By Jenny Neyman
The Alaskan Independence Party offers a banner for candidates and voters with divergent views from the more mainstream platforms of Republicans and Democrats, and has fielded a candidate for House District 34 that certainly fits that bill.
Ray Southwell, of Nikiski, co-founder of the Michigan Militia and Alaska Citizens Militia, speaks out vehemently against current governmental policies and is having his wages confiscated by the Internal Revenue Service for failure to file tax returns for the last 19 years. He has filed to challenge current Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, of Nikiski.
Southwell focuses on issues of nationwide and worldwide scale, as well as on the local, borough level, yet has chosen the Alaska Legislature as the level of government from which he’d like to effect change.
“I think that there’s so many economic issues facing the nation and I want to challenge the current economic model as a nation because it has led us down a path of destruction,” Southwell said in explanation of why he chose to run for elected office. “On the national level, I think it’s too late. I’ve been quoted as saying both Democrats and Republicans have sold us out, and that’s at a federal level. I think at the state level, currently, most of these legislators are ignorant of the economic model that the federal government has really followed that has led us to this economic collapse that we’re going through.”
Southwell rails against the role of corporations and their power in today’s economy.
“I think that the current economic model is based on, ‘The corporation can’t do anything wrong.’ When you go back and look at our original Constitution and economic plan, there were always checks and balances, and for quite some time the economic mode is, ‘What’s good for corporations is what’s good for America,’” Southwell said. “It’s failed, it’s wrong, that’s why we’re disintegrating right now economically, globally, because of that behavior.”
Southwell has several examples of how this laissez-faire, free-market capitalist attitude has played out, including the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act in 1999 that deregulated the banking industry and led to the nation’s financial collapse, he said.
The corporate structure that’s developed is one that prizes profits more than safety or compliance with regulations, Southwell said, which leads to incidents like the deadly mining explosion West Virginia in April, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, BP’s oil spills on the North Slope and the current Gulf of Mexico spill, he said.
“The economic model says that the corporation has two objectives — one is to pay the biggest dividend that can be established, and also for growth. So what happens with these large corporations is that economic model of growth and expansion and dividends is what the driving faction is. So you end up with a corporation that will ignore the rules and pay the fines because it’s cheaper to pay the fines than to go by the rules,” Southwell said.
A position in the Alaska Legislature wouldn’t give Southwell say on national issues, but he said he could apply his views to state issues. One of the platforms of the Alaskan Independence Party is that the Alaska statehood vote should be taken again, this time with all options on the table — remain a territory, become a separate and independent nation, accept commonwealth status or become a state. Southwell said he agrees with the AIP’s view that Alaska is a colony, rather than a full-fledged state with rights on par with the original 13 colonies. He’d like to see Alaska demand its authority and follow the nullification movement, whereby Alaska simply does not follow federal government dictates that it does not feel it should be subject to. If that had happened in the 1970s, Southwell said, when the state Legislature passed incentives for double hulls on oil tankers coming to and leaving Alaska, which was tossed out in 1978 in federal court, it might have prevented the Exxon Valdez spill.
“I wonder what would have happened or how many lives would have been economically saved if those had been double-hulled. Now (the federal government) is going to require it by 2015 — 40 years after the Alaska state Legislature took a stand and tried to do what’s right,” he said.
Southwell said he doesn’t believe the state Legislature is doing what’s right in most cases these days. He cites continuing negotiations over construction of a natural gas line from the North Slope as an example. Southwell favors an all-Alaska route with a liquefied natural gas plant in Valdez, as favored by 62 percent of voters in 2002 and as supported by the Alaska Port Authority, established in 1999.
“What happened to that vision of that pipeline? What happened with Alaska jobs? What did the people want and what did the borough want and what did the cities want? Why aren’t these politicians listening to the people?” Southwell said.
He said he believes a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund could be invested to develop an in-state gas line infrastructure, rather than investing it wherever fund managers think the biggest dollar signs may be found — be they in Greece, Exxon or other investments of dubious moral standing, he said.
“You have to look at the corporate mind-set. They’re going to put our money into whatever corporations make the most money,” he said. “Why aren’t we taking that money, a percentage of it, and investing it in Alaska? We have got the mind-set of we only care about that permanent fund interest on stock markets and ventures outside of Alaska. Isn’t it time we do it ourselves? We look to corporations, we look to stock markets, we look to Washington. We need to look to Alaskans. We’re billionaires. We need to start acting like billionaires and investing in our own home.”
Southwell said he has concerns about the state’s too-lax relationship with resource extraction companies, such as the Pebble Mine Partnership, and is concerned that legislation like Senate Bill 309, which encourages expanded oil and gas exploration and development, doesn’t do enough to enforce safety.
