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Palin’s attorney general choice has extensive credentials

Posted by Sarah Palin Web Brigade on June 19, 2009

Palin’s attorney general choice has extensive credentials

DANIEL S. SULLIVAN: Lawyer had stints in State Department, White House after leaving state in 2002.


Published: June 16th, 2009 10:05 PM
Last Modified: June 17th, 2009 01:04 PM



Gov. Sarah Palin on Tuesday appointed a former assistant secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush to be Alaska’s new attorney general.

Daniel S. Sullivan was assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs from 2006 until the Obama administration came into office in January.

Sullivan has not lived in Alaska since 2002 but has professional and family connections to the state. Palin said he has a strong background in and out of the state.

“His leadership and negotiating achievements at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including on issues of vital importance to the State of Alaska, will help ensure that the interests of Alaska and our citizens are advanced and safeguarded,” she said.

Sullivan’s resume is heavy with military, federal government and foreign policy experience. He has spent limited time practicing law. But he said skills in advocacy, negotiation and management are also important to an attorney general. His experience includes time in the White House as well as the State Department.

“My wife and I love Alaska, we were here for several years and always were interested in coming back,” he said. “Two of our kids were born here, we still own a house here.”

He is not related to Anchorage Mayor-elect Dan Sullivan.

Palin’s past picks for Alaska attorney general have been lightning rods for controversy.

The Legislature in April rejected her last choice, Wayne Anthony Ross, the first time in state history that a head of a state agency has failed to be confirmed by the Legislature. Her first attorney general, Talis Colberg, resigned in February under pressure from lawmakers over his attempt to quash legislative subpoenas in the “Troopergate” investigation of whether Palin abused her power and pressed for the firing of an Alaska State Trooper who was her former brother-in-law.

The Legislature will vote on Sullivan’s confirmation sometime after the next legislative session begins in January. The House and Senate judiciary committees will hold hearings on him, but early reaction was positive.

Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramras, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, predicted the Legislature would approve Sullivan “with accolades” on a unanimous vote.

“His primary character trait seems to be humility, which is in welcome contrast to the last attorney general designee,” said Ramras, referring to Ross. “His resume makes him probably overqualified for the position.”

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading figure in the Troopergate investigation, agreed that Sullivan “obviously has a very impressive resume.”

“We still need to have a conversation with him about how he feels about issues crucial to Alaskans,” French said.

As for the amount of time Sullivan has been gone from Alaska, French said “there are many talented Alaskan lawyers and, indeed, talented lawyers within the (Alaska) department of law.”

“And as a former department of law employee, I had some hopes that the governor would promote from within. But I think Mr. Sullivan has distinguished himself in a variety of legal areas. We’ll see through the hearing process whether he’s able to get a handle on Alaskan issues,” French said.

Sullivan said his first act after Palin announced he had the job Tuesday was to send out letters to each legislator letting them know how serious he is about working with them. He said called up several legislative leaders to convey the same message.


Sullivan, 44, is originally from the Cleveland area and went to Harvard University for his undergraduate degree. He received a law degree and master’s in foreign service in 1993 from Georgetown University, where he met his eventual wife, Julie Fate of Fairbanks.

Fate was working for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens at the time and was later a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She’s the daughter of former Alaska state representative Hugh Fate and Mary Jane Fate, whose positions have included co-chairwoman of the Alaska Federation of Natives, president of the Rampart Village Corp. and regent at the University of Alaska.

After law school, Sullivan went to officer candidate school in the U.S. Marines and was on active duty until moving to Alaska in 1997. He remains a major in the Marine reserves.

Sullivan clerked for U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andrew Kleinfeld of Fairbanks from 1997 to 1998 and for then-Chief Justice Warren Matthews of the Alaska Supreme Court until 1999. He joined the Anchorage office of the law firm Perkins Coie in 2000, where he practiced business and corporate law.

Sullivan, in a Tuesday interview, refused to say who his clients were at Perkins Coie. He said he considers that to be a confidentiality issue.

Sullivan, asked about potential conflict of interest questions with those clients, said “one of the first things I’m going to do is meet with the ethics attorney and walk through what the procedure is in regards to conflicts.”

Sullivan said he takes it seriously and would abide by the procedure to the letter. It’s been an issue in the past with the job. Gregg Renkes, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist and political consultant with no prior experience practicing law in Alaska, was named attorney general by Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2002 only to resign less than three years later after being investigated for his role in a state trade deal that could have benefited a company in which he had financial ties.


Sullivan left Alaska in 2002 after receiving a White House fellowship from Bush. “The reason I left Alaska was pretty straightforward, to serve my country in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, we were away a little bit longer than we anticipated,” he said.

He was with the White House as a director in the International Economics Directorate for the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Sullivan was called to active duty with the Marines in 2004 as an adviser to the U.S. Central Command.

Bush then appointed Sullivan to be assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs from June 2006 until the Obama administration took over in January. Sullivan oversaw a staff of 200 at the state department, according to the governor’s office.

“Dan was a trusted colleague of mine, both at the White House and State Department. I frequently relied on his sound judgment and expertise,” former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice said in a written statement.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she’s known Sullivan and his wife for many years.
“Dan’s recent accomplishments as assistant secretary of state have already benefited Alaska. I personally worked with him on a number of these matters, including Law of the Sea and our country’s new Arctic policy,” she said.

Sullivan said he also worked with the Canadian government on the question of what agreements, if any, would be needed if a natural gas pipeline were constructed from the North Slope through Canada to the Lower 48.

The current chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, Dana Fabe, said she remembers Sullivan from his time clerking for the court. She said he’s a good lawyer and leader who organized the law clerks to participate in the Toys for Tots program at Christmas. “I think he’s just a terrific attorney and has all the qualities needed to be an excellent attorney general,” Fabe said.

Sullivan said he’s been looking to get back to Alaska for years.

Mark Kroloff, the chief operating officer for the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said Sullivan called him up and said he and his family were hoping to return to Alaska. Sullivan was asking about what was happening within the state’s business and political community. “I (told him I) thought there was a lot of opportunity here for him in the political or business world.” Kroloff said.

He said he wasn’t sure how Sullivan came to the attention of Palin. Sullivan declined to get into specifics of who called who, saying “there was a sense of a possible mutual interest,” and he started talking to the governor’s office about the attorney general position. He said it wasn’t set up through Washington, D.C., Republicans, but rather during trips to Alaska in recent months.

The Alaska Bar Association registry lists Sullivan with an address in Bethesda, Maryland, but he said he’s now moved back into his home in Anchorage. Records show he received permanent fund dividends at Alaska addresses from 1999 through 2002, and then in 2003 with a Washington, D.C., address.

He voted absentee in Alaska elections as recently as 2008.

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