Election 2010: There’s Only One Road to Transparency in Alaska…
In June of 2009 I embarked on an idealistic journey. Thanks to many Alaskans and folks across the country, I was able to raise enough money so that the State of Alaska would release the Records Request they had been sitting on for months. When the emails arrived and the only “good stuff” was redacted or witheld due to bogus-sounding claims of “privilege,” I was not worried. I was sure that as soon as the email lawsuits brought by Andree McLeod and Don Mitchell against Palin were resolved (in McLeod/Mitchell’s favor…no one thought otherwise), I would then be able to go to court and get the emails the State had held out.
I was wrong.
The same week that SCOTUS made the horrific decision in the now-infamous Citizen’s United Case, Judge Patrick McKay made a similar type of decision with far-reaching implications for a (lack-of) transparency and accountability among Alaska government officials. Allowing private (and therefore un-archived) email accounts to be used for State business gives Alaska politicians authorization to hide their activities from the public. Judge McKay refused to reconsider his position and this was a terrible blow for Alaska’s already long-suffering “sunshine” laws.
But it got worse.
McLeod/Mitchell’s case against Palin’s claim of “privilege” based on “deliberative process” to justify witholding emails when private citizen, Todd Palin, was among the recipients also went terribly wrong. The same judge, Patrick McKay ruled that it was OK to count Todd Palin as an (unofficial) advisor – he then also denied an appeal. This allowed privilege to extend and Palin to keep the emails from the public. This ruling was made in spite of the fact that the way Todd skated out of Troopergate trouble was when Tim Petumenos claimed he was a private citizen.
(NOTE TO THE READERS: Judge Patrick McKay is up for a retention vote in just 12 short days — this is the same guy that got his second DUI this year.)
The decisions in these two cases taken together dashed any hopes I had of trying to get the emails I was looking for through the courts. One of the very sticky issues that quashes public activism…the fact that Alaska is a state that punishes the person who loses a lawsuit. The loser must pay the court/legal fees of the winners. With these two case rulings now in place, the risk was far too great.
During Palin’s reign as Mayor and then Governor, her lack of transparency (along with her lack of ethics) became legendary. However, her much quieter successor is no better. On October 5th, the State of Alaska sent out a 14TH REQUEST FOR AN EXTENSION ON A RECORDS REQUEST FILED TWO YEARS AGO:
Every one of Palin’s appointees who held up the records requests in the past are still in place…including those folks at Department of Law who take all of that time to redact everything.
While it’s true that Senator Johnny Ellis has a Bill in the Senate Rules Committee which deals with the private email issue as well as several others, everything would be made easier with a change in leadership. No matter how you feel about politics in Alaska regarding the gasline, education, family violence, the PFD, etc…there is one thing for certain — Sean Parnell has proven he will continue to hold up any information that he or Sarah Palin does not want to reach the public. The only way to change that is to vote for Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson for Governor and Lt. Governor.
Yes, it’s just that easy.