What are we going to do with all that money?

In 1969, when Alaskans realized how much oil was in Prudhoe Bay, people quickly understood the implications. A formerly cash starved state was going to get rich. The questions were how quickly, how rich, and what should be done with all that money?

When Alaska Natives demanded a settlement of their land claims, it was apparent this issue needed to be resolved before any pipeline could be built. The landmark legislation which resulted, the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act of 1971, cleared the way. Then the oil crisis of 1973 made the enormous cost of a pipeline economically feasible. Construction began in 1974, and by the summer of 1977 the oil began to flow. By 1978 1.2 million barrels a day were arriving in Valdez, gradually reaching a peak in 1988 of 2 million barrels a day. The State of Alaska was poor no more.

The still unanswered question was, what to do with all the money? As a result, the most important election in Alaska’s history was the 1978 Republican gubernatorial primary. Whoever won would become Governor, with the power to control the expenditure of the windfall.

The candidates were incumbent Governor Jay Hammond, the man most responsible for creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund; former Governor and Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel; and conservative stalwart Tom Fink, Speaker of the House. Neither Hickel or Fink had much use for the Permanent Fund. They both believed that Permanent Fund money should be spent on major infrastructure improvements, like the Rampart Dam. So this election determined the fate of the Fund. It would either thrive, under Hammond, or be discarded in favor of huge mega-projects. Bridges across the Turnagain Arm and the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet were seriously considered. Moving the state Capitol from Juneau to Wasilla was financially feasible. Money was no object.

Hickel was one of the richest men in the state, while Hammond and Fink had modest means, and relied on small dollar donations. All the business interests in the state, along with organized labor, were behind Hickel, but they were unable to overwhelm Hammond with money. In 1978 Alaska had a very strict campaign finance laws, and Hickel’s wealthy supporters were of limited use to him. This proved critical, since Hammond only beat him by 98 votes.

That law was later ruled unconstitutional, and recent Supreme Court decisions have made effective campaign finance laws unobtainable. Big money from outside, dark money, from people like George Soros, will be pouring into next year’s Alaska Senate election. Dark money groups get a bigger bang for their buck in small states like Alaska. Here, a few million dollars can make a difference. In large states, they have to spend a lot more to have an effect. And the votes of Senators from Alaska count just much as the ones from California.

Alaskan voters have repeatedly voted for campaign finance reform, most recently in 2020, for Prop. 2. We’d vote for it again, if we could, but court decisions like Thompson v. Hebdon prevent any such reform from taking place. Congress will never clean up this mess. It’s dysfunctional, mired in extreme partisanship, and thoroughly corrupted by big money donors.

One group of American patriots, Wolf-PAC, is trying to do something about this corruption, and the Alaska Legislature in 2022 will have the opportunity to participate in the solution they propose. It can pass a resolution calling for an Amendment Convention limited solely to the subject of campaign finance for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution. Under the terms of Article V of the Constitution, if 34 state legislatures pass such resolutions, Congress is required to call the Convention for this limited purpose. When the Amendment Convention meets, citizen delegates will work to address citizens’ concerns with negotiated compromises needed the achieve bipartisan consensus needed to ratify.   A partisan proposal would be pointless, since it could never be ratified by the required 38 states.

Campaign Finance Reform can work, as shown by its effect in Alaska in 1978. We wouldn’t have a Permanent Fund without it. The United States Congress is dysfunctional, paralyzed by the money of special interests. The Alaska legislature can be part of the solution.

 

That didn’t take long

Yesterday afternoon I was wondering what Joe Manchin’s West Virgnia voters were going to tell him when he went home for the Christmas recess. This morning, on Fox News Sunday, we got the answer.

Build Back Better is going nowhere, thanks to Joe Manchin. Biden is a failed President, and the next two elections, in 2022 and 2024, will be wipeouts of the Democratic Party. It will be so bad that it will somehow have to reconstitute itself be competitive.

Evolve, or die.

Republicans, meanwhile, will become the majority party. A lot of Asians, blacks, and especially Hispanics will not just vote against Democrats, they’ll become Republicans.

If demography is destiny, as we’ve been assured, it now may work for the Republicans.

[All of the foregoing is on the assumption that Trump will not be the nominee in 2024. Of that, I’m becoming more confident every day.]

Federalism and Campaign Finance Reform

Why does Congress have the right to control the conduct of its own elections? Why don’t the states have the authority to decide how their members of Congress are elected?

