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Alaska Gov. Bill Walker forced to return $3,500 sealskin vest as part of ethics probe against mayor

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Alaska’s governor and lieutenant governor will return sealskin vests received as gifts, the governor’s office said on Monday, amid an ethics investigation by a municipal government into possible misuse of taxpayer funds by its mayor.

The probe was ordered earlier this month by the North Slope Borough Assembly. The vests were bought for about $3,500 each from a daughter of the mayor of the borough, which occupies the northernmost part of the state.

Mayor Charlotte Brower’s office paid about $7,000 to one of Brower’s daughters for the vests in February, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

The newspaper reported that Brower has said her office sanctioned payments to family members under a policy that allowed for purchases of goods or services for less than $10,000 without a bidding process. Brower has since changed the policy.

A spokeswoman for the North Slope Borough did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The investigation is focused on whether taxpayer funds were used to buy the vests, made from the skins of bearded seals, from Brower’s daughter, and whether these and other expenditures totaling tens of thousands of dollars improperly benefited the mayor’s family.

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Last week, state media cited documents from a public records request in reporting that the borough paid $8,400 for flights and fees enabling Brower’s five grandchildren to attend a five-day “Michael Jordan Flight School”.

Residents of the borough’s largest community, Barrow, had also raised concerns about the expenses, according to a memo from a special assembly meeting two weeks ago.

A spokeswoman for Governor Bill Walker said his staff is collecting the vests and would return them. Walker was given one and his second-in-command, Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, was given the other, Walker’s office said.

“These gifts are being returned to ensure that the public’s trust is being upheld,” Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette said.

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The North Slope Borough is the state’s largest and is home to several of Alaska’s major oil fields. Though larger than Minnesota, it has only about 9,700 residents.

(Reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Eric Walsh and Ken Wills)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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George Conway calls out fears Trump will compromise new US intelligence initiative aimed at Russia

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On Saturday, George Conway drew attention to a specific passage of a new article from The New York Times about the intelligence community's efforts to counterattack the Russian power grid, in response to years of covert Kremlin attacks on our own:

“[O]fficials described...hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern...that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation...to the Russian foreign minister.” https://t.co/BXTjjXBmia

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Trump goes on ‘TOTAL LOSERS’ tirade with manic tweet attacking ‘totally out of control’ media

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Trump’s hamfisted attempt to wag the dog with Iran unraveled fast

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

We can’t say with any certainty that Iran wasn’t behind the attacks on two ships in the Gulf of Oman this week, but it is clear that the Trump regime’s account of what happened unraveled very quickly. Shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a video of a small vessel removing something Pompeo said was a mine from the damaged port side of one of the ships, the vessel's owner said that it had actually been struck on its starboard side, above the waterline, by a flying object. If this were in fact an effort to pull a Gulf of Tonkin, then the fact that this was the best dog-wagging they could conjure up would be downright pathetic.    

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