Friday, June 2, 2023
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Naked politics: Legislators pen letter to Permanent Fund chairman, inserting their politics into protected personnel decision

Alaska legislators on Friday wrote to Craig Richards, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Alaska Permanent Fund, expressing their “grave concern over the sudden and inexplicable termination of Angela Rodell as Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC).” Rodell was fired on Thursday.

“In her six-year tenure as Executive Director, the Permanent Fund grew a record-setting $30 billion in value. Ms. Rodell’s track record is nothing short of exemplary, she has always been a steadfast professional, and did everything within her power to shield the Fund from outside political interference,” the two politicians wrote, inserting their own political preferences into the personnel decision by the board to remove Rodell, which was an overwhelming decision by the board in a 5-1 vote.

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The naked politics is evident in the letter, because if the two had a valid concern, they would have handled it through back channels. Instead, they widely disseminated their letter to the media as a political weapon.

“We strongly believe that the public and legislature deserve an explanation for the action the board took yesterday,” wrote House Rules Chair Bryce Edgmon and Senate Rules Chair Gary Stevens.

In addition, Senate Finance Chair Bert Stedman weighed in. As quoted by the Anchorage Daily News, he said the circumstances around Rodell’s firing are suspicious. Possible gubernatorial candidate Sen. Natasha von Imhof also indicated she may hold hearings in her Legislative Budget and Audit Committee; Von Imhof is a close personal friend of Rodell’s and is a known adversary to the governor on matters of budget and Permanent Fund dividends.

Thus, a kangaroo court scenario may be ready to play out in the Legislature, just as Gov. Mike Dunleavy prepares to unveil his 2023 budgets, which he must provide to the Legislature by Dec. 15.

In that budget, many expect the governor to once again propose the 50-50 dividend formula, which is his compromise position to get Alaskans more of what they are entitled to by law from the Permanent Fund, and to settle the dividend formula law once and for all.

His effort is likely to try to restore the dividend as something that has a relationship to the fund itself. During the last legislative disbursement of the Permanent Fund dividend, not a single penny of Alaskans’ dividend actually came from the Permanent Fund. Instead, the Legislature used all of the fund disbursement to fund government, and then made an appropriation to pay dividends out of the Statutory Budget Reserve and the General Fund.

Even former Gov. Bill Walker, who is now returning to the scene as a retread candidate for governor, took the stage on Twitter to say he was concerned about Rodell’s sudden exit.

“Alaskans rightfully have questions about her abrupt dismissal. I hope for some clarity on that question in the coming days and will look for answers on what comes next for the Fund,” Walker said on his campaign Twitter feed.

The irony of Walker second-guessing the decision is that Board Chair Richards was once Walker’s attorney general, and in fact, Walker appointed Richards to the board of the Permanent Fund. Now, with Richards having moved into the position of Board Chair, Walker is questioning the decision-making capacity of his former law partner and attorney general, as well as the judgment of the four other board members who voted to remove Rodell. Only Bill Moran voted to retain Rodell after her performance review was completed this week.

Walker owns the dubious distinction of being the father of the demise of the Permanent Fund, as he is the governor who vetoed Alaskans’ lawful and statutorily set dividend in 2016, and set in place the calculation of the dividend as a purely political calculation, rather than formula-driven decision that had worked well for decades.

Politicians complaining about politics is nothing new. Candidates like Edgmon, Stevens, Stedman, Von Imhof, and Walker asking for details of a confidential personnel decision that they know cannot be publicly discussed is political theater and a calculated distraction from the governor’s budget rollout on Wednesday.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. This skunk of a cat is out of the bag. It has become an issue of public interest. The members of the board can be removed only for cause. The board has been silent on any reasons for Ms. Rodell’s dismissal, hiding behind the excuse that personnel matters are confidential.
    The way out of this is to shine light on it. The members of the legislature are right to push back. The Executive Director’s performance has been highly regarded. This has become a political issue because of the secrecy surrounding it and the implications that Rodell may have been removed for political reasons (all those who voted to remove were Dunleavy appointments, the one vote to retain was from a Walker appointment) rather than for her performance as executive director.
    Doesn’t pass the smell test. Needs to be aired out.

