Alaskan Ownership Stake Part IV: "Restoring Constitutional Integrity"
Letter to Alaskans from Ethan on "Restoring Constitutional Integrity"
Dear Fellow Alaskan:
As part of my continuing series called "The Alaskan Ownership Stake", I am unveiling Part IV of the Stake: Restoring Constitutional Integrity. This part is designed to restore our faith and trust in the ethics and integrity at the highest levels of our state's government, specifically the Office of the Governor. This part focuses on revisions to two key Executive Branch elements regarding how we maintain accountability and transparency: the Attorney General and the Alaska State Personnel Board.
To recap, Part I of the stake allows individual Alaskans, Alaskan businesses and Alaska Native Corporations to Own a Piece of the Pipe, giving Alaskans an ownership stake in our economic future. Part II creates Lifetime Licenses for Hunting, Fishing and Trapping, thereby allowing Alaskans to stake their claim in Alaska's hunting and fishing resources. Part III, Open for Business, eliminates taxes on small businesses making less than $90,000 per year and drops Alaska's current corporate income tax rate from 9.4% down to 4.9%, moving us from the 5th worst tax regime to the 8th most competitive tax structure in the United States.
Part IV addresses the need to restore accountability in the Governor's office, and reclaim our stake in ethical, transparent government. Unfortunately for Alaskans, we have seen more than our share of abuses and disregard for the rule of law from our Governors' offices. Most recently, acting Governor Sean Parnell violated the Alaska Constitution on two separate occasions by hiring two sitting legislators for state jobs created just for them. The state's recent history is unfortunately laced with instances of dubious behavior concerning hiring and firing practices in the Executive Branch, and questionable ethical behavior and conflicts of interest involving the Attorney General.
To that end, I propose three fundamental changes that will improve the integrity of how ethics are enforced within the Executive Branch. First, the Attorney General, Alaska's "Top Cop", must have the independence to pursue policies and legal actions that are in the best legal interest of Alaskans. Second, the Governor's office will have its own legal counsel in order to eliminate any conflict of interest with the Department of Law – it must be clear that the AG represents the people of the State of Alaska, not the Governor. Third, it is time to insulate members of the Alaska Personnel Board from intervention by the Governor's office, or any other outside political influence.
First, the Attorney General must be free and independent of the whims of the Governor. That requires changes to the nomination and retention process involved with the office of the AG. Specifically, I propose to change the term of the AG from one who serves at the pleasure of the Governor to one whose tenure lasts the remainder of the appointing Governor's term. This would insulate the AG from the Governor's influence once the appointment and confirmation process are complete. The AG would thus be able to act as an independent arm of the government, not subject to the Governor's will. He or she will be free to pursue those legal actions and policies that are in the best legal interest of Alaska. Under this approach, the Governor could only remove the AG under very specific conditions of malfeasance, misappropriation or any other specifically enumerated illegal action that applies to all other state employees, including a violation of the ethics code.
Second, eliminate conflicts of interest within the Executive Branch, and make it clear that the Attorney General represents the people of the state and not the Governor. It is time to do what almost all other states do – establish a legal counsel whose chief role is to serve as the Governor's attorney. Forty-six other states do this, and by creating this position, we will avoid the conflicts of interest that have permeated the offices of recent Attorneys General in the last few administrations.
Third, change the way members of the state's Personnel Board are retained to eliminate the "fox guarding the hen house." One important function of the Personnel Board as defined by Alaska Statute is to hear complaints under the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act (AS 39.25.060). Currently, the Governor can remove a Personnel Board member for good cause. I propose removing that power from the Governor and instead placing it in the hands of either an independent Attorney General or by subjecting removal to a legislative process. The Governor should not have the ability to act as employer, judge and jury over the people charged with enforcing the Executive Branch Ethics Act. That is the ultimate "fox watching the hen house." In addition, I propose limiting Personnel Board members to one term of service, thereby taking away the incentive to act in accordance with their desire to seek reappointment.
My commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards in government is clear from my record of public service. I have time and again stood up to corruption and the lack of transparency. Alaskans have the right to a government accountable to us, not special interests or powerful politicians.
More information about the details of my proposal to restore integrity to the Governor's office can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions portion of my website. As Governor, and with your help, we can make sure Alaskans hold their elected officials to account – a fundamental component of the Owner State and our corresponding obligations of citizenship. Please go to my website, www.EthanBerkowitz.com, to learn more about The Alaskan Ownership Stake, and consider supporting my campaign so that we can implement these commonsense plans.