Saturday, December 29, 2007
Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Ray Metcalfe Targeting Alaska State Senator Lesil McGuire With Another "Ethics" Complaint
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ray Metcalfe (pictured at left) filed a complaint Friday December 28th with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, claiming that Alaska State Senator Lesil McGuire's work as a consultant for Providence Health System amounted to "lobbying and bribery". It's the latest in a series of accusations that Metcalfe has leveled against McGuire, an Anchorage Republican. Full story published December 29th, 2007 in the Anchorage Daily News.
Metcalfe takes issue with McGuire's description of her work for Providence as "consulting and research", alleging that she was paid to advise Providence on how to extract more money from the state. The complaint also asks the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) to refer the matter to the criminal division of the state Department of Law and the legislative ethics committee.
McGuire's lawyer, Charles Dunnagan, discounts the claim as ridiculous, citing the fact that Metcalfe's previous accusations have been dismissed. Dunnagan also hints that Metcalfe may still be trying to get back at McGuire over the fact that she defeated him in a State House race back in 2000.
Metcalfe's previous APOC complaint against McGuire, filed in March 2007, alleged McGuire kept changing her description of what she did for the money. The commission, after hearing from Metcalfe at a meeting in September, expanded the investigation to also cover whether McGuire had done actual work for the $10,500 she received from Providence. The commissioners unanimously decided earlier in December that there was no evidence to support the allegations. So they dismissed Metcalfe's complaint. However, in an editorial column entitled "When legal isn't right", published on December 20th, the Anchorage Daily News questioned McGuire's motives, claiming that the Providence deal created doubt about who she was working for, and reiterating that there should never be any doubt about who an elected official is working for.
But documents released as part of that APOC investigation showed that McGuire's consulting job included working with Providence's lobbyist, former Rep. Eldon Mulder, on how the hospital could get money from the state as part of a land deal involving the old Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
One of the commission members, Elizabeth Hickerson, said she thought it was a conflict of interest for McGuire to have been involved in lobbying strategy. At a meeting on September 14th, Hickerson wanted to send the issue to the legislative ethics committee to decide if there was a violation. But the commission members voted 3 to 2 to instead postpone the subject until their February 2008 meeting. APOC's staff and lawyer will further investigate it in the meantime.
Assistant Attorney General Jan DeYoung has told the commission she does not think what McGuire did counts as lobbying under the law. That's because there's no evidence McGuire communicated with lawmakers on behalf of Providence, DeYoung told APOC. [Ed. Note: This statement is even stronger than it appears because DeYoung works for Governor Sarah Palin, who not only preaches but also personifies "ethics", contributing to her consistent 85 percent approval rating.]
However, Metcalfe argues in his new complaint that is too narrow a definition of lobbying. He also argues that it is bribery for a state legislator to get paid to advise a company on legislative strategy.
McGuire provided a sworn statement to APOC that her work for Providence did not involve legislation or health care issues before the Legislature. She also said in the statement that she "never crafted or sponsored a budget item, that, to my knowledge, benefited Providence."
Beacuase Metcalfe filed his complaint late on Friday afternoon, Providence did not have time to evaluate it in order to give immediate comment on it. McGuire did not return a message on her cell phone Friday night regarding the latest complaint.
Metcalfe, who founded the Republican Moderate Party, has a history of pressing APOC complaints. He was among the first to publicly cry foul over former state Senate President Ben Stevens' consulting contracts. Stevens is now under federal investigation but has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
Lesil McGuire has been the source of additional controversy. On December 13th, in an editorial entitled "Calls to witness, dubious explanation demand attention", the Anchorage Daily News took her to task for phone calls she made to Bill Bobrick during the corruption trials insinuating difficulties for Bobrick's wife to obtain a license to practice medicine in Alaska after graduation from medical school unless Bobrick testified more favorably on behalf of Tom Anderson during Anderson's trial. Sen. McGuire's father is a prominent doctor here who has served on the state board that licenses doctors.
Sen. McGuire's recorded phone messages were ambiguous enough to let her plausibly deny that she was threatening a witness. But anyone familiar with adolescent girls knows Sen. McGuire's tactic. You pretend to be looking out for a so-called friend when in fact you are manipulating the person to your own illegitimate ends.
The Anchorage Daily News was complaining that her colleagues in the Senate apparently don't plan to hold Sen. McGuire to account for intervening with a witness against her husband and for her untruthful explanation. If the Senate were doing its job, here's what members would say:
"Sen. McGuire had no business contacting any witness on the other side of her husband's case, period. In public statements defending herself, Sen. McGuire did not tell the truth. In both ways, she brought disrepute to herself and to the Senate in which she serves -- and she deserves an official reprimand from the Senate."
Analysis: Ray Metcalfe's actions may be more smoke than fire at this point. Lesil McGuire is a lawyer who plays it very close to the edge - walks the line but does not cross it. The Anchorage Daily News came up with the right word - "adolescent"; ever since I've watched her on the political scene, that's exactly how she's impressed me. She regularly blunders into tight spots and charms her way out of them. McGuire reminds me of one of those "eager young college girls" who knock on your door every summer trying to sell you "magazines" to "work their way through school".
Is Metcalfe trying to jump-start publicity for his Senate campiagn? Not likely a primary motive - the primary election is still months away, and the resultant buzz would soon dissipate. The guy is a genuine no-kidding ethics hawk who believes in what he says and does. But this time, his efforts are likely to fall short. This is not a repeat of Ben Stevens; unlike Ben Stevens, McGuire has had to make it on her own. McGuire may be a bit bourgeois and shallow, but she's no crook.