By John D. Lyle
December 13, 2007
Carlson isn't alone in her dissatisfaction with status quo Alaska politics. Local political writer Douglas Yates voices a harsher tone in his recent DNM piece in which he also takes the GOP to task, specifically for crony indebtedness and payoffs from years of being awash on oil money. For some, Yates' description of a stinking mess is an understatement, yet to be sure, Republicans don't have a monopoly on greed and corruption. Resolutions similar to Carlson's should be presented to the Democratic and to all Alaska's political parties.
Despite apparent indifference by Alaska's GOP upper echelon, Carlson's resolution also reflects sentiments of another Alaskan. In a 9/2/07 Anchorage Daily News interview, Governor Sarah Palin says that changes in Alaskan politics should be regarded as positive and welcome. Indeed, she says, changes are desperately needed and inevitable.
Palin doesn't shy away from mentioning Alaska's state and federal representatives as well as VECO and the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC). "Alaska has got to change its image", she says. "The only way that we are going togain the trust of the rest of the United States is to prove that we can do things right...honestly and transparently." Arguably, regaining the trust of everyday Alaskans is just as important.
Perhaps others should take notice. According to the DNM, Representative Don Young has received $180,000 from VECO since 1993, including more than $34,000 from VECO's Smith and Allen alone. Young states that he has no intention of returning any VECO money.
Not surprisingly, critical reactions to Alaska's unfolding GOP scandals ripple from coast to coast. Newspaper opinion pages echo with voices like those of Carlson, Yates and Palin coming from diverse political perspectives, yet they point to similar deficits in our political system. Buying influence has been nifty for wealthy CEO's but not so great for average folks. Whether Republican or Democrat, big money in politics erodes our trust, increases cynicism and cheapens the nature of the election process despite obscene amounts of money burned up on campaign advertising. What can be done?
Alaskans for Clean Elections, a statewide grassroots group, is collecting 23,000 signatures required to place a Clean Elections initiative on the 2008 ballot. Supporters see the initiative as a significant step in reducing corruption by removing corporate and special interest money from politics. The initiative would publicly fund elections with candidates gathering required numbers of signatures and small donations in order to qualify for public funding. They also agree to strict spending limits.
Benefits include affirming the principle of one person/one vote; increasing accountability of elected officials; creating genuine opportunities for qualified individuals to run for office; and reducing incessant demands of fund raising, thus tempering the explosive growth of campaign spending (and influence buying).
Clean elections initiatives are nothing new. They're already working in Arizona and Maine. Former Governor Wally Hickel endorses the initiative, as do the Lake/ Peninsula Borough; Bristol Bay Borough; City and Borough of Sitka; and the Homer City Council. In fact, recent polls conducted by the Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG) show that 69.8% of Alaskans support the Clean Elections initiative.
Submitting resolutions urging political parties to clean up their act is a worthy step, yet more needs to be done. Don't hold your breath that most politicians will readily relinquish cushy feathering for their nests. Clean Elections allows disgruntled, disgusted voters of all political stripes to change the rules, forcing elected officials to truly be more ethical and transparent, as we expect them to be.
Governor Palin ends her interview with a strong admonition: "If you want to be in public service, it's being willing to serve Alaskans for the right reasonsnot to get rich". Alaskans For Clean Elections' Tim June wholeheartedly agrees, adding, "With clean elections, Alaskans can once again trust that elected officials are doing the work of the people, not the bidding of their large campaign contributors".
For more information contact: www.alaskansforcleanelections.org. The initiative and poll results can be found at: www.akpirg.org.
John D. Lyle
About: "John Lyle rides a bicycle, gardens and cuts firewood in Cloudberry, Alaska."
Received December 12, 2007 - Published December 13, 2007
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