Reps. Clavin Schrage, I-Anchorage, left, and David Eastman, R-Wasilla, discuss a bill on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives to enact limits on individual contributions to political campaigns, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Reps. Clavin Schrage, I-Anchorage, left, and David Eastman, R-Wasilla, discuss a bill on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives to enact limits on individual contributions to political campaigns, on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: The Oath Keepers and Eastman’s political future

” … even though he condemned the violence on Jan. 6, he had passively given aid to the Oath Keepers”

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Monday, October 10, 2022 10:40pm
  • Opinion

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, isn’t on trial with members of one of the two private militias charged with seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But the verdict in their case may well influence the outcome of civil lawsuit seeking to have him disqualified from serving in Alaska’s Legislature.

Last January, Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes and 10 others were indicted for conspiring to use force to prevent, hinder or delay “the lawful transfer of presidential power.” In early August, Randall Kowalke, a resident in Eastman’s district, filed a lawsuit alleging Eastman is a member of the Oath Keepers. He argued the disloyalty clause in Alaska’s Constitution prohibits anyone “who aids or belongs to” such groups from holding state office. The case is set to go to trial in December.

Eastman didn’t participate in the insurrection. The day after it happened, he condemned those who did, and properly called for them to be “be speedily identified and put before a jury of their peers for public trial.”

That was a year before members of the Oath Keepers were indicted. He’s since admitted he received a lifetime membership certificate after giving them a donation in 2009. And he won’t deny that he remains a member and won’t disavow support for the group.

In an Anchorage Superior Court hearing two weeks ago, Judge Jack McKenna found those facts give Kowalke “a clear probability of success” in proving Eastman is still a member. And based on the “limited record” presented in the case, his argument that “the Oath Keepers are an organization that advocates the overthrow of the United States government” may also prevail.

A guilty verdict in their seditious conspiracy trial will certainly support Kowalke’s case. At this point though, Rhodes and his crew are presumed innocent. Eastman remains eligible to hold office. And until both cases are decided in court, it would be wise for the rest of us to refrain from concluding otherwise.

That’s part of the due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Indeed, McKenna decided not to order Eastman’s name be removed from November’s general election ballot because he hasn’t had a chance to properly defend himself.

It also speaks to a troubling irony that Eastman doesn’t seem to grasp.

Clearly, his predicament is directly tied to the action of Rhodes and his co-defendants. Like them, he’s been presuming massive fraud occurred during the presidential election. Which equates to denying the due process rights of the officials who certified the election results.

Of course, it all began with Donald Trump’s baseless pronouncement on election night. “Frankly, we did win this election,” he said with several million votes yet to be counted in crucial swing states. “This is a major fraud on our nation.”

After Joe Biden was declared the winner, Trump’s campaign and his surrogates filed more than 60 lawsuits in those states. In not one did they present credible evidence of fraud. Some of the attorneys even admitted they weren’t claiming it occurred.

They lost all but two cases, neither of which changed the outcome in those states. By Dec.1, Trump’s own attorney general admitted “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Had Trump conceded defeat then, there wouldn’t have been an insurrection on Jan. 6. And no subsequent federal investigation resulting in the seditious conspiracy charges against the Oath Keepers.

Instead, they face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Their defense is they acted in anticipation of Trump invoking the Insurrection Act, which per Rhodes’ attorney, Trump could have done based on “what he perceived as a conspiracy to deprive a class of persons in several states of their voting rights.”

‘Perceived’ implies the truth that Trump never had credible evidence of election fraud.

But as Eastman wrote two days after the insurrection, the “political narrative” that Biden won the election is “utterly uncompelling.” Which means that even though he condemned the violence on Jan. 6, he had passively given aid to the Oath Keepers cause of preventing Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

Now Eastman’s political future is tied to their fate. And he’s got no one to blame but himself if he’s disqualified from serving in Alaska’s Legislature.

Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Old models of development are not sustainable for Alaska

Sustainability means investing in keeping Alaska as healthy as possible.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveils proposals to offer public school teachers annual retention bonuses and enact policies restricting discussion of sex and gender in education during a news conference in Anchorage. (Screenshot)
Opinion: As a father and a grandfather, I believe the governor’s proposed laws are anti-family

Now, the discrimination sword is pointing to our gay and transgender friends and families.

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth works in his office on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Now is the time to invest in Kenai Peninsula students

Parents, educators and community members addressed the potential budget cuts with a clear message.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: An accurate portrayal of parental rights isn’t controversial

Affirming and defining parental rights is a matter of respect for the relationship between parent and child

Opinion: When the state values bigotry over the lives of queer kids

It has been a long, difficult week for queer and trans Alaskans like me.

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Voices of the Peninsula: Let’s bring opioid addiction treatment to the Alaskans who need it most

This incredibly effective and safe medication has the potential to dramatically increase access to treatment

Unsplash / Louis Velazquez
Opinion: Fish, family and freedom… from Big Oil

“Ultimate investment in the status quo” is not what I voted for.

An orphaned moose calf reared by the author is seen in 1970. (Stephen F. Stringham/courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Maximizing moose productivity on the Kenai Peninsula

Maximum isn’t necessarily optimum, as cattle ranchers learned long ago.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The time has come to stop Eastman’s willful and wanton damage

God in the Bible makes it clear that we are to care for the vulnerable among us.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June, 2001. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: AIDEA’s $20 million-and-growing investment looks like a bad bet

Not producing in ANWR could probably generate a lot of money for Alaska.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: King salmon closures long overdue

Returns have progressively gone downhill since the early run was closed in June 2012

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Fixing legislative salaries and per diem

The state Senate was right to unanimously reject giving a 20% pay… Continue reading