Comments of the day: Should the AG be more than a “consigliere” for the governor?

Here’s Lynn Willis and Jon K going at it, as they tend to do, over Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s choice of  his law partner for attorney general:

Lynn Willis November 26, 2014 at 11:11 am

Eventually Alaska will realize the mistake our founders made by allowing the A.G. to be appointed and not elected. While the appointment option may occasionally produce a person with a “pure heart” who is motivated primarily to serve the public, it often results in the appointment of nothing more than a “consigliere” for the Governor.

Perhaps this latest appointee will be a true advocate for Alaskans; however, our recent history has not been so inspiring. Recent appointees were seemingly motivated to first protect the boss who appointed them from political embarrassment (or worse) as appeared to be the case with Dan Sullivan regarding the creation of the state job for a sitting legislator followed by the refusal of Sullivan’s successor Michael Geraghty to pursue the National Guard investigation as a formal judicial inquiry/investigation. And what efforts were taken by the Office of the A.G. to focus efforts of the office of the A.G. on such matters as the five-year release of Sulfolane from the North Pole Refinery or the sole-source contract to refurbish Anchorage legislative office buildings at an exorbitant cost?

Jon K November 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

Lynn, for the love of god, please stop spreading misinformation about Sullivan. How many times do we have to go over this?

Lynn Willis November 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm


What misinformation ? Governor Parnell clearly violated the State Constitution, specifically Article 2, Section 5 which states: “During the term for which elected and for one year thereafter, no legislator may be nominated, elected, or appointed to any other office or position of profit which has been created, or the salary of emoluments of which have been increased, while he was a member.” The Governor’s actions to create a position for her were verified by Rep. Dahlstrom when she announced she would be leaving the legislature to accept this new position in the Parnell administration. The law was violated yet nobody was held accountable except for the Representative who was forced to resign her new job.
How would you feel Jon, if Exxon or the Sierra Club had created a position for a sitting legislator? What makes allowing the Governor to do this more palatable to you? Creating a position for a sitting legislator is rightfully prohibited. This act on the part of the Governor deserved more than a caution from Dan Sullivan not to do it again.

So, if not the A.G, who should have represented the “people” to protect us from that violation of the State Constitution?

And then there’s this:


12 thoughts on “Comments of the day: Should the AG be more than a “consigliere” for the governor?

  1. Lynn Willis

    I suggest I made my point and you reinforced it by demonstrating how the staff of the A.G. was intent on pleasing the Governor to make this hiring appear legal (if not ethical). Too bad the administration didn’t follow the template set by previous administrations to at least orchestrate the process to have the legislator first resign and then not accept a new position. but one that had been previously created for another person if perhaps only perhaps for a few days. Yet they couldn’t even get that right so, in fact, the legislator was in office and the job was created for her – an illegal act. And even if they had made it “legal” that certainly would not have made it ethical. In any event. even though the appointed A.G. did not pursue the action, nor did the Governor ever apologize for his conduct, it hasn’t happened since and that is the good news.

  2. Garand Fellow

    My experience with states that elect more executives than the two we elect is that it costs a lot of money and accomplishes nothing except more government employment. Each of the elected officials – apart from the governor – do nothing but place themselves in a better place to one day be elected to the top job or to the US Congress. They use the state resources at their disposal to groom themselves with the press and constituents (sound familiar?).

    The governor’s cabinet in those states cannot very well look to these other elected people for advice or assistance because these elected officials often appear to already be running against the governor and cannot be trusted, even if the structure has them always in the same political party as the governor. Moreover, in a state where the AG is elected every department has a legal team on staff. In one state where I did some work the one state department with which I worked had 8 staff attorneys!

    Look how things may well turn out this year with our governor and lt. gov. When the honeymoon ends we will have a Democrat at one end of the hall and a Republican at the other. The leg. will send some very Republican bills to the Republican governor; leftie constituents will appeal to both ends of the hall, and sooner or later the bill will be one that the lt. gov. dislikes. Then we will all remember that the lt. gov. won the Democratic Party ticket in the gubernatorial primary.

    Now think of all the fun to be had in having 3, 4 or 5 elected seats in the executive branch. I think the writers of our Alaska Constitution got this right the first time!

  3. Jon K

    Lynn, the process worked. The AG corrected a mistake made by a subordinate and told his boss what the law required. The Governor complied. This is an example of how the system can and should work.

    Moreover, it is worth noting that nothing untoward happened here — I can say this because I was involved in drafting the AG’s Opinion. People make mistakes. In this instance an AAG, with a very strong reputation for being honest and forthright, made an innocent one when he told the Governor’s Office that they could offer Dahlstrom the job. The AAG’s advice was clearly colored by precedent where Bill Hudson, Robin Taylor and Alan Austerman left the Legislature and filled positions in the Murkowski administration; Jim Duncan left the Legislature and took a position in the Knowles Administration; and Keith Specking left the Legislature and took a position in the Hammond Administration. Moreover, previous AG Opinions had said the practice of allowing a legislator to resign, and then creating a position, did not violate the constitution.