    • The Fund didn’t grow as rapidly as the market indices – her performance really wasn’t that hot. I suspect that her dismissal was for other cause. That she is supported by Princess helicopter hair hissy fit screaming in opposition to the Statutory Formula screaming that we the people are “greedy and entitled” makes me wonder what Ms. Rodell’s position is and how politically motivated she is as is her friend Senator Natasha Von Imhof. And the Senator has the chutzpah to want to run for Governor?!! That video clip needs to be circulated often.

      • The Fund is required to rebalance between equities and bonds periodically. Thus, you have no idea about whether/not it “didn’t grow a rapidly as the market indices.”
        Your statement makes you look ignorant IMO.

        • Bottom line:
          Rodell is backing corrupt, disgraced Bill Walker for governor. And, she is against the statutory full PFD. Good call, Board members.

          • None of that is a part of the job she held. That is pure politics and should especially be removed from PF employees.
            They (Board members) will need something else when asked about why she was fired IMO.

  2. Have you seen the five year stock charts? The more extraordinary thing would be someone that was able to lose money in the last five years. Being commended for breathing is not an accomplishment.
    And politicians with a lack of decorum? Whoever heard of such a thing!

  3. The governance of the Permanent Fund is clear and established by law: The Board, which consists of two Departmental commissioners and four public members appointed by the Governor, runs the Fund. The Board hires the staff. AS 37.13.100. The involvement of the legislators named here is an indication of a larger disease: Where these particular legislators have tried to convert the Permanent Fund into a personal playground. Serving in high appointed State office and in the Legislature is an honor and privilege, not an entitlement. It is not a license to pursue personal agendas and accumulate power. All of the folks involved in this little soap opera should give that some thought.

  4. Ms. Rodell and other members of the staff and board of the Permanent Fund Corporation are not entitled to the robust confidentiality protections afforded State employees in the classified and partially-exempt services of State employment articulated in the State Personnel Act at AS 39.25.080. PFC employees are exempt from the State Personnel Act.

    PFC may have some confidentiality protections for its employees in its rules and policies but rules and policies are not nearly as robust as statutes and even the confidentiality statute for merit system employees has been pierced by judges when they thought that the public’s right to know outweighed the employee’s privacy interest.

    I suspect if some Democrat legislators want to know something about Rodell’s dismissal, they can find a judge that will order the PFC Board to turn over at least any records of the decision it might have. It is an open question whether a court could force the Board to articulate a reason, but if there were a wrongful discharge suit, the PFC Board would at least have to answer it.

    At bottom, it is a purely political matter and the Courts should stay out of it unless there is a wrongful discharge suit. That said, the Democrats always seem able to find a judge who thinks if s/he just performs a great service for them, there is an appointment to a higher court in his/her future.

  5. 1) Never confuse brains with a bull market.

    2) At some point the real reason for her dismissal, warranted or not, will come out. Hold off judgement for a while.

    • 1) Never underestimate the ability of a fool (who should be fired) to lose money in a bull market
      2) Yes, it will eventually be revealed, and that revelation will be that it was political.
      3) Consider #2 as prophesy, which is getting easier as our political/ideological society races towards obvious collapse

    • Agreed Jean. Rodell’s support group are all enemies of the Permanent Fund and our PFD – that has to tell us something. Having said this, some light shown in an appropriate place giving us more reason for her dismissal will dampen the swamp fire.

  6. …….”We strongly believe that the public and legislature deserve an explanation for the action the board took yesterday”………..
    I agree, politics or not. Even if it’s a lie, I want to hear it. The Permanent Fund has literally exploded with growth under Rodell’s tenure. The board can’t say that she was doing a lousy job. So why was she terminated?

    • The stock markets exploded with growth during her tenure; it is an open question what if anything she had to do with the Fund’s growth.

      • The current stock market is a bubble, fueled by inflation driven speculation, that can burst at any time.
        I suspect the PF board wants to get in on that speculation, which would be obscenely dangerous, and Rodell was against it.
        Our 80+ billion PF has become a monkey trap. Walker and friends keep trying to give it to the CCP with the gas line scheme; amongst all the other schemes to give chunks of it to the union, education, greenie complex. Include payback to political supporters and the good old boys club; better known as the CBC.
        Odds are great that our PF is about to disappear down a rabbit hole. The momentum has built up. The greed is at a zenith. Personal accountability is near zero. The law has been nerfed.

