PFD payback?


Former Alaska Dispatch News editor Tony Hopfinger sorting legal documents Monday/Craig Medred photo

The rain was falling in Anchorage on Monday and the city outside the big, plate-glass windows of the Nesbett Courthouse was gray and bleak and about as ugly as it can get when the subject of whose lying on their Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) arose.

Inside a fifth floor courtroom, Tony Hopfinger, the former editor of the Alaska Dispatch News, had just admitted to signing the declaration that states “I certify that on the date of application…I was and intended to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely.”

The PFD question was raised by David Gross, an attorney for former Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff. Gross was trying to undermine Hopfinger’s credibility in a $1 million lawsuit he filed against Rogoff.

Gross wanted to know if it was appropriate for Hopfinger to swear that he planned to stay when he was planning to leave.

Hopfinger said it was inappropriate. He said later he’d never really given much thought to that claim at the top of the application.

“Are you going to return” the money, Gross wanted to know.

“Sure, why not,” Hopfinger said.

The questions put to Hopfinger about the PFD ended there, but they continued to spur discussions among a small group of court observers outside the courtroom during the next break.

Almost all of  them admitted to having, or having had, thoughts about leaving Alaska to live in friendlier climes. One of those in the group was a good friend of former Anchorage Daily News editor Howard Weaver, who grew up in Alaska, left for California and never came back.

There are some great areas to live in California if you can afford them. The days are sunny and a whole lot longer than in the north. Even when the sun shows itself, Anchorage is decidedly not sunny in November or December or January.

The sun rose at 9:34 a.m. in Anchorage on Monday and set at 3:59 p.m. and in between the sky never really reached a stage anywhere close to bright.

It was a day on which those of a certain age couldn’t help but think about leaving Alaska. Maybe it was an age thing one of them observed. Historically, Alaska was a place for the young.

Most people left or died before they reached old age. The 1910 U.S. Census reported only 1.7 percent of the population was 65 or older. The number is now more than six times that and growing annually, though it is unclear how many winter full time in-country.

The PFD allows residents to be absent the state for 180 days and still qualify, and many retirees with the financial resources push the 180 days to the limit. 

And others, well, they’re regularly thinking about leaving, or are parents of children who filed that “last” PFD before leaving, or have former Alaskan friends who thought the PFD was compensation for time-served and not an ironclad commitment to “remain an Alaska resident indefinitely.”

How many can really, honestly answer that they never plan to leave Alaska or that they’ve never thought about it? And if you’ve even thought about it, well, wouldn’t the proper answer be “I intend to remain in Alaska as long as I can take it?”

Meanwhile, how many know someone who should get in line behind Hopfinger at the payback window?



2 replies »

  1. Have you been to Kalifornia lately? It is a real chithole! You think Anchorage has a homeless problem? Visit Kalifornia and you’ll think you are in a 3rd world hell hole.

  2. in·def·i·nite

    /ˌinˈdef(ə)nət/ adjective

    lasting for an unknown or unstated length of time.
    “they may face indefinite detention”

    synonyms: indeterminate, unspecified, unlimited, unrestricted, undecided, undetermined, undefined, unfixed, unsettled, unknown, uncertain;

    not clearly expressed or defined; vague.
    “their status remains indefinite”

    synonyms: vague, ill-defined, unclear, imprecise, inexact, loose, general, nebulous, fuzzy, hazy, obscure, ambiguous, equivocal
    “an indefinite idea”

    My inner Barracks Lawyer would argue that, given the definition from whatever dictionary google uses as first pop-up, if you do not have a “definite” date in mind, you are, by definition, still “indefinite” about leaving.

    If they meant, “in perpetuity,” or something similar, they should have written that into statute. Given there are acceptable time limits to actually live out of state in that statute, the only people “lying” (particularly in a legal sense, I’d argue) are people who sign the form while currently, knowingly, locked into a contract containing terms which will require them to formally change residency at a defined point in time.

    Mere conjecture or wishful thinking isn’t enough. So come at me “real” lawyers, let’s see what a jury says. 😉

    Matthew Carberry, Esq. J.D. MCRD San Diego Class of 1991

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