like to talk with anyone who may have seen Werbe in the harbor this morning.

Next of kin have been notified.

IEGs Introduce New Element To Alaska Campaign Funding

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Alaskans will see a new element in state politics this year – an unlimited amount of money. The money will come from Independent Expenditure Groups or IEGs. Those IEGs are organizations that work outside a candidate’s regulated campaign – and, because of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, work outside of the legal limits and restrictions the state had imposed on donors and campaigns in previous elections.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission – APOC – this week approved a staff report shaping how the state will work with the Independent Groups. The report reflects the Citizens’ United versus the Federal Elections Commission case that allowed corporations, labor unions and Political Action groups to directly participate in campaigns with no federal oversight.

Paul Dauphanais, APOC’s executive director says the state report finds Alaska’s current campaign contribution rules may be out of compliance, saying the Supreme Court has, “Potentially rendered those restrictions unconstitutional as applied to groups that make only independent contributions.”

“That’s a fair characterization of what Citizens’ United has done potentially to Alaska Campaign Finance Law.  And I say potentially, obviously, this needs to be decided by the courts,” Dauphanais said.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the legislature added requirements to state law designed to protect voters while remaining in line with the federal courts. The state focused on the public being made aware of the donors behind the independent groups. They now must be identified by name in political advertising and promotion. However, Dauphanais says true identification begins earlier than an ad campaign.

“We will know when they register with APOC., before they do any fundraising or expenditure.  Before they do any activity, they have to register with us,” he said.

Currently, there are only four independent groups registered in the state – one of them is the bi-partisan, thousand- ember strong Alaska Conservation Voters.  Jane Angvik is on the Board of Directors. She says the major adaptation to accommodate the independent status is in avoiding coordination of any of the group’s activities with the political campaigns it supports.

“We have the opportunity to both contribute directly to the campaign and also to be able to create materials that might influence voters.   But we are not able to coordinate our activities with the campaign.  We have to be independent of the campaign itself,” Angvik said.

The APOC decision was in reply to questions by an independent group organizing as “Alaskans Deserve Better” – with the intention of promoting, “responsible, ethical and transparent government.” Angvik sees the advantages of having the independent status.

“We are neither a tool of a campaign nor are we in conflict potentially with how they are managing their campaign because what we’re really doing is we’re trying to broaden and educate voters about the public policy issues we’re concerned about,” Angvik said.

She says after elections, the independent groups can work freely with whoever is elected.

Fairbanks Leaders, Air Force Officials Discuss F-16 Move

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Air Force has flagged nearly 20 buildings on Eielson Air Force base for reuse, repurposing, or demolition as part the plan to relocate the F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. Fairbanks leaders had another chance today to ask questions about developments in the plan during a teleconference with Air Force officials in Fairbanks.

Anchorage Braces For F-16 Transfer

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

As Fairbanks officials grapple with what the F-16 move will eventually mean for their community, the Air Force is continuing with plans for the relocation to JBER, despite opposition from Alaska’s Congressional delegation.

Nothing is written in stone yet, but the move could bring an estimated 2,000 new residents to Alaska’s largest city over the next few years. Anchorage officials are considering how the city will absorb the influx. The main concern is housing.

JBER Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

Associated Press

An Alaska-based soldier from Japan has died from wounds he received in Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense on Thursday said Pfc. Vincent J. Ellis died Monday in Germany.

He was wounded last Friday when his unit was attacked by insurgents using improvised explosive devices and small arms fire at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old from Tokyo was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, and assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Mudslides, Washouts Close Alaska Highway

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Mudslides and washouts caused by heavy rains and snowmelt have stranded passengers along the Alaska Highway on Friday and the road could remain closed into the weekend.

The Alaska Highway is the main route between Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48, and between Interior Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway terminals in Haines and Skagway.

In Western Yukon, The Alaska Highway is closed between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay because of a mudslide at the south end of Kluane Lake.

Yukon highway officials are advising travelers to stay in the communities they are at until the roads are reopened. That means hotels in places like Haines Junction and Whitehorse are scrambling to find room for motorists. Mary Anne Brough owns the Conttonwood RV park in Destruction Bay and said several travelers are stuck there an extra day.

She said there was heavy rain overnight, but the weather was clearing Friday.

In Haines Junction, Clint McCuaig with the Alcan Moto Inn said a few travelers were travelling to Whitehorse to hook up with the only other road into Alaska.

The longer and less traveled Top of the World route connects Dawson City, Yukon to Tok, Alaska.

Fish and Game Anticipates Subsistence Restrictions Along Yukon River

Mark Arehart, KYUK – Bethel

King Salmon numbers running through the Yukon River have been declining in recent years.  Officials at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are anticipating subsistence fishing restrictions this year, a trend that has been steadily present for a few years now.

Five Alaska Native Tribes To Receive Clean Energy Help

The Associated Press

Officials with the U.S. Energy Department and Alaska’s Denali Commission say five Alaska Native tribes will receive technical help for clean-energy efforts.

The tribes are the Venetie Village council, the Native Village of Kwinhagak/Quinhagak, the Native Village of Teller and the Organized Village of Kake.

Officials say the goal is to create local jobs and improve energy self-sufficiency.

AK: Hunting for Ferns

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution visited Sitka recently.

The group works at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. The collection includes countless items from Alaska. Staff members at the museum are well acquainted with those items. But they don’t often get to see where the items began. To do that, they turned to Sitka resident and renowned Tlingit weaver Teri Rofkar.

300 Villages: Pilot Station

This week we’re visiting Pilot Station, a Yup’ik Eskimo village on the Yukon River that’s home to about 600 people. Abraham Kelly is the postmaster in Pilot Station.