        • There seems to be no question that whoever is in office wants to tap into, i.e. raid, the PFD. That’s why we need an independent board to try to keep things honest. This has been happening since I came to AK in 2021. Dunleavy is no different, just more delusional. There’s simply no way to balance his wants and desires from what is possible, even with an income tax (unless it’s 100% or thereabouts) and a sales tax, both of which he opposes.
          That’s what happens when you put the dumb guys in charge. When will we learn? When we don’t buy into their delusional promises?

        • In her position she only gave general direction to the Investment Officers and their contractors. Like most boards and commissions, the appointee positions are basically sinecures and political rewards; lots of meetings, grip ‘n grins, and travel to warmer places. Whether in Revenue or PFC, most actual investment decisions are made by contractors.

      • Well, to your point: during the recent fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, returns for leading indices were: Nasdaq – 47.1%; S&P – 40.6%; and Dow – 34.0%.

        • Sorry ERAK, been much better since. But still, the PFD is part of the ongoing balancing act that is part of the wheel of fortune and gambling casino that are stocks and bonds.

      • In that vein, I have often wondered if in the beginning the Permanent Fund had been invested in index funds, with a medium risk asset allocation and rebalancing by two geeks in the Department of Revenue……. instead of the new building in Juneau, millions maybe billions in fees to advisors, high salaries to employees, endless travel and meeting expense,….all that remains in the corpus. I’m betting the results would be better by far than that experienced. Year after year the disciplined passive approach has shown to beat active management 85% of the time.

  7. Dig, Suzanne, Dig!! There is much more to this story! With “Edgmon, Stevens, Stedman, Von Imhof, and Walker asking for details of a confidential personnel decision that they know cannot be publicly discussed” is a cause for worry, and we know the truth is going to stink!

  8. The 50-50 split between the state annual budget and the PFD is fine with me. HOWEVER, not if it requires overdrawing the Permanent Fund! The Alaska economy is over-stimulated already. Jobs are going begging. If there ever is a time to over-spend this is not it. The ratio between the amount sent to Alaskans and the amount spent on state employees can be adjusted to give Alaskans more but it must therefore give state employees less. That is fair, intelligent and honest. The $13 billion annual state budget is too high and can stand a haircut, possibly ten to 15 percent for starters. Alternatively, taking 4 percent, or possibly 4.5 percent from the PF and splitting it 50/50 between the state budget and the PFD looks equitable to me. The governor ran on reducing spending but the budget today (pending what he shows us for 2023) is higher than when he took office. State employees work 37.5 hours a week, have 6 weeks of paid vacation, and I think 16 or 17 paid holidays (Juneteenth added just this year!). That is barely 8 months of private sector equivalent work.

  9. I never thought I would say this, but… I agree with Bill Walker and Bryce Edgmon. Why did they fire such an effective Permanent Fund CEO so soon before the election? Are they trying to tank the Permanent Fund to reduce our PFDs?

    • My money would be on her doing or advocating something to set the table for Walker/Gara. When you’re dealing with high-level employees or appointees who have ties to the opposition, it is always a quandary whether you want them inside the tent peeing out or outside the tent peeing in.

      And you’re giving her, and the Board for that matter, far too much credit for the PF’s earnings; it’s not like they’re in the office on the phone at 5 AM making trades. Even the investment officers don’t do that; they’re more like contract administrators than investors.

      • True enough, but the performance of the PF, which is guided by the board, is admired by a lot of people who wish they had one. That’s probably not entirely coincidence, since it has been long term.

  10. A rising tide floats all boats. During the last 5 years, a person with a blindfold could have thrown darts at stock lists and made money…

    And yes, I made money. My portfolio has increased just under 300% (mostly mining stocks purchased in early 2020).

    • “…….And yes, I made money. My portfolio has increased just under 300% (mostly mining stocks purchased in early 2020).”
      Good job. You’re fired. Why? It’s a secret. Makes sense? Lots of folks here say it does, but I’m not investing in THAT obvious bull (and I’m not talking market bull). When it comes to public administration of public money, secrets don’t cut it, and I don’t care who doesn’t like that opinion. The dismissal doesn’t stink……yet. The secret does. Open political warfare is the latest battlefield of the Culture War of the past 40 years. Allowing it to be waged secretly is a lousy investment in governance.