    It is also worth noting that the federal constitution has a similar provision prohibiting congressman from taking positions in the executive branch. Yet, the federal government has a longstanding practice of allowing the executive branch to hire congressman and senators.

    If you want to use an example to justify your crusade to get an elected AG, find another one. This dog don’t hunt.

  4. Lynn Willis

    My argument was intended to point our the problem with allowing such an important position in state government as Attorney General to be an appointed position. I used the Dahlstrom job creation (and others) as examples to support my argument for having the occupant of that office to be more detached from the Governor.
    Allow me to ask all the Parnell/Sullivan apologists; If you were to rob a bank yet return the money before the police arrive have you not still committed the crime of bank robbery? How effective would your defense: “Others did it too” or “I was told it was OK” be when you were prosecuted especially if you were a trained attorney who should be capable of reading a sentence from the State Constitution. Ask any traffic cop how those defenses work with speeders or other traffic violators?
    This job creation was no harmless traffic offense. This was a potentially serious offense.
    I understand this prohibition is in the Constitution because it serves to insulate our elected legislators from undue influence and to prevent their constituents from being effectively disenfranchised. I also appreciate that you could simply appoint a “former” legislator to an already existing position; however, these folks couldn’t even accomplish that maneuver and that fact alone might speak to competence . Perhaps some who are upset today with just the appearance of impropriety when Governor Elect Walker appointed his long time business partner might have also similarly questioned this arrangement just on the basis of appearance alone.
    Representative Dahlstrom was the sitting Chair of House Rules , a very influential position within the House of Representatives – a position sometimes described as the “gate keeper” to the House. What an ally this legislator could be to a Governor wanting to see his legislation proceed. Also, how many of the constituents of this elected official were in a similar position to offer a similar employment opportunity?
    When Governor Parnell violated the clear language and intent of the State Constitution he got a pass . I understand that is what happened and nothing can be done about it; however, perhaps something more might have been done about it . I did notice Governor Parnell never attempted to do this again which is odd given the minor infraction it seems to have been to some.

  5. Billiam Buster

    Billiam and Lynn should get together, share their misinformation and see where it goes. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  6. Reid

    Why do you continue to highlight Willis’ misinformed rants? Surely, you know and realize that hje’s dead wrong in the foundation of his comment. Do you do this just to get comments? Some days, Mr Willis makes solid and valid points. This issue he faces a huge mental block obviously.

  7. AH HA

    I’m not sure why this issue seems to stick in Lynn’s craw. Normally Lynn is quite astute but in this case he seems incapable of grasping the whole truth. He has commented on this issue at some length in the past and it was pointed out to him then how this had occurred and how it had been resolved. Yet, for some reason he’ll not allow the plain truth to sink in.

    I seems that Lynn would like to see the State Attorney General be an elected position and argues that this will make the AG ‘answer to the public’ yet I’m fairly certain that Lynn would find this logic unacceptable if applied to state judges.

    I am also quite suspicious that making the AG position a elected position would create an independent fourth branch of government able to act or refuse to act of it’s own accord, certainly not something the creators thought a good idea.

  8. Billiam

    At least this nominee is actually from Alaska and interested in pursuing the National Guard issues. I look forward to seeing him pursue the issues Sullivan and Geraty ignored.

  9. Jon K

    Here are the facts, which Lynn continues to ignore. The Governor’s Office asked an AAG if Parnell could hire Dahlastrom. The AAG looked at the issue and said yes – in part because Governors going back to Hammond had hired sitting legislators. Sullivan was not aware of the advise provided to the Governor’s Office – an AG can’t know what 400 or so AAGs are doing every day and it is not uncommon for an AAG to provide advice to the Governor’s Office or a commissioner without the AG knowing.

    Anyway, the issue got the press’s attention. Sullivan then examined the matter and issued an opinion saying the hire likely violated the AK constitution. Parnell then asked Dahlstrom to resign.

    The process worked. The AG did the right thing. He corrected a mistake made by a subordinate, told the Governor what the law required and the Governor complied.

    The question today is whether Craig will or can act independently and follow the law.

  10. Joe Sullivan

    Washington State elects the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Public Lands Commissioner, Commissioner of Education, Auditor, Assessor and Insurance Commissioner- This is a far better model for the public. The biggest reason this is better model is at election time all of these somewhat boring and obscure functions of government have to explain the the VOTERS what they are doing and why they should be returned to office. Going around the state and each of them being accountable is better that the Alaska “Cabinet” model in which these offices lack real accountability. An election can be a moment of reckoning– just ask Mr. Begich.

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