Recent reports that the FBI employed a “human source” to infiltrate the Trump campaign and special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation initiated by leaked documents stirred memories of the same tactics being used to help sway the outcome of a U.S. Senate race in 2010 against the Republican candidate.
The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that House Intelligence Committee members “sniffed out a name,” potentially implicating the FBI under President Barack Obama, of planting an informant close to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting,” wrote The Journal’s Kimberly Strassel. “It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough.”
The Washington Post added House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes has subpoenaed the Department of Justice for more information, but the agency has resisted, claiming the individual in question is a “sensitive, longtime intelligence source” for the FBI and the CIA. The informant has also helped in Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
The revelation of an FBI informant being placed close to a Republican political candidate brought to mind an experience I had working on the media team for U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller in 2010 in Alaska.
Miller shocked political watchers when he defeated incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Republican primary. He had been down over 20 points just over a month before pulling off the upset win.
Murkowski — who had the most liberal voting record of any Republican up for re-election that year — responded by recanting on a pledge both candidates had made prior to the primary election day in late August to honor the results. Instead, the senator launched a write-in campaign as an independent in the middle of September in a bid to hold on to the seat that, between her and her father, had been in the family since 1981.
Early polling in the contest once again gave Miller a slight edge, but the race deadlocked by mid-October thanks to two events: the handcuffing of a reporter at a Joe Miller campaign event by an FBI informant and the leaking of the candidate’s confidential employee file to the media.
FBI informant Bill Fulton first showed up on primary election night in Anchorage, unsolicited, volunteering his security services to the candidate that evening following his victory.
Miller did not use security during the race before or after, with one exception of a town hall event at an Anchorage middle school in mid-October, where according to the terms of the contract, security was required. A member of the campaign staff contacted Fulton.
I was at the town hall where the informant took it upon himself after the event to handcuff Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger.
Shortly before the incident, the journalist had broken into a circle of supporters Miller was speaking to and put a handheld camera in his face.
Miller indicated he was not giving an interview and left the room. Hopfinger followed him out into the hallway and ended up pushing an attendee into a set of lockers, apparently trying to catch up with the candidate. Miller left the building and not long thereafter Hopfinger got into a scuffle with the security team headed by Fulton, who ordered the reporter to be detained.
I came out into the hallway in time to find Hopfinger in handcuffs, which I questioned Fulton about, telling him the optics looked horrible, but he did not stand down.
Fulton insisted Hopfinger needed to remain handcuffed until the police arrived and kept him in plain view as numerous reporters circled about, shooting footage of their detained colleague.
In a 2013 Huffington Post article titled “How Bill Fulton Infiltrated Alaska’s Right Wing As An FBI Informant,” the subject revealed that he voted for President Barack Obama and lauded his own actions that day.
“It completely solidified our position within the right wing,” Fulton said of the handcuffing incident. “Because there’s nothing the right wing likes more than you roughing up the left-wing media and such.”
“The left-wing completely attacked me, including Huffington Post, you b—–ds,” Fulton said. “I was working for you, you sons of b—–s, and nobody knew it.”
It cannot be overstated the amount of negative media coverage the Miller campaign received as a result of the incident, with claims the candidate opposed freedom of the press. It did not matter that neither the campaign nor the candidate had directed the handcuffing.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times also reported on the role Fulton played in the 2010 race questioning, “Why was FBI informant William Fulton involved in political campaigns?”
Miller noted in the piece that his race was the second in as many cycles in Alaska in which the FBI had played a part in the contest’s outcome, referring to a criminal investigation that almost certainly cost the late Sen. Ted Stevens his 2008 re-election bid. Stevens’ conviction was overturned just months after he lost the race to Democrat Mark Begich.
In a 2013 Facebook post, Hopfinger lamented the part the FBI had played in the results of the Miller-Murkowski race.
“Do we want the FBI dealing with cowboys like Bill Fulton who can change the outcome of political elections by, say, cuffing journalists?” he wrote.
“No wonder Farmer Joe and his friends worry about Big Brother,” he added derisively. “I don’t like the idea, either, of the FBI having a paid informant working inside a political campaign when the candidate himself is not the primary target of an investigation.
“Why would anybody run for office under those circumstances? Joe Miller should be more upset with the FBI/Justice Department than with Fulton.”
Miller is angered the FBI is engaging in political campaigns.
The former GOP nominee told The Western Journal, “The FBI’s involvement in elections is repugnant and undercuts a fundamental tenet of our Republic: that the People are an effective check on government.”
“Now, we have proof that the feds have been manipulating domestic elections,” he added. “Such action is not only treasonous, it could lead to dangerous political instability as more and more citizens realize their government is no longer controlled by the People.”
The second major incident that without a doubt influenced the general election outcome in Miller’s race was the leaking of his confidential personnel file. It was a move reminiscent of former FBI Director James Comey leaking his memos to The New York Times, with the intention of bringing about a special counsel.
Questions about Miller’s employment as an attorney with the city of Fairbanks began with a blog post by Murkowski supporter and former fellow state representative Andrew Halcro titled, “We Know Palin Quit … But why was Miller Fired? Say it ain’t so Joe.”
The story was fake news. Miller was not fired, but resigned of his own accord, and the candidate released his letter of resignation and other supporting documents during the primary, which countered the narrative.
However, a new version of the story came back in the fall, saying he had nearly been fired for voting in an online political poll on his and three co-workers’ computers and initially not telling the truth about it.
That narrative was also shown to be false, but Murkowski and the groups supporting her made that a focus of a multi-million-dollar negative ad campaign against Miller. Murkowski herself proclaimed during a debate that Miller — a West Point graduate and decorated combat veteran — was “not fit” to serve in the U.S. Senate.
It should be noted at this point, a Senate ethics complaint was filed against Murkowski for a sweetheart land deal prior to her 2010 re-election bid. She came under such public censure that she sold the property.
The leaked information about Miller led to unprecedented litigation, with multiple media outlets suing to gain access to his employee file. They ultimately prevailed.
When Miller went on national television to explain what happened, the negative narrative was countered, and he began to rise again in the polls.
However, the former mayor of Fairbanks Jim Whitaker (a Republican who endorsed Obama) played the part of Comey, claiming through the closing days of the race that Miller engaged in wrongdoing. He participated in both television and other media interviews alleging the Republican candidate had even been involved in criminal conduct while employed at the borough.
Never mind that Miller was employed for a year-and-a-half following his alleged illicit conduct in question, which had been fully investigated and resulted in a temporary letter of reprimand. The letter should no longer have even been in his file when he ran for office.
Miller sued Whitaker and the borough after the election and won a judgment in his favor.
Miller’s supervisor Rene Broker admitted, under oath, during the litigation that he had engaged in no criminal conduct while in the employ of the borough.
Miller remains a lawyer in good standing in the Alaska bar to this day, which would not be the case if he had committed any significant ethical wrongdoing.
But as far as the outcome of the 2010 race, the damage had been done. The incumbent Murkowski beat Miller 39 to 35 percent, with the Democrat candidate taking the rest.
The “deep state,” if you will, prevailed. Whether the same tactics can be used to ultimately bring down Trump is playing out before our eyes.
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