Dunleavy, Clarkson create self-serving plan for free legal assistance in ethics cases

The simple question to Attorney General Kevin Clarkson about proposed regulation changes to allow him and the governor to provide free legal help to each other in ethics cases deserves a simple answer.

“Who requested the proposed amendments?”

Rather than answer, Clarkson had a deputy write: “The regulations were proposed to address an identified need—the attorney general instructed the Department of Law to propose the amendments.”

Why is Clarkson unable to identify the mystery person in state government who came up with this brilliant idea?

Perhaps it’s because the amendments are a self-serving attempt to make an end run of the state ethics law, giving Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer special privileges denied to all others in the executive branch.

Rather than try to amend the state ethics law by legislative action and defend the self-serving plan in public, Dunleavy and Clarkson are doing it by regulation, avoiding pointed questions.

The Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act says “that a fair and open government requires that executive branch public officers conduct the public's business in a manner that preserves the integrity of the governmental process and avoids conflicts of interest. . .”

Clarkson’s plan creates a conflict of interest. It is also founded on the lie that this will never cost the state a dime, because the state would “absorb any costs of representation with existing staff resources.”

Under Clarkson’s proposal, if the governor or lieutenant governor are accused of violating the ethics law, the AG can decide that state attorneys should provide a free defense with state money. The AG is hired and fired by the governor so when the boss asks for free legal help, the AG is not going to say no.

And if the AG is accused, the governor will make the same gift to the political ally who occupies that post.

Clarkson’s department assures Alaskans to not worry because if the governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general were found to have committed an ethics violation, they would have to pay whatever penalty would be imposed.

But guilty or not, they would still get unlimited free legal help from the state, thanks to a self-serving regulation that creates new conflicts of interest.

Public comments will be accepted on the proposed regulations until Nov. 4 at law.regulations.comments@alaska.gov

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