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Governor introduces ethics bill

Palin proposes tougher stance on lobbying, calls for more transparency

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007

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Gov. Sarah Palin introduced an ethics bill Thursday, focusing mostly on the executive branch.

She's proposing tougher bans on lobbying by former members of the executive branch, more disclosures of outside business interests, and making information about outside interests more available to the public.

"An ethics reform package is due," she said. "It's overdue."

Lawmakers and public officials who receive more than $1,000 for outside work will have to detail how much they received and what they did for it, according to the proposed legislation.

The bill also ads more specificity to state law, defining what constitutes a conflict of interest. An ownership of more than $5,000 in a business would create the conditions for a conflict under the proposal.

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Palin's bill implements two of the six proposals made in an Ethics White Paper produced for her by former U.S. Attorney for Alaska Wev Shea and former House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz. Others will be addressed elsewhere.

Other gubernatorial efforts are moving independently, including a budgeted increase for the Alaska Public Offices Commission to enable it to hire an investigator to look into compliance with disclosure laws.

The bill also recognizes the fact that the reason lobbyists give gifts to lawmakers is to influence votes.

"We want to ban gifts from lobbyists," she said.

Palin, meeting with reporters Thursday afternoon, said that her bill was intended to go hand-in-hand with ongoing ethics reform efforts in the Legislature.

"I expect to see changes," she said.

Palin's proposal won quick praise from Rep. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, one of the legislative leaders on ethics reform.

"She's on the right track," Gardner said. "I think it's a really good start."

Palin's bill requires those filing campaign and personal financial disclosure statements do so electronically in most cases. That will make it easier for the information to be posted online.

Gardner said that was a needed change as well.

"Some people manually file stuff just to have it delayed on the Internet," she said.

In cases where filings are done on paper, they'd have to be typed or printed clearly.

Palin said bills already introduced in the Legislature would address issues specific to the Legislature. They need to be passed quickly, she said.

"Restoring trust in state government is the most important endeavor under way right now," Palin said.

•Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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