PFD debate draws crude social media, email responses
Some lawmakers are under personal attack for their views on the size of the Permanent Fund dividend, which underwent heated debate Tuesday morning on the Senate floor.
The Senate failed to advance a bill that would have paid Alaskans a $3,000 PFD, but another vote could still take place. Afterward, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, who voted against the full PFD, called out one of his critics.
“I've received a lot of emails that are really quite disturbing. Folks that say, not from my district, but I'm gonna make sure you're not elected next time. I'm gonna campaign against you,” Stevens said. “And I say bring it on. I'd be glad to do that because I think we're all standing up and doing what we think is right.”
Stevens declined to provide the emails saying he didn’t want to give those emailing him additional public attention.
Senate Finance Committee co-chair Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, received several caustic, sexist posts on her government Facebook page that have since been removed.
Von Imhof declined to comment, but colleague Rep. Colleen Sullivan Leonard, R-Wasilla, said she saw the posts and considered them highly offensive and misogynist.
Even as she and von Imhof disagree on the size of the PFD, Sullivan Leonard said, “that type of interaction is unacceptable for me. I won’t stand for it.”
Alaskans Against PFD Theft, a Facebook page, twice featured a manipulated photo of von Imhof.
Another Facebook page, Restore the PFD, singles out von Imhof as well as Anchorage Republican Senate President Cathy Giessel and North Pole Republican House Rep. Tammie Wilson for their views on the PFD, but simply encourages Alaskans to weigh in.
The post on von Imhof features footage from an April 25 Senate finance hearing in which she says, "by raiding the Permanent Fund and by taking extra draws on the earnings reserve account just so we can pay a full dividend, that statute was made 30 years ago, 40 years ago, that's not applicable today is fiscal insanity and irrational and irresponsible."
The Restore the PFD page has run more than 30 ads on Facebook since its creation in late February 2019. As of Wednesday night, 10 ads were actively running. All of the ads include the disclaimer: "Paid for by Governor Michael J. Dunleavy." According to Facebook, those in charge of the page have spent $4,830 on ads during its short lifetime.
In an off-camera interview, Dunleavy denounced the attacks adding they are not helpful to the debate over the dividend’s size. In a May 31 Facebook live, Dunleavy encouraged viewers to reach out to lawmakers.
“Call your legislators,” he said. “I would ask that you be civil. I would ask that you have a discussion with them and you just let legislators know what you’re thinking on the bill such as the PFD, the operating budget, capital budget.”
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