THE ONLY QUESTION IS, WHICH ONE DID HE BREAK?
The Anchorage Daily News on Friday posted a plea written by Gov. Bill Walker, “Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend.”
The governor was writing in his official capacity as the highest elected state official, but directing people to watch a campaign video before they make up their mind about his official policy actions in reducing their Permanent Fund dividends by one half.
His piece never explicitly asked for people’s votes. But the link in his op-ed is to the same campaign video he has promoted on his campaign Facebook page for the past three days.
The newspaper group also published the same piece in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
Must Read Alaska finds it unprecedented to allow a sitting governor to publish an official op-ed that is a plea for support for his re-election during the campaign season, and then link it to an actual campaign video.
It’s illegal for a governor to use both his official capacity and his campaign capacity in one opinion piece. State officials must step outside of the actual state-owned property to work on campaigns, and Walker is clearly speaking in his official role in this op-ed. If he used State employees to write the op-ed, then he has used State employees for campaigning.
Complaints about this illegal behavior would have to be brought to Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth , a close ally of the governor, for prosecution.
The Anchorage Daily News is the newspaper that brought Bill Walker to office in the first place, with its biased coverage during the 2014 campaign cycle, when the paper operated as the Alaska Dispatch News under the ownership of Alice Rogoff.
After the Must Read Alaska News Flash (an email newsletter) went out to 11,123 readers today, with details about the governor’s op-ed, the entire opinion piece was removed from the Anchorage Daily News web site, and this item is now in its place:
From the campaign violation side of things, this was an illegal donation from the ADN and the Alaska Journal of Commerce, both owned by the Binkley Company.
To its credit, the company took down the ADN version of the op-ed, although the Journal of Commerce version remains up as of this publication time. Must Read believes it is unlikely the Binkley Company will face sanctions by APOC, due in part to its timely removal of the piece.
From the government ethics side, this is very likely a misuse of State resources. The “People’s lawyer” can be reached at: [email protected], but it seems unlikely that she would launch an investigation of her boss’s actions.
Complaints to the Alaska Public Offices Commission about the corporate contribution should go to Tom Lucas, at [email protected]. Be sure to mention that there was no “Paid for” disclosure in the governor’s opinion piece.
The question that APOC should ask is “Who penned this op-ed? Was it official staff or campaign staff?” That will get to the root of the problem.
The governor’s article also ran in The Frontiersman and the Kenai Peninsula Clarion, but those newspapers removed the offending link.
Here’s the text of the top of the governor’s opinion piece as it ran in the ADN, with the link to his campaign ad:
Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend
By Gov. Bill Walker
Why did I reduce the Permanent Fund dividend in 2016?
Before you make up your mind on the decisions about the budget and the fiscal plan, please take a moment to watch this video.
The decision to reduce the PFD in 2016 in response to Alaska’s fiscal crisis will be one of the defining issues of this election. Our opponents on both the left and the right have criticized this decision.
Some Alaskans believe that it was a terrible decision that we never should have considered, that this decision was unnecessary, that if we had cut more out of state government, we could have avoided making any changes to the way we manage the Alaska Permanent Fund….