That question was raised at the Constitutional Convention on August 9, 1787, in a motion by John Rutledge and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina. James Madison rose in opposition to the motion, and argued at length that the states should not be given this power. He said “the State Legislatures will sometimes fail or refuse to consult the common interest at the expense of their local convenience or prejudices.” And he said “It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power.” He argued that since many state legislatures were malapportioned, their congressional districts would also be malapportioned. He also claimed that since the state legislatures chose their senators, “the latter could therefor be trusted, their representatives could not be dangerous.” Madison was persuasive, and the Rutledge-Pinckney motion did not prevail.

Madison’s reliance on the Senate to protect the states’ interests made some sense before the 17th Amendment, which took Senate elections away from state legislatures.. In the 19th century, many state legislators sold their vote to the highest bidder, and a Senate seat could be purchased. The Senate would not address the problem, so reformers began the first serious attempt to use Article V. When they had 30 of the 32 state resolutions needed to call for an Amendment Convention, the Senate finally passed the 17th Amendment. Madison’s fear of malapportionment was also, of course, before Reynolds v. Sims, which declared the practice unconstitutional,

And in 1787 it was far fetched to think that Congress, abusing this power over its own elections, would create a thoroughly corrupt and rigged system for its own benefit.

The idea of entrusting Congress with the power to control its own elections is an 18th century relic, and it needs to be revisited. State legislators need to call for an Article V Amendment Convention on campaign finance reform. In order to be ratified by 38 states, any proposed amendment must be bipartisan, and must include provisions ensuring that no state discriminate against voting by racial or other minorities.

This is campaign finance reform, on a state by state basis.

Proposed 28th Amendment: (1)Article 1, Section 4 is repealed and reenacted to read, The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in in each State by the Legislature thereof; but no State shall, in its elections, discriminate against voters on the basis of race, sex, or national origin. (2) Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to forbid the States from reasonably regulating and limiting contributions and spending in campaigns, elections or ballot measures. (3) The States shall have the power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities, including by prohibiting artificial entities from raising and spending money in campaigns, elections, or ballot measures

Joe Manchin’s Christmas recess

What’s Joe Manchin going to hear when he spends his Christmas back in West Virginia? Will people give him heat for slowing Biden’s agenda? Or, instead, will he hear about the rising cost of food, and gas, and other necessities? What do Joe’s voters want him to do?

I’ve got a pretty good guess, and if I’m right Biden’s agenda is up in smoke. After one year in office, he will be a failed President.

The Dividend and the Convention


Why does our Constitution give us the chance, every ten years, to call for a Constitutional Convention?  The answer is in Article I, sec. 2, which declares “All political power is inherent in the people.  All government originates with the people.”If this is true, the people must have the right to intervene in the normal workings of their government, when the necessity arises.  In the 62 years since the Constitution went into effect, such an intervention has not been needed.  Now, for the first time, it clearly is.Alaska’s politicians have failed to resolve the future of the Permanent Fund Dividend.  Partisan and personal rivalries have divided the legislature into two warring factions.  One wants the so-called full dividend, according to a formula adopted in the 1980’s, which was followed until 2015.  Another feels the state needs much or most of this money to provide the government services that Alaskans are accustomed to.For the past five years these two factions have been at war with one another, and legislative sessions are dominated by this issue.  Countless special sessions have been called.  Nothing seems to work.  Legislators, and governors, come and go.  Elections are held.  Promises are made.  There’s no reason to hope that more elections, and new people, will change a thing.If our politicians can’t resolve this issue, the people can.  They must vote for a Convention, and then elect delegates who they know and trust.  They must closely monitor the deliberations of the Convention, and in the end they must decide if the solution offered is acceptable.Are the people of Alaska capable of this?  Are there qualified men and women who are able and willing to serve as delegates?  What are we afraid of?  Ourselves?They won’t admit it, but those opposed to a Convention are afraid of the people.  They feel they can’t be trusted with this kind of power.  Left unsaid is the belief that only an elite is qualified for such weighty matters, and the people aren’t.  Or maybe the real reason for their opposition is that they just don’t like the dividend. In fact, the Convention would have only one power, the power to propose amendments.  And then it’s up to the people to decide.  Yes or no?  Is the solution offered acceptable?I think the people of this state are perfectly capable of exercising this power responsibly.  So did the men and women who wrote our Constitution.  Do you?  If you don’t trust the people, who do you trust?  Some elite?.  That’s not the Alaska way.  That’s not the American way.There’s much more that needs to be discussed on this issue, and everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.  We have a little less than a year before we, collectively, render our decision at the ballot box.I will continue to argue, as forcefully as I can, that the people should trust themselves. And that if you want the dividend, you should vote for the Convention.