JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller said Monday he will no longer answer reporters' questions about his background and personal life, following what he called a leak of his personnel record from when he served as a government attorney.
Miller offered no proof of this during a brief news conference in Anchorage, saying only that he'd learned over the weekend that members of the media had gained access to his confidential file from his work with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
An assistant borough attorney, Jill Dolan, said Monday that she did not know of any confidentiality breach. An attorney for Miller didn't return a message.
Miller called it the "latest political attack" against him and his family, and an effort to divert attention from the real issues of the race.
"We've drawn a line in the sand," he said. "You can ask me about background, you can ask me about personal issues, I'm not going to answer them. I'm not. This is about the issues. ... This is about moving this state forward, and that's our commitment."
Miller's candidacy has drawn increased scrutiny since his upset of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the August GOP primary.
Miller, a lawyer making his first statewide run for public office, was thrust into the national political debate with an endorsement last June by Sarah Palin. He's become a tea party favorite with a message that favors stronger states rights and calls for federal spending to be reined in. He also has won backing from within the Republican establishment – including the state GOP, National Republican Senatorial Committee and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., whom Miller mentioned when asked during a debate which sitting senator he most admired.
In recent weeks, it has been reported that Miller, who has called for an end to the "welfare state," received federal farm subsidies for land he owned in Kansas in the 1990s and that he and his wife received low-income hunting and fishing licenses when they first moved to Alaska and he was fresh from law school.
Miller also acknowledged his family also received Medicaid for a period and that his wife briefly received unemployment benefits.
While critics, including Murkowski, have labeled him a hypocrite for accepting the types of benefits he now has concerns about or opposes as federally run programs Miller sees things differently. He has said he doesn't receive benefits currently and that, for a time, he and wife Kathleen struggled, like many others, and needed the help.
He also has argued that states should be given the authority to decide benefits or administer programs like unemployment.
"Now, I'll admit, and I've said this before, I'm a man of flaws. There's no question about it," he said. "You know, I wasn't born with a silver spoon."
On Monday, he said he and his wife are probably the "most disclosed couple" in Alaska politics in recent history – "You know virtually everything about us," he said – and said he believes that much of what has come to light has been the result of "journalistic impropriety."
He singled out the Alaska Dispatch as focusing on "negative" stories about him. The blog broke the farm subsidy story and is among the outlets that have probed into his background, including his employment at the borough.
The Dispatch said Monday that it had sued the Fairbanks North Star Borough for release of Miller's employment records.
A batch of documents was released before the primary but they were at-times heavily redacted, and Miller's campaign held a news conference at the time to discuss them. Miller has asked the borough to waive attorney-client privilege before agreeing to any greater disclosure. Dolan said she's twice written Miller's attorney, seeking clarification on what he considers privileged but hasn't heard back.