Sacrificing Accountability for Wretched Reasons


The Second1 Session of the current Legislature is only a few weeks away. The Alaska Legislature will be finding new ways to trash the state’s economy, wreck the statewide university system and spend down the remaining Constitutional Budget Reserve soon. The Republican majority caucus remains delusional, believing Alaska has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. As a consequence, that caucus will continue to be fiscally stupid. And there will be consequences.

John Havelock, a man WC admires very much, had opinion pieces in the Alaska Dispatch News recently, on  November 15, 2015 and on November 16, 2015. WC is largely in agreement with former Attorney General Havelock’s proposal, except that WC thinks a statewide sales tax is too regressive to be an acceptable revenue source. If something like a sales tax has to be implemented to capture seasonal tourism, then substitute a statewide tourism tax, reaching lodging, car rental and tourism activities.

But this post isn’t about the revenue side; it’s about the Legislature’s obsession with cutting the budget. And, in particular, the Republican’s efforts to zero out the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Alaskans know all too well what happens to the Alaska Legislature when our elected representatives think no one is watching. But, using Alaska’s budget woes as an excuse, the wolves are once again trying to trust them with the sheep.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) has two primary tasks: (1) assuring that elections are conducted with full disclosure of who is spending how much, and (2) making certain we know who is paying how much to lobbyists. Officially, its missions is

To encourage the public’s confidence in their elected and appointed officials by administering Alaska’s disclosure statutes and publishing financial information regarding the activities of election campaigns, public officials, lobbyists and lobbyist employers.

In this post-Citizens United world, when money flows like rain in a Southeast Alaska winter, tracing the money is the only way we have left of determining who is trying to buy our state legislators. And under current Alaska law, APOC is the only tool we have for tracing the money.

So naturally the Republican majority caucus has cut APOC to the bone, cutting the budget so severely that APOC has nearly been rendered toothless. Fully half of the staff positions are vacant. The Juneau office is down to a single employee.

You can see the next step coming, can’t you? WC predicts Senator Kelly or one of his pseudo-intellectual bedmates will say, “The APOC isn’t accomplishing anything; let’s get rid of it.” It’s the classic conservative agenda: first cripple an inconvenient agency you don’t like. Then kill it because it’s crippled. All in the name of cost-efficiency. The only cop on the beat gets fired. And we know what happens if you don’t watch these guys.

The FBI turns up with those videos again.

So contact your legislator, Alaskans. Tell them that APOC’s work is too important for their games. Fund the police so they can force an accounting, at least. WC won’t say. “Keep them honest.” It’s too late for that.

 


  1. Or third or fourth, depending on how you count ’em. 
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