William Fulton was an FBI informant who helped gather evidence against an Alaska militia leader. He also had some involvement in right-wing politics. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch / January 14, 2013)
SEATTLE -- Now that the mole who helped bring down the leadership of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia has talked publicly, the big question on some minds in Alaska is: Why was federal FBI informant William Fulton involved in political campaigns?
The controversy has erupted over the past few days, as it emerged that Fulton, an Anchorage military surplus store owner who helped gather evidence against militia leader Schaeffer Cox, had helped manage the unsuccessful campaign of right-wing former radio host Eddie Burke for lieutenant governor in 2010. He also provided a controversial security detail for U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller that year -- all while penetrating Alaska’s far-right fringes as part of the Cox investigation.
Fulton, who has since left Alaska to avoid the chance of reprisals stemming from his FBI work, insists that federal law enforcement agents had no involvement in his political activity and in fact were uncomfortable when they learned of it.
“They had absolutely nothing ever to do with anything like that,” Fulton told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “The only thing that they ever asked me to do was to look into Schaeffer Cox and a few other people. The only thing they said [about the political activities] was, ‘Hmm, Bill, maybe you shouldn’t be doing this.”
The issue has caused a brouhaha of sorts in Alaska, with the Alaska Dispatch asking, "Should the FBI have kept a tighter leash on its militia mole?"
The controversy is tied in large part to Fulton’s work on a security detail for a campaign event for Miller, who was running on a tea party platform.
The event proved disastrous when Fulton handcuffed and detained a man who had aggressively followed the candidate in an attempt to ask questions. The man -- whom Fulton said he didn’t know -- refused several orders to leave. As it turned out, the man was a reporter and editor for the Alaska Dispatch, and the specter of a beefy security guard handcuffing a journalist undermined Miller’s campaign.
Although Miller won the Republican primary against the relatively moderate U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, she launched an unprecedented write-in campaign and beat him in the general election.
The widely reported arrest of a journalist at a town hall meeting “absolutely” was detrimental to his campaign, Miller said Monday in an interview with The Times.
“I’m a strong supporter of the 1st Amendment, and I had close friends that had been supporters of my campaign question, ‘Why would Joe Miller handcuff a journalist?’ For crying out loud, I wasn’t even in the building,” Miller said. “It was utilized as a political weapon against us in the state.”
Miller said he is now troubled that Fulton, whose personal politics turn out to be not at all aligned with the far right, was injecting controversy into his campaign and was also working on the campaign of Burke, another right-wing candidate who lost -- all during 2010, when he was a paid informant for the FBI.
Miller recalled the well-publicized election of 2008, when longtime U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens lost his bid for reelection after being convicted of failing to report gifts from an oil industry lobbyist at the end of a long investigation waged by the FBI in Anchorage. The charges were dismissed in 2009 on the U.S. Justice Department’s own motion when it was learned that potentially exculpatory evidence had not been turned over to the defense. But by then, Democrat Mark Begich had won Stevens’ seat.
“This is the second U.S. Senate race in Alaska that the FBI has had some involvement in,” Miller said. “I’m certainly not expressing any type of conspiracy theory about the FBI causing any kind of trouble to my campaign, but it’s conceptually troubling to me that you have a paid informant working on multiple campaigns answering to the FBI, being debriefed by the FBI, and I really think it’s incumbent on that agency to come clean about the scope of this individual’s employment and the level of involvement the FBI had in that.”