Dick Randolph's 'insulting, ill-advised, ignorant and inconsistent' missive

I wasn’t sure how to respond to Dick Randolph’s newspaper column in which the State Farm insurance agent accused my brother, me and “Barry” Sanders of crimes against humanity.

Then I remembered the best all-time response to a radical Randolph missive. It showed up in the Randolph mailbox and Alaska newspapers 40 years ago. Every legislator received a copy as well.

“Your letter was, to be kind, insulting, ill-advised, ignorant and inconsistent,” Gov. Jay Hammond told Randolph. “It hardly warrants the dignity of response, much less the reward of providing you with an additional platform from which to expound your limited views.”

Randolph, who wanted to be governor, had taunted Hammond over his opposition to the repeal of the income tax, accusing him of misusing government funds. Hammond told Randolph to “hire your own hall where you can harangue to your heart’s content.”

Hammond predicted that Randolph’s desire to get rid of the income tax—if successful—would make the state ever more dependent on oil income.

“I can think of nothing which flies in the face of your alleged Libertarian desire to constrain government growth than to remove any requirement that government programs be held to the level people are willing to pay for,” Hammond said.

Randolph led a petition drive to get rid of the tax, which prompted the Legislature to take it off the books. Sen. Clem Tillion, Hammond’s best friend in the Legislature, was the only one of 60 legislators to oppose repeal.

On May 2, 1981, Randolph spoke at the Libertarian convention in Fairbanks to start his first unsuccessful run for governor. I wrote about his speech in which he said the most Libertarian thing to do with state oil money would be to give it back to the oil companies. He joked that the next best thing would be to burn it.

Then he joked about dropping 400,000 bags of gold and silver coins from the air. The most industrious Alaskans would get the most money, while those who didn’t work hard or weren’t very smart would not get any.

“So we’re down to doing something else,” Randolph said. “I think the first thing we ought to do is eliminate all personal taxes and, as much as we can, the taxes on the industry that’s providing all this in the first place,” Randolph said.

“Since we can’t burn it and since we can’t make an air drop out of it and since we can’t give it back to the oil companies,” he said, the next best thing was to give money to each resident of Alaska.

Almost immediately after the repeal of the income tax, Hammond was saying that his greatest regret was not putting up a greater fight against Randolph.

“What we’ve done up here is create a very dangerous condition,” Hammond told reporters for the Anchorage Times in September 1982. “And that is by eliminating the income tax, we’ve almost assured that no development can pay its way, with the exception of oil.”

“Do you think that I could for a minute sustain the veto on the repeal of the income tax? But I wish I tried, except I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he said.

Hammond said it was dumb to repeal the income tax and make the state more dependent on oil income. ”Government spending went up. It did not broaden the tax base. It narrowed it. It was not replaced with recurrent revenues. It was dumb,” he said.

Alaskans stopped worrying about state spending when the income tax was repealed, as Hammond predicted, and the state made it a habit to base the budget on the ever-fluctuating price of oil.

Hammond was right about a lot of things. Randolph was wrong about a lot of things. He still is.

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