Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy appoints figure behind illegal loyalty-pledge scheme to university board

a statute outside
The University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed Tuckerman Babcock, a longtime Republican and former aide, to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. Babcock, together with the governor, orchestrated an illegal loyalty pledge scheme, a federal judge ruled two years ago.

The governor’s office announced Babcock’s appointment late Wednesday after the Alaska Legislature rejected a prior pick for the office. Lawmakers failed to confirm Bethany Marcum to the 11-person board in May.

Several sitting legislators said they believe Babcock is unlikely to be confirmed by the Legislature when it meets next spring. 

In Dunleavy’s first year, Babcock was a supporter of the governor’s plan to sharply cut spending on state services, including the university. Marcum’s support for those cuts in 2019 was cited as a reason for her failed confirmation this year.

Whether or not he is confirmed, Babcock will sit as a member of the board in the meantime, participating in the university’s annual budgeting process and debates on policies.

“Tuckerman’s experience serving in numerous statewide government positions and 10 years in business management makes him a great fit for the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement. “I am grateful for his continued service and commitment to the state of Alaska. I am confident that Tuckerman’s expert knowledge of public service and leadership will continue to help Alaska for the better.”

During his time as Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Babcock was found to have illegally fired three state employees as part of an illegal loyalty pledge scheme. 

The state agreed to pay almost half a million dollars to two Alaska Psychiatric Institute doctors to resolve a lawsuit stemming from the scheme. A separate case, involving former state attorney Libby Bakalar, is scheduled for a damages trial later this year.

Babcock ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2022, losing to fellow Republican Jesse Bjorkman in the race to replace Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna. He previously served as head of the Alaska Republican Party and as a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

Previous articleWasilla teacher who sexually abused students sentenced to 46 years
Next articleAlaska News Nightly: Thursday, June 1, 2023