By all accounts, Gov. Bill Egan was a fine public servant. Among other things, the first governor of the State of Alaska ushered in Alaska’s entry into statehood, the Prudhoe Bay discovery, and was the steady when the state was violently shaken in the 1964 earthquake. His reputation is stellar.
Times were different then. It was pre-Watergate, and the country wasn’t watching over its public officials with such cynical eyes. A 1966 letter circulating around various circles exemplifies that change. (Click on the image above to blow up). The letter is from Dale G. Williams, the deputy commissioner of Revenue, basically demanding a campaign contribution for Egan’s campaign from one of his departmental employees.
The letter says that all governor appointees have been “assessed approximately 2% of annual gross salary.” John Daugherty’s contribution was to be $250, payable in full.
“In the event that you cannot pay in full a check for not less than one-half should be forwarded to my attention prior to August 1, the balance by September 1,” the letter, written on state stationary, says.
A similar letter written today would be viewed as a serious criminal and ethical breach.
Not only does the letter show how far the public’s attitudes about campaign contributions have shifted, it provides a window into the state’s current campaign limits. The $250 assessment would have meant that Daugherty was making about $12,500 a year.
Currently, a division director makes about $100,000. If the same standards were imposed today, that person would be “assessed” a $2000 campaign contribution.
Since 1996, with a brief blip in the mid 2000s, state campaign contributions have been capped at $500 per person per calendar year.
Federal law dictates that the maximum contribution per candidate is $2600 in the primary and another $2600 in the general election.
Federal contribution limits are tied to cost of living increases.
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