Ethics In The Alaska Legislature

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Contributed by Lance Roberts

Alaska is a strange state when it comes to ethics and integrity. It’s talked about a lot, but it’s all talk. We got a few more examples recently. Nope, I’m not going to talk about the two Dems who have just quit the House because of the charges brought against them or the way the House Majority handled it. I’m going to look at the “conservatives” in this article, examining both recent and some historical incidents.

On January 31st, the House voted to remove Representative David Eastman from the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics on a 31-6 vote. There was no hearing and no due process. A subcommittee of the Ethics Committee (read: just a few legislators) brought forward the charge, and the House committed one of the most shameful acts ever done in that body. No proof was presented and no defense was allowed. Representative Eastman was permitted only to object and make a statement on the floor. While a few conservative legislators voted to support him in his request for a hearing, the majority voted to remove him from that committee without a hearing. 

Their behavior was inexcusable since even in the worst circumstance, justice demands that due process be followed. It’s also blindingly obvious that he couldn’t have been guilty. He was accused of revealing confidential information in the spring of last year, yet wasn’t in a position to have any confidential information shared with him until much later, in August. Ultimately, it appears that the liberals and moderates in the House were getting back at Representative Eastman for his conservative stances and votes.

On February 1st, a letter was published from the Legislative HR director accusing Senator David Wilson of retaliation against a staffer whom the Senator had been accused of harassing. The staffer had never filed a complaint. An investigation found that Senator Wilson was innocent of that charge. The letter claimed he retaliated because he spoke against how Speaker Edgmon was handling the situation, and that the Speaker should step down. The HR director then stated that if the Speaker was to do that he’d lose a staffing position, and that might end up being that staffer. 

So somehow the possibility of that event meant that Wilson was retaliating. Wouldn’t that mean that when the Speaker asked Representative Fansler to resign for hitting a woman (and he admitted that had happened) that since his staff would be out of a job that he was harassing Fansler’s staff? But there’s more: The director also stated that since Wilson claimed the alleged incident didn’t happen, that itself was retaliation. So now just proclaiming your innocence is retaliation. Again, another travesty of justice.

In this state, it’s well known that APOC, the Alaska Public Offices Commission, is primarily used as a weapon to take out people who might miss some letter of the law or could be perceived as missing it. What is not as well-known is how weaponized the Ethics rules and committees are in the Legislature. Fear of the Ethics Committee has prevented one conservative senator from making a pro-life pledge. He’s afraid that the Ethics Committee will come down on him for pledging his support for the issue of life.

Last September, Representative Tammie Wilson was brought up on ethics charges because she had mailed postcards to constituents on an air quality issue. The so-called Ethics Committee accused her of using state resources. As Representative Wilson pointed out, she didn’t. However, she did admit to the mistake of putting the LIO return address on some postcards. But guess what? She wasn’t allowed to speak to the committee. Again, no due process was allowed by this weaponized committee.

Finally, one more incident comes to mind. Half a dozen years back, a very conservative man from Stony River, Alan Dick, was in the Legislature. Being an educator, he was put in charge of the Education Committee. While in that position, he held off an incredibly liberal agenda that was undermining education. Representative Dick was so effective at holding back the Common Core bill that the speaker of the House, Mike Chenault, re-routed it to other committees to get it passed. At the end of his term, Representative Dick was brought up on ethics charges for doing things like sleeping in his office and other inconsequential items, and then fined a lot of money. This was revenge by the liberals and moderates for someone standing on conservative principles.

What you’ll find is that a lot of the APOC and ethics charges are brought against true conservatives with the help of those who only pretend to be conservative. In the end, like with all political issues, it’s easy to determine who is who by the way they vote; that is, when you actually have a vote to see. Otherwise, you have to dig a little to find out what’s going on. True conservatives are the ones who stand on principle, speak truth to power, and work and vote for what is right. 

In this upcoming election year, please truly vet your candidates. Find out if they’re really willing to stand on principle.