“It’s more the big picture of the corporate xxmind-set. We’re at a pivotal time in history that if we as a state don’t step up to the plate and start looking at things differently, we’re going down with the rest of the country and the globe, or at least a large percentage of the globe. We cannot sustain $1.5 trillion worth of deficit spending,” Southwell said. “My hope is that Alaskans will rally and start talking about an economic system that is sustainable regardless of what happens in the rest of the country, and that is infrastructure and that is checks and balances on corporations.”
Southwell addresses a few specific pieces of legislation, such as being in support of House Bill 50, which would limit overtime for nurses — he’s an emergency room nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital. He also voices concern over the possible sale of CPH to a private entity, which would remove local control over health care management in the area, he said.
But overall, Southwell said he isn’t running with a list of specific bills he’d like to address or propose. He’s more out to bring attention to his causes.
“There’s multiple issues that need to be addressed. I think the biggest thing is we need have to start having a dialogue of what’s an economic plan for success for Alaska? I think that if I have a true platform or true opportunity to discuss it at the state level, I can stir the pot up and get this discussion and get people having dialogue, because it’s logical. So I don’t have to generate a bill. You know what happens when you have dialogue is people who are smarter than me come along and say, ‘I understand what you’re saying, and can’t we do this and can’t we do that?’”
Southwell said this is a crucial time to make Alaska economically sound, given the economic climate of the rest of the country and world. He said he doesn’t support secession from the U.S., but said he thinks Alaska will be standing on its own soon enough, by the state’s choosing or not.
“I would prefer staying in the union as a state with equal footing to those original 13 states,” he said. “I personally don’t support secession … but what I do recognize today is that with the economic disintegration going on, Alaska is going to be thrown into independence. Just like when the Soviet Union disintegrated, all of a sudden there were all these independent states that were thrown into their independence.”
He said he would not use a seat in the Legislature to push for support of the militia movement. It’s not necessary, he said, because the rights and existence of the militia are “self-evident,” he said.
“The people are armed and the people will stand up for and protect their communities. I don’t have to preach that, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that. (James) Madison acknowledged that, our founders acknowledged that,” he said.
Southwell said he foresees the U.S. and other nations succumbing to a similar fate as Greece — having to raise taxes or cut services because it can no longer support its deficit spending, and civil unrest occurring because of it. He said the militia would be a clear choice to maintain order.
“I’m very active and outspoken on my militia stand. People think that, because of the media’s portrayal over the last 15 years, that the militia is a terrorist organization, that somehow (the Oklahoma City bombing) was related to me somehow. There’s no documentation, it just becomes reported in the media. What I would challenge people to do is look at what’s going on in Greece, and Greece is just the tip of the iceberg,” Southwell said.
“What happens to those folks on the Kenai Peninsula when their retirement check, their Social Security check or whatever that government benefit check, is either cut or there’s such inflation that the purchasing power is too weak? We’re back to the same issue that Greece is having. So what’s the answer? Do we have federal troops come in to police our neighborhoods, or do we police our own neighborhoods? So the militia is a stopgap to the future.”
Southwell said he has voted for Chenault in the past, but said he doesn’t think Chenault has been responsive to citizens’ wishes.
“He’s a true politician. He goes with the wind, so what’s his stand on anything? Who knows? He’s a politician, not a statesman. A statesman takes a stand on issues. His number one objective is to get re-elected and to go by the winds of the politics of the day,” Southwell said.
Southwell said he believes he can be elected if he can reach disenchanted residents and motivate them to register and vote. However, he has no campaign budget. Since April, 90 percent of his wages are being seized by the IRS for failure to file taxes, which Southwell hasn’t done in 19 years, he said.
“I refuse to negotiate with them because I am nullifying what the federal government has done for decades to Alaska, to Alaskans and to people around the country,” he said. “…There’s no judgment, this is just a process they can do, and in what we consider the freest country in the world, they can just take your paycheck. Where’s the court order? Where’s the judgment? Where’s the jury? There isn’t any. My employer says, ‘Here it is,’ probably out of fear. Who’s going to question the IRS? So they take it.”
He said his campaign would be conducted through letters to the editor in local newspapers, brochures he will pass out, public appearances and word of mouth.
“I have no money. I’m not asking for any money. It’s the ideals and the principals that I’m going to be talking about. If I can get that into the paper and get this dialogue in the community and then get those disenchanted voters or nonvoters registered, then I’ll win, without any money,” Southwell said.
In a press released issued last week, AIP Chair Lynette Clark said, “We welcome Mr. Southwell as a member and a candidate. This party was made for him and for the many thousands of other Alaskans who still uphold our heritage of liberty.”