Domestic Terrorists

Sarah Palin haz dem

Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin’s campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.

Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution’s language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as “Black Helicopter Steve,” to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. “Every time I showed up her door was open,” said Chryson. “And that policy continued when she became governor.”

“The AIP is very family-oriented,” Chryson explained. “We’re for the traditional family — daddy, mommy, kids — because we all know that it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And we don’t care if Heather has two mommies. That’s not a traditional family.”

Chryson further streamlined the AIP’s platform by softening its secessionist language. Instead of calling for immediate separation from the United States, the platform now demands a vote on independence.

Yet Chryson maintains that his party remains committed to full independence. “The Alaskan Independence Party has got links to almost every independence-minded movement in the world,” Chryson exclaimed. “And Alaska is not the only place that’s about separation. There’s at least 30 different states that are talking about some type of separation from the United States.”

oh, and they still have her ear

Emboldened by his nomination by Mayor Palin, Stoll later demanded she fire Wasilla’s museum director, John Cooper, a personal enemy he longed to sabotage. Palin obliged, eliminating Cooper’s position in short order. “Gotcha, Cooper!” Stoll told the deposed museum director after his termination, as Cooper told a reporter for the New York Times. “And it only cost me a campaign contribution.” Stoll, who donated $1,000 to Palin’s mayoral campaign, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. Palin has blamed budget concerns for Cooper’s departure.

Chryson says the door remains open now that Palin is governor. (Palin’s office did not respond to Salon’s request for an interview.) While Palin has been more circumspect in her dealings with groups like the AIP as she has risen through the political ranks, she has stayed in touch.

When Palin ran for governor in 2006, marketing herself as a fresh-faced reformer determined to crush the GOP’s ossified power structure, she made certain to appear at the AIP’s state convention. To burnish her maverick image, she also tapped one-time AIP member and born-again Republican Walter Hickel as her campaign co-chair. Hickel barnstormed the state for Palin, hailing her support for an “all-Alaska” liquefied gas pipeline, a project first promoted in 2002 by an AIP gubernatorial candidate named Nels Anderson. When Palin delivered her victory speech on election night, Hickel stood beaming by her side. “I made her governor,” he boasted afterward. Two years later, Hickel has endorsed Palin’s bid for vice president.

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