Sunday, October 2, 2022

Alaska lawmaker could be sanctioned over Oath Keeper ties

ANCHORAGE, Alaska ( Associated Press) — Alaska lawmakers are discussing whether to sanction a member of the state House who is also a member of the Oath Keepers far-right paramilitary organization, a newspaper reported.

Possible actions being discussed include explaining state Rep. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, censure or a vote of disapproval, lawmakers told the Anchorage Daily News,

“I think what we’ve been learning about Rep. Eastman is extremely concerning. And I think it needs to be addressed. We at least need to look into it as a Legislature and figure out what action is warranted,” said Rep. Calvin Schrage, an independent from Anchorage.

“We have truly reached the stage of Doublethink when pledging loyalty to the Constitution is now a revolutionary act worthy of condemnation and punishment from the Left today,” Eastman said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday when asked for comment.

Eastman was identified as a “life member” of the Oath Keepers last year when membership information for the far-right paramilitary organization was leaked to news media following the insurrection at the US Capitol, the newspaper reported. Group leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Eastman told the Associated Press in a follow-up email Thursday that he joined Oath Keepers “a little over 12 years ago. Along with 38,000 others who have committed to honoring the oaths we have taken.”

Eastman has said he attended a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, DC, for outgoing President Donald Trump held before people stormed the Capitol. However, he said he did not take part in the riot and he has not been accused of any crimes.

Eastman said he does not know any of the Oath Keepers who were charged in the insurrection and that he does not condone the storming of the Capitol.

“This membership in the Oath Keepers is troubling,” said Rep. Matt Claman, an Anchorage Democrat who confirmed the sanction options under consideration to the Anchorage newspaper.

Legislators in the state House are discussing whether Eastman’s involvement in the Oath Keepers would be in violation of the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause, which prohibits from holding public office anyone who “advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates , the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State.”

There also has been public pressure on Eastman, a graduate of the US Military Academy. More than 70 West Point alumni signed a letter urging him to resign. A public petition is being circulated seeking his removal, along with social media posts and letters to the editor.

There have been no public discussion of any action against Eastman; instead, lawmakers are talking amongst themselves or in closed-door sessions of the House majority coalition, a 21-member group led by Democrats that includes independents and Republicans.

To expel a member, it would require a two-thirds vote and would require votes from the House’s Republican minority, which has 18 of the body’s 40 seats. One other Republican does not caucus with the majority or minority.

Only one lawmaker has been. State Sen. George Hohman was removed in the 1980s following a bribery conviction.

Eastman in 2017 became the first House member to be censored by the body for comments he made suggesting there are women in Alaska who try to get pregnant to get a “free trip to the city” for abortions.

Mark Springer, mayor of the southwest Alaska hub community of Bethel, was among those who wrote to the newspaper urging Eastman’s expulsion.

“They censored him. He’s like, ‘Big deal, I’ll just stand here and listen to it — I don’t care.’ If they censored him again, it still it wouldn’t do anything,” he told the newspaper.

House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, also a Wasilla Republican, said she has had a discussion with House Speaker Louise Stutes about the issue but said her caucus has not discussed the matter.

Tilton told the Daily News she is reluctant to take action.

“Representative Eastman has a right to represent his constituency in the manner that he feels is representative of the district,” Tilton said. “I really feel like it’s up to the members of that district to show their concerns at this point.”

Eastman has filed documents saying he intends to run for reelection. The Alaska Division of Elections will be required to determine whether he is qualified. Candidates have been disqualified by the division over residency requirements, but it was not immediately clear whether the division ever considered the disloyalty clause when determining a candidate’s status to run.

The division has not yet considered or discussed Eastman’s qualifications, a spokesperson said Wednesday.


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