JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller has acknowledged that he was disciplined for violating an ethics policy while working as a local government attorney in 2008.
The admission came Sunday night in an Anchorage debate with two rivals following a judge's order that his personnel file from his time at the Fairbanks North Star Borough be released. Several news organizations had sued for the information.
Speculation over the issue and Miller's earlier refusal to discuss it had become a key topic of the campaign.
After a former borough mayor said Miller was nearly fired for using government computers in a failed effort to oust the state GOP chairman in 2008, Miller told CNN he had violated ethics policy.
On Sunday, Miller said he was suspended for or docked three days' pay for participating in a private poll during his lunch hour. He said it was a mistake he's learned from.
Miller's critics have questioned his character in light of the issues stemming from his employment and disclosures that his family had received federal government benefits like Medicaid, unemployment and farm subsidies – benefits the fiscal conservative has raised concerns with as a candidate. Miller has said he no longer receives benefits.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who's running as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to Miller, questioned his fitness to serve in the Senate – a comment that drew loud jeers from the debate audience in Anchorage.
Miller said Alaskans probably know more about him than any other candidate. And he said that's probably a good thing because they "get to understand that, hey, they're electing somebody like them."
During a sometimes tense debate that also included Democrat Scott McAdams, Miller questioned Murkowski about her own past and a land deal in which she bought property in what some saw as a sweetheart deal. She had said she thought she'd paid fair market value and later sold it back.
She countered that her life has been open to scrutiny and took aim at Miller for being months-late in filing a required financial disclosure. She asked Miller what he thinks his fellow West Point graduates would think about the way he's conducted himself.
He said there are West Point graduates working on his campaign who know his "warts and all" and stand behind him "proudly."
He accused her campaign of working to dig up dirt on him and to "cheat" voters of a substanative debate on the issues facing the state and nation.
Former Alaska Governor and Miller supporter Sarah Palin pounced on Murkowski's West Point comments on Monday. In a tweet, Palin called Murkowski's comments a "horrific attack on Miller's military honor" and followed up with a Facebook post titled "Lisa's Gall vs. Joe's Honor."
The rivalry between Murkowski and Palin rivalry dates back to Murkowski's selection as a Senator by her father, then-Governor Frank Murkowski and Palin has decided to endorse Miller despite his recent comments that Palin qualifies -- minimally -- to run for the U.S. presidency.