Commission faces criticism from all sides

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007

The job of the Alaska Public Offices Commission is to ensure Alaskans have access to information about their leaders' finances, including personal financial interests, campaign contributions and lobbying activity.

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The commission's critics include some unlikely bedfellows.

"APOC is broken beyond repair," said Ray Metcalfe, a former Republican legislator from Anchorage who has been a staunch critic of the ethics of several current and former elected officials.

Until recently APOC had rejected most of his complaints.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski, a Republican, agreed that APOC was not doing its job, and has referred to the "collapse of enforcement" by the commission.

"At the core is the commission's inability to investigate and rule on complaints in a timely manner," Murkowski wrote in a letter to former House Speaker Pete Kott in 2003.

Murkowski's response was to try to abolish APOC and shift its duties to the Division of Elections, controlled by the executive branch.

The commission's role as a part of the government it monitors has proven problematic for commission staff at times.

VECO lobbyist David Marquez was fined by the commission in 2003 for failing to register as a lobbyist. Later, Marquez was appointed attorney general and became supervisor of the commission's attorney, who is part of the Department of Law.

When Murkowski tried to abolish APOC, he used its own attorney to draft the legislation.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said one of APOC's biggest difficulties is that the state hasn't given it enough staff to accomplish its job. With the election last year of Gov. Sarah Palin, she found an ally.

One of new Palin's first actions as governor was to budget for a new investigator position for APOC, an addition Palin said was so important that she'd find money for it even as she was cutting government elsewhere.

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