Exciting news for those who care about ending corruption in Alaska. The application to the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections requesting certification of an initiative to outlaw one’s personal use of one’s public office to enrich one’s self has been approved by the Division of Elections and the Lieutenant Governor.
The proposal reads:
"Anyone found using their public office to enrich themselves, their relatives, close friends, business associates; past, present, or anticipated employers or contributors, is guilty of a class A felony. Anyone found securing enrichment by inducing public officials to violate this statute is guilty of bribery, a class A felony.”
Believe it or not, what you just read is totally legal. It is only on rare occasions in which an agreement for a kickback can be proven that such actions are prosecuted. Even if the kickback is obvious, it is generally not prosecutable unless the prosecutor has possession of proof that the perpetrators agreed that the kickback was only to be delivered if the appropriations were made.
Because such evidence was obtained through years of FBI surveillance, Alaska has seen eleven successful political corruption convictions over the past two years. One thing I have learned from my involvement in the investigations of those convicted is that for every kickback that could be proven there were ten crooks that successfully covered their tracks.
As bribery laws read today, proof that an elected official earmarked a billion dollar government contract to a business partner who later decided to pay that elected official a million dollar “consulting fee” isn’t enough. Even when the kickback is obvious, unless the prosecutor also has proof that a “consulting fee” was in fact agreed to as a bribe to be paid in compensation for the participating public official’s earmarked contract, the prosecutor will not prosecute.
Unfortunately, evidence of such corruption is usually limited to nebulous winks and nods. Under current law, the mind reading abilities of the observers of such winks and nods would have to become admissible in a court room to prosecute the overwhelming majority of such cases. This initiative would change that by making the delivery of appropriations to family, contributors, and business partners a serious crime regardless of whether a kickback is demonstrated.
The above described ballot proposition holds two other strategic advantages that will become apparent when the question of to pass or not to pass is put before the voters. When preparing the ballot, the Lieutenant Governor is required to provide a fifty word description of all voter propositions. An unappealing description from the Lieutenant Governor has often been used to deter voter acceptance of ballot propositions. If a proposition is fifty words or less, it goes on the ballot verbatim.
Consequently this proposal can’t be easily misrepresented and it is highly unlikely that any campaign could persuade voters to vote against something that effectively says: "If you use your public office to enrich your self, you go to jail." It will need no advertising to gain voter approval and no amount of advertising in opposition is likely to stop it.
Concerned citizens in many states have unsuccessfully attempted to address corruption through voter initiatives. If this proposition can be made to work in Alaska, it will very likely become a model for the same concerned citizens to try again. If it becomes law in enough states congress will eventually be forced to address this issue in federal statutes.
We now need to organize volunteers and raise about $50,000 to gather signatures if this proposition is to become law. If you want to help, call or email me, Ray Metcalfe, at RayinAK@aol.com or call 907-344-4514.
image - Ray Metcalfe speaking in favor of Rikki Ott's proposal for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Outlawing personhood for corporations), at the 2008 Cook Inletkeeper Muckraker Ball