      • Not realizing that it is supposed to be the people’s money and not the plaything of a bunch of cash addicts in state governance is enough.

      • And how nice for you too Greg & Richie. I’m sure all of us would like to be as clever as the three of you winners so we could use Suzanne’s site to brag about our successes.

    • Floats all boats? Maybe, with an index fund, but since the GOP has been in charge, the rising tide has disproportionally favored the rich. Perhaps the little guys get a small rise (or, more likely, none at all) but the big boys do outrageously well, like with the 2017 “Tax Reform” bill.
      There’s a reason stock purchases say things like past performance doesn’t insure future gains. If you don’t have savvy guidance, and pay for it, you can turn a large fortune into a small one (caveat, mining can be like that, too).

      • Wrong.
        And seriously? I’m not going to say that you’re lying, but did the big tech oligarchs really do that poorly under Demoncrats? Is Brandon going after them toothless and claw?
        Didn’t think so.
        Quit Psaki-ing.

  11. Based on some of the facts presented, and it amounts to little more than speculation – I would not be surprised to learn that Ms. Rodell may have been interacting with the Imperial Senator von Imhof in ways that were inconsistent with her responsibilities to the Board. Perhaps we will learn more, perhaps not. My perception is that Ms. Rodell – who I have heard good things about in the past – crossed a line that was unacceptable to the Board.

  12. Richard’s is a Walker sychophant, and yet he was in the main on a vote to dismiss this woman. Strange situation for sure. Why did Moran abstain? Questions that need answered.

  13. Oddly enough, if the markets tank soon, her lackluster performance will look like genius and it will all just be timing that she didn’t choose.

  14. No. Bryce wants higher pfds so there is more to take from the public. The fund is fine. With the market such as it is, it could run itself. Bryce wants to be governor. Do you want that? Never say you agree with the man, not even in your sleep.

  15. At first glance, I too thought something was fishy, but with Stevens, Edgmon & Walker rushing to Rodell’s defense it appears the firing was warranted!

  16. In what world would the firing of an executive director at a $80,000,000,000+ company not be political? The firing of a CEO an executive director at a $8,000,000+ company would be political.

    • I can think of at least one but this Board will get a chance to explain why this “political firing” made any sense.
      Unlikely Rodell made any kind of personal blunders but will be fun to see these Board members grovel a bit.

  17. Under our system any governor has a right to do this. And I don’t have particular use for most of the legislators who are now shouting about it. Edgmon had a bastard child on a legislative staffer for example! But this governor should acknowledge this firing as absolutely no one believes he did not order it to happen, no one. He owns it and there is little advantage in the public arena to looking like a liar. And it’s also a facet of our system that no governor can do most of what Governor Dunleavy has long claimed he wants to do without the legislature on board, in many cases a large majority of the legislature. If this governor didn’t talk with at least all Republican members on both finance committees prior to doing this then that very much helps explain why this governor has so far accomplished absolutely nothing he claimed he would do, nothing. For the most part he has completely abandoned even trying. It’s our bad luck that most or all of what Dunleavy wanted to do were actions and changes most of us want, as compared with all that Walker wanted to accomplish which hardly anyone wanted. I do not know why Dunleavy doesn’t know how to get anything done but the evidence is clear – even apart from the noisy debacles of multiple attorneys general and chiefs of staff. This week we will see his 2023 budget, and every part of it must be approved by these same legislators who don’t believe him about this firing. I think the drinking water needs to be tested in Juneau, as it’s pretty seldom any elected official who drinks it can do anything intelligent and honesty seems much diminished.

  18. Every legislator after tasting the power for one year thinks they run the public corporations . They DEMAND this and that. Most of them have trouble balancing their checkbook. When they run for office they shake your hand and tell you how “they want to serve”. After they get in office their head swells to the size of a watermelon thereby reducing their brain to the size of a pea. The capital being in Foggy Bottom only exacerbates their self importance as they reinforce each other’s subterfuge.Their lack of fiscal restraint and lawbreaking regards the Permanent Fund is despicable. Crime pays, otherwise why would you have all these retreads trying to get back in office.

  19. Yep, they should all shut their pieholes and get on with reality, which is going to hit them really hard and they are not prepared for it!

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