Miller's Guard: "We're Not Thugs. We Did Our Job"

Miller's Guard: "We're Not Thugs. We Did Our Job"

By Scott Conroy - October 18, 2010

The owner of the private security firm hired to protect Alaska GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller told RealClearPolitics on Monday that he did nothing wrong in handcuffing an Alaska journalist who was trying to question Miller after a town hall event on Sunday.

William Fulton, who owns the Anchorage-based DropZone Security, handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, the editor of The Alaska Dispatch, after he said that Hopfinger was "sticking his chest out and kind of pushing up against Joe" as the journalist pursued the candidate through the hallways of Central Middle School where the public event was being held.

"I said, ‘Sir, this is a private event in a rented facility. We're asking you to leave,'" Fulton said. "We told him he was trespassing. Some point about halfway through this whole thing, he yells out, ‘I'm a reporter.' I was like ‘Sir, that's fine, but you've already been trespassing. You need to leave.'"

Fulton said that Hopfinger continued to pursue Miller and pushed another town hall attendee into a locker, at which point Fulton handcuffed Hopfinger and called the Anchorage Police.

An Anchorage Police officer later arrived on the scene, released the Alaska Dispatch editor, and took statements.

Hopfinger said that it was Miller's guards who first laid hands on him as he was trying to interview the candidate.

Along with several other news organizations, the Alaska Dispatch is suing for access to Miller's employment records from his time working as an attorney at the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The news organizations are attempting to pursue questions related to Miller's departure from that office amid allegations that he may have misused public property for political purposes.

Miller, who was a largely unknown Fairbanks attorney until he defeated incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's GOP primary in August, told reporters last week that he would not answer any more questions about his background before Election Day.

On Monday, Miller admitted to CNN that he was disciplined for using government equipment for political purposes but said that the episode had nothing to do with why he left the borough position.

"The event in question is something that happened during my time off," Miller told CNN's John King. "So it was during my lunch hour."

Fulton said that his private security company has been working with Miller since 2007 or 2008. DropZone security guards were on hand to protect Miller at the 2008 Alaska GOP convention when Miller tried unsuccessfully to oust state party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who famously resigned from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2003 after Sarah Palin exposed him for conducting partisan political activity from his state office and leaking a confidential memo to an energy company lobbyist.

"We've had to make a lot of arrests, believe you me," Fulton said. "But never at a Miller event."

The Miller campaign defended the security guards' actions, accusing Hopfinger of being an "irrational blogger" who was trying to create a "publicity stunt."

Fulton said that his company was contracted to provide security for Sunday's event, not to guard Miller himself.

"He was contractually required to have us there," Fulton said. "In their contract with the school district, they're required to have security."

But spokespeople for Murkowski and Democrat Scott McAdams each told RealClearPolitics that they had held several events at Anchorage public schools and have never had to provide their own security guards.

"Senator Murkowski last year during the health care debate held town halls where there were hundreds of people there at public schools in the Anchorage school district, and she was never required to have security, nor did we hire security," Murkowski spokesperson Steve Wackowski said. "They just had to have a security plan."

The Murkowski campaign said that the senator once attended an event in which an Alaska state trooper was alerted to a specific threat, but neither Murkowski nor McAdams has hired private security for their events.

"It's kind of silly that Joe Miller has a security force," McAdams spokesperson Heather Handyside said. "We think it's a bit bizarre that he's trying to protect himself from voters, and we're just overall troubled by it. This is somebody who supports the Constitution and is such a fan of the Constitution and lectures people about the Constitution, so we find it a little bit ironic."

Wackowski said that the Murkowski campaign was considering printing a copy of the First and Fourth Amendments and sending them to the Miller campaign.

Wackowski also noted that during Sunday's town hall event, Miller responded to a question about illegal immigration by pointing to the Berlin Wall, constructed by Communist East Germany during the Cold War to prevent its citizens from escaping to the West, as an effective border security measurement.

"If East Germany could do it, we could do it," Miller said.

Fulton noted that he and his fellow private guards were unarmed and that his company does not provide armed security.

"We're not thugs," Fulton said. "We were hired to do a job. We did our job. Anybody in that situation would've been required to do the same thing. The only reason that this is an issue is because the guy is who he is. If he wasn't who he is, this would be a non-issue."

The Alaska Dispatch is scheduled to host a debate between Murkowski and McAdams on Monday night. Miller is not expected to attend.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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