Parnell Goes ‘Christie’ – Shakedown in Ketchikan
“Gov. Sean Parnell’s warning that he might shut off Ketchikan’s access to state construction funds in retaliation for its lawsuit challenging state education funding reverberated Friday as a kind of ‘Chris Christie’ moment.”
That’s not me saying that. That’s Richard Mauer in the Anchorage Daily News.
What makes Parnell’s Christie moment even more remarkable than even Chris Christie’s “Christie moment,” is that the statement you’re about to read didn’t come cloaked in speculation. Nobody wondered if Parnell knew about the shakedown. There are no subpoenas, or investigations. There is no in-depth political analysis or speculation about what the governor knew and when he knew it.
The governor announced his abuse of power out loud and into a microphone, directly to the community whose cooperation he was trying to extort.
Parnell was in the southeast Alaska community of Ketchikan Thursday, giving interviews to KRBD public radio, and the Ketchikan Daily News.
Mauer reports that “In a barely veiled threat, he told both that the Ketchikan borough’s lawsuit could have ‘unintended consequences’ with both him and the Legislature when it came time to dealing with Ketchikan’s capital projects.”
“I do want to address this issue of how the lawsuit is viewed by legislators and by me because it does shade or color the reaction to Ketchikan requests,” the Ketchikan Daily News reported.
“When Ketchikan asks for money, but yet the state may be on the hook in the lawsuit for more money, there’s kind of a reluctance, or reticence, to step forward for other projects,” Governor Parnell told KRBD.
Last month, the Ketchikan Borough filed suit against the state, arguing against a state law which would mandate that their school district use local taxes to help pay for their schools, while more rural areas in the state are funded entirely with state money.
“With that uncertainty out there for the lawsuit, it’s a pretty tough sell to legislators to go ask for hydro projects,” Parnell told the Ketchikan newspaper. “It may seem unconnected because it’s a school-district thing and it’s a local property-tax thing, but it call comes from the same pocket — the state’s pocket.”
Yes, Governor. It may “seem unconnected” because it’s actually supposed to be unconnected. Connecting one to the other means that there’s this thing called quid pro quo, corruption, and abuse of power. But apparently this is so run-of-the-mill for this administration and its supporters in the legislature, that there’s no real reason to “veil” this threat. Heck, just blab it out there live on the air.
Allow me to translate that little beauty through the New Jersey filter, for those of you out there who are more comfortable with that particular lingo.
“So, uh… Ketchikan. It would be a shame if something were to happen to your pretty little hydro project. I mean, you know, with the uh… distraction that’s happening with that lawsuit. Me and my people are having a hard time focusing. We don’t sleep with worry, and it takes up all our thoughts. You know what I’m sayin’?”
The news hit lawmakers in Juneau like a ton of bricks. “This is huge. People are just stunned. At least in New Jersey, they tried to hide it, not announce it in public,” said State Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) on the ‘Fridays in the Mud’ segment of the Shannyn Moore Show this week. “It’s stunning. I thought i misread it when I first read it.”
“That’s the problem you have in Alaska,” Wielechowski went on. It’s just rotten to the core. Retaliation has become sort of part of our political culture here in Alaska to the point now where they feel like they can go into chamber meetings with the press there and recorders running and just say it out loud…
“We need change. And ultimately who’s Parnell’s boss is the Alaskan people. And they’re going to have a chance in November to decide whether they want to keep that kind of person around or not.”
“Parnell has chosen the wrong time, the wrong issue, and the wrong people to show himself as a bulldog,” said Parnell’s Independent gubernatorial opponent, Bill Walker. “As an advocate for municipal government for over 30 years, I was shocked today to learn that Governor Parnell has threatened capital funding to Ketchikan as a result of Ketchikan standing up for its right to file suit against the State over the issue of education funding. We need a governor who knows when to go to battle and who he should be fighting for. The governor’s comments yesterday are a blatant, public attack on local government.”
Parnell’s Democratic opponent in November, Byron Mallott issued a statement saying, “The perceived threat in Governor Parnell’s Ketchikan statement and similar reaction to Parnell’s State of the State address regarding education funding and support for public funding for private schools are political tactics that cannot drive responsible public debate and action. The merits of the Ketchikan School funding lawsuit, education funding statewide and capital spending deserve careful and informed discussion and debate not threat or intimidation.”
We’ve seen what makes national news from other states. We’ve seen the moral outrage that results from a governor using his position to shake down small communities to get his way. But in Alaska, where this kind of thing is so routine, such “business as usual” that the governor regards it as business as usual, and speaks it out loud on the radio, and with a Republican governor, and a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate, will anything come of this?
In the suit filed by Ketchikan against the state, will the prosecution be able to complain that the defense (the state) has made threats against them unless the suit is dropped, or will they fear further retribution? Will there be investigations? Likely not.
The best solution to the Parnell problem, and the one-party corrupt rule in the House and Senate is to be found at the ballot box.