Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gene Therriault Resigns To Take Pressure Off Alaska Republican Governor Sean Parnell; Kim Elton Continues To Get A Free Pass

Just one day after the release of a Hellenthal poll showing Alaska Governor Sean Parnell with a 45-point lead over his nearest Republican competitors, Gene Therriault decided to take the high road and resign his position as Parnell's top energy advisor. Therriault said the political turmoil generated by Parnell's critics over his hiring in September 2009 has become a distraction and potential detriment to Parnell.

Read Therriault's complete statement HERE.

Gov. Parnell said Therriault's decision was voluntary, and he continues to stand behind his decision to hire Therriault in the first place. He praised Therriault for serving Alaska with a considerate and professional hand. But the decision had come under fire from a growing number of sources on both sides of the proverbial "aisle", to include the Anchorage Daily News, the Anchorage Daily Planet, conservative talk-show host Dan Fagan, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ralph Samuels, and Democratic U.S. House candidate Harry Crawford. It was actually a self-professed Republican, Andree McLeod, who obtained and publicized the so-called "smoking gun" that seemed to indicate that Therriault had accepted the Parnell job on September 12th, one day BEFORE resigning from the State Senate, although Therriault claimed he did not turn in the personnel form until September 17th, four days after his resignation.

What's disturbing is that none of these critics have bothered to mention the name of Kim Elton. The former Democratic State Senator was hired by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in January 2009; Elton resigned on the same day he accepted the appointment. Yet Elton has been shielded from scrutiny during this entire sequence, despite the fact that the operational standard, AS 24.05.040, does not seem to distinguish between a sitting state lawmaker accepting a state appointment vs. a federal appointment:

“During the term for which elected and for one year thereafter, no legislator may be nominated, elected, or appointed to any other office or position of profit which has been created, or the salary or emoluments of which have been increased, while he was a member".

It states "any other office", not "any other state office".

I'm not suggesting that Kim Elton resign his position in the Department of the Interior; Alaskan input is useful in a federal bureaucracy that is all too often anti-Alaskan. But what I am suggesting is that Democrats and Republicans be held accountable to the same standard, and to reject this notion that Republicans somehow invented corruption. The hijinks by Barack Obama and the Chicago ACORN Gang in Illinois make the Alaska Corrupt Bastards Club pale by comparison.

In addition, AS 24.05.040, like the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, may be too stringent and inflexible, obsessing with the letter of the law to such an extent that it crushes the spirit of the law. Perhaps this law needs to be re-visited so that a governor can get back the flexibility necessary to hire the best available talent for his administration without petty Talmudic-style restrictions. With a 45-point lead in the polls, Gov. Parnell could have chosen to circle the wagons around Gene Therriault, but instead, he and Therriault chose to take the high road.

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