Thursday, October 01, 2009

Proposition 1 - Financial (Non)Disclosures

The only argument that has been presented in favor of approving Proposition 1, which would change what financial information elected and appointed officials in SOLdotna need to disclose, is that the current requirements are too restrictive and prevent people from running for office.

The fact that there are challengers to every city council seat this election cycle belies that claim.

There are 11 changes that would occur and I think most of them have the potential to lead to problems.

Prop 1 would raise the minimum of reported income from $1000 to $5000. Five large isn’t a lot of money, but you don’t need to have a fully functioning long-term memory to recall how cheaply some Alaska state officials sold out these past few years. And if a particular lobbying group had 5 members each pay $4999 to an official, that’s just a Lincoln short of 25 grand –serious money.

This measure would also allow officials in certain professions not to report clients who owe them ‘confidentiality obligations’. What exactly are confidentiality obligations? I don’t think we need to know who a doctor’s patients are, but in conflict-of-interest issues, it would be prudent to know who a lawyer’s clients are. And if confidentiality obligations include knowing who owes an official some money, this could also be important information in conflict-of-interest cases. To include real estate agents and financial advisers in the exemption seems to open the door to shenanigans.

The new rules would no longer require an official to report what they did to earn a specific income. Of all the changes, I have the most problem with this. Up in Anchorage, Ben Stevens received tons of money from various commercial fishing processors for…well, no ones know for what. The word on the street is that after his dad passed some sweetheart legislation, his son was rewarded. If an official receives money, I want to know what s/he did to earn it.

Another problematic change would be no longer reporting real estate property outside of the borough. Again, this opens some very real conflict-of-interest issues. If an official bought beach-front property for a few bucks in Hawaii from a developer who wanted to put a huge pig farm in Soldotna, we would never know with the new changes.

Prop 1 would no longer require officials to report close economic associations that don’t result in a source of income. So, if an official was a dues-paying member of and a major contributor to the Ku Klux Klan and financed the campaigns of folks like David Duke, well, that would be none of public’s business.

I don’t agree. While there might be some common-sense changes to the financial information we ask our city officials to disclose, these changes are not the ones we need. I think we should send this back to the council for a bit more thought and work.


KittenStCyr said...

Prop 1 seems designed to encourage corruption and subterfuge. This, plus term limits and, of course, the central peninsula's new Teenpact Christian paramilitary training camp set to open next Spring ......makes me wish I lived more that 100 miles away.
That said, I'm glad YOU'RE paying attention and displaying the kind of courage that wins Pulitzers in the print world.

Anonymous said...

Oh come now. You know perfectly well that Financial Disclosure is just a formality in Alaska.
No one really has to.
Sarah Palin firmly set that precedent. The Stevens were at least a little scared. But good news! None of our politicians EVER have to, ever again!

Large Visitor Globe