Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Different Kinda Lost Angel: Ridin Dirty in politics

The following is an excerpt written by Mike Doogan. I like to call it a future version of "Lost Angels"

"...Until May 1994, Knowles was just another liberal Democrat with ambitions. Then -- in an essay in the Voice of the Times, owned by Veco chairman Bill Allen -- Knowles sided with the oil industry in a tax fight with the state. Soon after taking the oath of office, he made a tour of oil capitals, accompanied by Allen.

During Knowles' first legislative session, he pushed through a bill that allowed oil companies to pay less for leases, a benefit for BP. This session, he's pushing a deal that would lower BP's payments on Northstar.

In 1995, almost all of the $45,000 that Arco, Veco and BP gave to the Democratic Party was paid at the time of Knowles' inauguration, a midsummer fishing trip fund-raiser for Knowles, or a December fund-raiser for a fund that Knowles uses to pay personal and political expenses. Last year was the first time in the 1990s that any of the companies gave more money to the Democratic Party than to the Republican Party. That company was BP.

What is the relationship between all Knowles' effort and all the companies' money?
"For too long, Alaska Republicans have managed to extract the majority of campaign dollars from the oil industry," said Bob King, Knowles' press secretary. "Alaska's political chemistry changed last year when Democrats led the way in keeping the industry healthy. Hopefully, voters will also appreciate what the industry has come to know when election time comes around."

From the companies' point of view, the campaign contributions are good investments. If you were BP, wouldn't you invest $350,000 if what you got in return was $100 million? When you're dealing in those sorts of numbers, even Arco's $750,000 seems like chump change.

But not to the politicians. To them, it's a lot of money. That's one reason legislative Republicans are trying to pass their bill and block Knowles' bill, and vice versa. Each side wants the credit. Of course, they've got the perfect compromise. Pass both bills. That way the companies get everything they want. And the money keeps flowing.

Is there a statute of limitations on politicking? Doogan now supports the guy. And how far back can the FBI investigate such influence peddling?

Fast foward to......................

The Democratic Machinery was out the past few days with writing letters to the editors..........

Voters should know whom they are voting for and who paid their way

If the events of the past couple weeks have taught us anything, it is that as voters we have to be more vigilant. We should not leave it to the whistle-blowers or the FBI to keep the Alaska Legislature free of influence dealing. Power traders will always be with us, pushing the envelope whenever they can get away with it. That seems to be the nature of our system of democracy, albeit the downside. We shouldn't sit back and snicker about it; let's do something.

We can follow the lead of House District 24 Rep. Berta Gardner, who has been quietly promoting ethics reform in Juneau, at times inviting the ire of her colleagues. She has gained a reputation for being tough, fair and independent in her first term as a legislator. And no, she has not this election accepted any Veco gifts. But her Republican opponent, Darwin Peterson, has this election accepted thousands of dollars in Veco funds, according to Alaska Public Offices Commission reports.

Alaska voters need to pay close attention to our system of government, to keep it as clear as possible of influence peddling. One way is to register and to vote in every election and to know who you're voting for.

---- Sylvia M. Carlsson

EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer is vice chair of House District 24 Democrats.

FBI raids should have come as no surprise to people watching GOP

Why do we need FBI raids in Juneau to tell us what we should already know? The Republican leadership has acted as if they are being sold to special interests.

From Alaska Republican Party Chair Randy Ruedrich to former Attorney General Gregg Renkes to former state Sen. Scott Ogan to Sen. Ben Stevens, Republicans appear focused on their own personal interests. They refuse to establish or enforce boundaries when it comes to their relationships with big money outside interests.

At the other end of the hall are Democrats Rep. Berta Gardner and Sen. Hollis French. They proposed legislation that would have required any legislator with a consulting contract to actually disclose the work performed in exchange for money. Of course, that bill couldn't get passed last session, for obvious reasons. If it wasn't so unethical, it would have been amusing to see how elected officials justified their consulting fees for their work actually performed.

I want elected officials who put Alaskans ahead of special and personal interests. Rep. Gardner and Sen. French, thanks for your efforts. They have my support.

---- Patti Higgins

EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer is co-chair of the Anchorage Democrats.

Now what about the Corrupt Bastards Club? Let's see what the Alaska Supreme Court had to say about corruption.

First to former Governors of this state.

