When U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller set out in 2008 to overthrow the head of the Alaska Republican Party, the mission, to him, became far more dangerous than anyone might have imagined, according to his former co-workers at the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Politically speaking, working to overthrow the guy at the top was indeed a gutsy move. But Miller perceived risks greater than to just his reputation. He feared for his own life, his former co-workers said in interviews with Alaska Dispatch.
E-mails and other documents released Tuesday under court order relating to Miller's time as a part-time borough attorney allude to some of the Gulf War veteran's fears, including his belief that someone might hack into the borough's computer system.
It was around this same time -- March 2008 -- that Miller was caught using three of his co-workers' computers to pad a political poll on his personal website. After the incident, Miller, who at first lied about the computer usage, was placed on leave for about two weeks, followed by a three-day suspension without pay and six months probation.
For co-workers who had just days earlier heard Miller going on about personal threats and computer schemes, the timing of Miller's misuse of their computers was unsettling, spawning one more twist in a situation that seemed to grow stranger by the day.
Later that same week in 2008, hundreds of miles south in Anchorage, other people would make similar remarks about Miller's presence at the statewide Republican convention -- the very place where the political aspirant hoped Randy Ruedrich, the party's chairman, would be ousted. According to numerous sources, Miller arrived at the convention with bodyguards similar to those he had on hand at a town hall meeting at Central Middle School on Oct 17, where they handcuffed the editor of the Alaska Dispatch.
But Miller's employee files from the borough and the first-hand accounts by convention-goers tell only part of the story of Miller's quest to unseat Ruedrich.
In the shadow of the public power struggle -- the old guard versus the new Palin-led faction in the Alaska Republican Party -- the effort was taking a noticeable toll on Miller, who seemed unusually stressed and genuinely worried about his personal safety.
One of Miller's supervisors, borough attorney Rene Broker, wrote in a memo to Miller following the computer incident, "It has been apparent in the last several months that you are under significant stress and it has affected your judgment as evidenced by your actions on Mar. 12, 2008."
In interviews with Alaska Dispatch, Miller's former co-workers in the Fairbanks borough's legal department said the Senate candidate was paranoid, acting strangely in the days leading up to the computer polling incident and the state GOP convention in spring 2008, including telling them about plots against his life, computer hijacking, a bug in his office, and requesting that the mayor hire a security detail to protect Miller.
Although Miller's former co-workers declined to be identified, they collectively offered a look back at the things Miller was saying and doing in spring 2008 -- actions they summed up as "bizarre."
Based on their accounts, this political episode in Miller's life appears to derive more from an espionage thriller than a political playbook. What follows is Miller's co-workers' recollection of his strange and embroiled political mission and how it crossed over into their government workplace.