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State conflicts data difficult to track down

Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2007

One of Alaska's checks on conflict of interest among legislators is disclosure, both before they vote and in filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

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The Legislature has resisted making those financial disclosure forms readily available, however.

Forms are submitted on paper and are available only on paper from the commission's offices in Anchorage or Juneau, said Brooke Miles, the commission's executive director.

Visitors to the offices can review the filed documents for free, she said, and if the document sought is in a different office it will be faxed to Anchorage or Juneau for review, she said.

Limited numbers of other documents will be faxed for free to people who cannot make it to Anchorage or Juneau, she said.

"It's not very responsive to the public," Miles said.

Making them available on the Internet would be much more useful, she said.

The Juneau Empire is making scanned copies of 2006 legislative and executive financial disclosures, filed March 15, 2007, available on its legislative Web site at http://aklegislature.com/disclosures/2007LegDisclosures.shtml in PDF format.

Miles said that her office would like to have funding adequate to make all of its financial disclosure records available online.

To do that efficiently would require the disclosures be filed electronically, she said.

"That's why I'm fighting so hard for mandatory electronic filing, for everything published on the Internet," she said.

Many of the disclosures are hand-written, and are often incomplete or illegible.

A study of the a sampling of the forms last year by the Empire found 100 percent with significant errors or omissions, but Miles said that is higher than her experience. Only 80 percent of legislators' forms typically have errors, she said.

Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, agreed that electronic filing would be just one step the state could take to make in information more available.

"I think it would certainly help if they would require us to type them," he said.

Legislators once required electronic filing of themselves, Miles said.

A bill passed in 2003 required electronic filing for campaign disclosures, lobbyist reporting and financial disclosures, but in 2004, Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, advocated repealing all electronic reporting requirements. Green was then chairing the Senate Finance Committee. Now she's Senate president.

Green did not respond to an interview request placed with Jeff Turner, Green's press secretary, after the topic of the interview was disclosed.

Miles said she was able to negotiate with Green to keep electronic filing for campaigns and lobbyists, but she had to give up electronic filing for legislators.

"It was horrible to do that," she said.

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



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