Applicable to this issue is the general evidence of the influence of money and political system corruption and appearance of corruption. [Fn. 112] In addition, two former Alaska governors submitted affidavits in which they affied that contributions from outside the state create serious loyalty problems. Former Governor Walter Hickel stated that "whenever a candidate has to seek donations from outside the state, the candidate is buying a potential conflict of interest." Former
Governor Jay Hammond stated that :

"...[t]he necessity of having to raise substantial sums of money from non- Alaska resident contributors discourages many qualified Alaskans from becoming candidates. And it taints those who do. How can the average Alaska voter believe that a candidate who has accepted thousands of dollars from non-Alaska resident contributors who have pecuniary interests at stake in the votes the candidate will cast if he or she is elected is not obligated to the contributors as much as he or she is to the voters? And there is an unfortunate basis in fact for that perception. Once elected, it is all too easy for candidates to accommodate mores to money, particularly since non-Alaska resident contributors do not ask the candidates that their money has helped to elect to act unlawfully, and most issues of public importance are rarely black and white. It is amazing how a flash of green can help clarify an ambiguous policy choice."

Let's see, Doogan got money from Outside and Knowles certainly gets it.....

It's good to see the AkCLU defend their "Take."

"...AkCLU argues that absent "some evidence showing the corruptive influence of non-resident contributions, there can be no legitimate reason to preclude them from participating in the election process." It claims that these restraints are merely intended to "level the playing field," an insufficient justification. Because the contribution limits applicable to residents also apply to nonresidents, [Fn. 117] AkCLU contends that the State must show special corruption caused by out-of-state contributions in order to uphold additional restrictions on nonresidents. It cites evidence discussing contributions by out- of-state groups as minimal, but the sources cited use a far less expansive definition for nonresidence than the statute, making the evidence an unreliable barometer of the statute's impact."

The Court went on:

Michael Frank attached to his affidavit copies of newspaper articles and columns to support his contention that people are generally "fed up" with the corruption of the system as it currently stands. These include: (1) an ADN editorial pointing out the conflicts of interest on a tax issue faced by legislators who received money from the oil industry. "It's absurd to believe that any legislator can receive thousand of dollors from mighty contributors and remain totally unaffected by it," the editorial argues; (2) an ADN article about the proposed initiative, quoting lobbyist Jerry Reinwand as saying "I can't imagine anything more distasteful than the system we have now." The article also quotes AKPIRG director Stephen Conn as criticizing the system for making politicians beholden to large contributors, and as saying "[t]he game seems rigged right from the beginning"; (3) an ADN editorial column by Howard Weaver articulating the view that "[a]s the price of politics gets higher, politicians are necessarily forced to pay more attention to those who can give them money"; (4) an ADN editorial criticizing a state senator who had dismissed the public concern that contributions taint state politics as "a great paranoid myth." The editorial mocked the senator's statement as patently false; (5) an ADN column by Mike Doogan implying that Governor Tony Knowles's stance on some issues is governed by the fact that British Petroleum was a large contributor to Knowles's political party, the Democratic Party; and (6) an ADN article quoting David Finkelstein as saying, "It's obvious that much of what goes on is buying influence, not influencing elections."

(emphasis added)

And what about unions and PACs that contributed to Doogan and Knowles?

The State introduced substantial evidence -- discussed in Part II -- generally relating to corruption and the appearance of corruption. Some of the State's evidence discussing both expenditures and contributions confirms the disproportionate influence of corporate and labor union participation recognized in Austin.

For example, Larry Makinson states in Open Secrets that the top fifty contributors (not including political parties) donated about a third of the dollars received by Alaska legislative candidates in the 1986 election. [Fn. 79] These fifty consisted of twenty-one corporations, nine labor unions, eight PACs and trade associations, six law and lobbying firms, and six individuals. [Fn.80]

Former Alaska Governor Steve Cowper affied that under the old rules "[c]ontributions were bundled by corporations and unions from officers and employees associated with them so that greater amounts were given to candidates thereby increasing the amount given to a particular candidate and increasing the influence of the core contributor." He also stated that "[t]hese business entities are given a special ability to accumulate money for business purposes . . . . Because of the wealth of unions and corporations, they can obtain more influence over elected officials than the individuals who elect them."

I would say Doogan and Knowles have no room to talk ... If you look at their APOC reports, it looks as if they are ridin dirty.........

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