Monday, September 28, 2009

Mat-Su Borough Elections - PA Endorsements - Part One - Mayor - Write In Katie Hurley

The two seriously enduring charges against Talis Colberg's term as Attorney General of the State of Alaska are the willful suppression of scientific information, and the key role he played in reshaping our state's executive department into a farcical lie machine (calling itself the "truth squad"), run by Ed O'Callaghan. Sadly, his pivotal roles in both of these dishonest policies have been linked together. The picture isn't pretty. It IS disgusting.

I've listened to a short segment from an Alaska Public Radio Network report (May 19th, 2008) on the state's refusal to share scientific information on how the status of the Polar Bear was decided amongst scientists employed by the state, several times this morning. In it, Colberg knowingly lies, as he states:

"It's not unique to this case, it's done all the time, and by attorneys who work for the Department of Law, and the purpose of it is to protect the "give-and-take" of the deliberative process when you have career state employees who are being asked to give their candid views in their assessment on things. Uhm, one of the things that helps them be candid and give their views is to understand that what they're doing is working through a process that won't necessarily intimidate them from saying what they want to say or how they want to approach some things."

In the same report Prof. Rick Steiner responded by observing, "That's an entirely bogus claim. They know it. Everyone in the scientific community knows it. Their staff biologists know it."

Steiner was hassled by Colberg, his staff and by other state employees for months. Steiner was un able to get the scientific information he wanted. After trying to charge Steiner about #400,000.00 for the information, the state then refused to provide it under any means. Soon afterward, Steiner received the same information the state denied him from the Federal government. For free.

Yereth Rosen wrote for the Christian Science Monitor about how this suppression of scientific information and any other information about the business of the people of Alaska being performed by members of the executive department, was an intentional move. The goal was to create a dishonest, falsely positive image of how our citizens' governor's employees performed their duties. Colberg's role in this new view of our state government was key:

If public-records requests are expensive, the Palin administration’s practices help make them so, says Gregg Erickson, a Juneau economist and former state revenue official who publishes a specialized newsletter on Alaska budget issues.

“They have taken the position that a lawyer has to look at every single record before its release. If a lawyer has to look at it and review it, and maybe write a legal opinion on it, well, that’s going to be expensive,” says Mr. Erickson. Court fights also add to the costs, he says.

Citizens and journalists who sought public records have been socked with huge bills. At one point, the Palin administration presented the Associated Press with a bill of $45 million for copies of official state e-mails sent to Palin’s husband, to the McCain campaign, and to federal agencies.

That practice predated Palin’s ascension to the national stage.

In December 2007, when University of Alaska marine scientist Rick Steiner sought reports detailing state biologists’ assessments about then-impending Endangered Species Act protections for polar bears, he received a $468,784 bill from the state. After a few months of haggling, Dr. Steiner turned to the Bush administration. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which had its own copies of state biologists’ reports, readily complied.

“They didn’t charge me a dime,” Steiner says. The reports showed that state biologists, contrary to Palin’s assertion, did not dispute a threatened listing for polar bears, Steiner says.

That and other episodes prove the Alaska Public Records Act should be reformed, says Steiner. Citizens cannot be expected to pay huge fees to view public documents, and secrecy exemptions should be narrowed, he says. Even if the state bears financial costs, he says, “that’s the cost of open government.” Given modern information technology, “it shouldn’t be that expensive at all.”

Regarding the takeover by the State of Alaska Executive Department by McCain campaign operatives, with the full acquiescence of Colberg, in the first days of September, 2008, this excerpt from a September 22, 2008 article in Mother Jones, by David Corn, is quite telling:

Over a week ago, McCain campaign aides began handling the investigation for Palin. The campaign dispatched Edward O'Callaghan, who recently had been a terrorism prosecutor in the Justice Department, to Alaska to oversee Palin's legal strategy. O'Callaghan then declared she would not cooperate with the inquiry. (Before becoming the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin had repeatedly vowed to cooperate. At one point, she said, "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide.") And last Thursday, O'Callaghan announced that Palin's husband, Todd, would not heed a subpoena to appear before a state legislative committee to testify about his role in Troopergate.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Talis Colberg, a Palin appointee, said that he would instruct state employees subpoenaed in the case to refuse to testify (after his Department of Law had already arranged for the state employees to cooperate). And Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein--who once was being paid by the state government and who now says he is being paid privately--last week released official state emails that the Palin camp pointed to as proof that Walt Monegan, the dismissed public safety commissioner, had been fired because of insubordination. (A month earlier Palin had given a reporter a much different account of what had happened with Monegan, and Monegan has produced records he claims undermine the insubordination argument.) Van Flein also sent a letter to Troopergate investigator Steve Branchflower saying that one reason Todd Palin was not complying with the subpoena was that the proceeding "with an ethics investigation involving the Governor during a period in which she is involved in a campaign for public office" is a violation "of due process under the Alaska Constitution." That is, a governor cannot be investigated for an ethics violation whenever he or she is campaigning for an office.

Ever since the McCain operatives became involved, the pushback against the investigation has been fierce. Five Republican legislators filed a lawsuit to stop the investigation, which had been unanimously endorsed by a bipartisan council of the state House and Senate. They claimed the probe was "a 'McCarthyistic' investigation" and was compromised because Democrats who supported the investigation were Obama backers. A Texas-based conservative legal outfit called the Liberty Legal Institute has been representing these lawmakers. Six Alaskan residents filed a similar but separate lawsuit. And the Republican Speaker of the House, John Harris, stepped back from his previous endorsement of the investigation.

The campaign against the investigation has been reminiscent of the Florida recount.

So, there you have it. Colberg was instrumental in the suppression of public information when it suited him and the aims of a very secretive, intensely dishonest chief executive. And he abetted the perhaps illegal leaking of similarly held information, when it suited him, and this perhaps sick individual, for whom he slavishly worked.

At this time, I can't imagine having anything to do with Colberg in government. I'm even evaluating how I might perform my role in organizations that seek to accomodate him in the Mat-Su Borough government.

I recommend either writing in some honest person like Katie Hurley for Mat-Su Mayor, or skipping that race entirely when in the ballot booth tomorrow.

images - Katie Hurley; Phil Munger & Talis Colberg

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