Saturday, November 03, 2012

Craig Medred's "Horngate" Inquisition Fails; Alaska Senate District J Candidate Bob Bell Vindicated In Trooper Investigation Of Musk Ox Horns

Alaska Dispatch's two-week long "Horngate" inquisition against Alaska Senate District J Republican candidate Bob Bell, led primarily by reporter Craig Medred, crashed and burned late on November 2nd, 2012 when Alaska State Troopers determined that Bell was covered by a loophole in the law that allows a hunter to give away the horns of a kill, and then have someone else send replacement horns as long as it isn't known if the horns originally belonged to the hunter.

Medred did not concede graciously, describing it as a "decision that appears to make a shambles of efforts to keep trophy hunters out of subsistence hunts", but in his latest article, cited an e-mail from Capt. Burke Waldron which stated "Based on the regulation as written, these permit conditions, to include cutting the horns prior to removing the remainder of the horns from the GMU, apply to the permit holder and the same horns from the animal killed under the permit". Medred then sent an e-mail to KTVA Channel 11 which stated “It would appear that if you shoot a musk ox on a subsistence permit in the Nome area and simply give the horns away, someone can later mail you some musk ox horns and all is fine as long as you don't know what horns you're getting.” KTVA also got in their licks, demanding that he show them the horns with only five minutes notice on November 1st; Bell agreed, and KTVA found that the horns have no trophy value because of the carving and because they're cut off the skull plate.

Gee whiz. We still don't have a natural gas pipeline, the throughput of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is decreasing by 6 percent per year, our legislature spends money like drunken sailors (Bonding Proposition A), and what is Craig Medred obsessed with? Musk ox horns. Wow. Almost as bad as Andree McLeod's continuing obsession with Sarah Palin's e-mails.

The whole sequence began in 2010 when Bob Bell, a member of the Alaska Board of Game, picked up a subsistence permit and went on a hunt for musk ox near Nome. Medred learned about much of this from Bell himself. Even though Bell is wealthy, all Alaskans are entitled to get subsistence permits for hunting without regard to income. However, to keep trophy hunters out of subsistence hunts, regulations require that the animal's horns be destroyed. The horns must be brought to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) office where they cut them at or above the eye and retain the distal portion of the horn.

However, the horns were not destroyed. Bell said he gave them to a Nome artist, and she agreed to destroy them. At the same time, Bell agreed to pay the artist $800 for some musk ox horns adorned with art. Some time after the hunt, she shipped some horns to Bell. The horns are intact and would have been illegal for Bell to bring home. But because the horns have art on them, and because Bell doesn't really know if the horns are his, he says they're perfectly legal. And Alaska State Troopers agree that there's a loophole which justifies Bell's interpretation, so they're taking no further action.

However, this was merely the epitaph of an extended inquisition by Alaska Dispatch. It began with a leadoff article by Amanda Coyne on October 21st, then articles by Craig Medred on October 27th and on October 31st and on November 1st and on November 2nd. Alaska Dispatch also published a hit piece against Bell by animal rights extremist Bill Sherwonit on October 23rd as well as a critical piece by another wildlife extremist, Rick Sinnott, on October 29th.

This goes beyond investigative journalism. This is full-scale slanted obsession, and naturally Bell's opponent, Democratic incumbent Hollis French, used it as a campaign issue against Bell. But with this latest development, French said that although Medred and Sinnott have to be taken seriously, he cannot say for certain if Bell broke the law, and added that he would stop campaigning on the issue.

This controversy, along with an APOC ruling that fined Bell $390 for failing to fully disclose his company’s clients, may be hindering his fund-raising efforts. The latest Anchorage Daily News report shows that while Hollis French has raised $226,360, Bell has raised only $148,349. Of course, the new Senate District J is more conservative than French's old district; Republicans proved that when they selected Bell over Linda Vazquez as their party's nominee in the August 28th primary election. But is it conservative enough to propel Bob Bell to victory over Hollis French on November 6th? I sure as hell hope so.

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