Berkowitz and Benson Announce Part IV of Alaskan Ownership Stake - EthicsDear Fellow Alaskans:
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
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,
www.EthanBerkowitz.com. 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.
Paid for by Energize Alaska, PO Box 91365, Anchorage, AK 99509
Posted: October 2, 2010
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