Alaska judicial tyranny, 1982, and now?

Republican Governor Dunleavy will reapportion the state, and Democratic Alaska Supreme Court won’t like the result. Their political opponents, Republicans, will gain seats. They hope to see a Democrat elected Governor in 2022, and they want that Democrat to do the job. That way their Democratic allies in the legislature will gain power.

Forty years ago, it was the same — a Republican Governor (Hammond) and an election for governor coming up. Jay Rabinowitz didn’t want to rule Hammond’s plan unconstitutional. There would be no point to that, if Hammond was succeeded by another Republican. If a new Republican governor could fix Hammond’s basic plan, there would be no point to overturning it.

But if a Democrat won the election, that new Governor could start over, and gerrymander the state for the Democrats. So Justice Jay Rabinowitz didn’t issue a ruling. He took the case challenging Hammond’s plan under advisement, waiting on the results of the election. Sure enough, a Democrat won, and Rabinowitz decided Hammond’s plan had been unconstitutional all along, and gave Democratic Governor Bill Sheffield unfettered authority to reapportion the state.

As a result, I only served two years in the Alaska State Senate. Governor Sheffield gerrymandered me out of my seat. I’ve been pissed off about it ever since. And I’ll do what I can to see that it doesn’t happen again.

The Revenge of Clarence Thomas and Friends

29 years ago Joe Biden chaired Senate Judiciary, and presided over the “high tech lynching” of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Since then, Brett Kavanaugh has been subjected to similar treatment by the Democratic members of the same committee. Alito, Gorsuch and Barrett were also unfairly abused, it not quite so brutally.

Clarence Thomas didn’t just take the abuse. He fought back, telling Biden to his face, ” . . . I think that this today is a travesty. I think that it is disgusting. I think that this hearing should never occur in America.” Given what Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were forced to put up with, I think he spoke for all of them.

But given the constraints all five Justices were subject to, they could not really respond adequately to all the cheap shots, character assassination, and abuse they were forced to suffer. Now, together, they can let their actions speak for them.

Their first salvo was Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, when they told Democratic Governor Cuomo of New York to stop harassing his church-going constituents. It’s only appropriate that this first exercise of power by the new Thomas Majority should be in defense of the religion in which they were all raised — Catholicism.

There is more to come, so much more that it will amount to a judicial counter-revolution. Undoing Roe v. Wade is just for openers. We’ve got 85 years of judicial activism to work with. Talk about your target rich environments!

This isn’t the work of one term, or one presidential administration. This is the work of a generation. Thomas is 72 and Alito 70, and they are both in good health, and good spirits. For the next ten years, at least, we can expect the Thomas Majority to hold, and it’s not unreasonable to expect both Thomas and Alito will be able to retire during a Republican administration, thus assuring their judicial legacy will continue. Kavanaugh is 55, Gorsuch 53 and Barrett 48. They’re all going to be around for a very long time.

Restoring American liberty is a big job, and they’ve got all the time in the world.

In 1973 Fritz Pettyjohn ran for President of the Student Bar Association at UCLA School of Law. He promised to abolish the association if elected. He got a quarter of the vote.

The politics of oil taxation in Alaska

Democrats, the party of government, are ready to tax Alaskan oil not just to avoid reducing government, but to increase it. Republicans, the party of private enterprise and smaller government, have not favored increasing revenues from the oil industry. We don’t like imposing taxes on those producing wealth, and we don’t want to grow the government.

But times have changed, and Republicans need to change as well. Now, oil tax revenue is needed in order to fund the permanent fund dividend. If more revenue isn’t obtained, there won’t be a dividend.

But Republicans need to exact a price for their support. They must demand that the dividend be funded. And they must demand that state spending be reduced. Otherwise, no deal.

In order for this deal to be enforceable, and permanent, it needs to go into the Alaska Constitution, in the form of a guaranteed dividend. That, in turn, may require a constitutional convention, which can be called by a vote of the people in 2022. Until then, it’s up to the Republicans to enforce it.

Aside from the districts of Senators Stedman, Stevens and Bishop, Republican legislators represent people who just voted resoundingly against Prop 1, an oil tax increase. In order to justify their support for such a tax, they must not only explain that it was necessary to fund the dividend. They also have to show that it was not used to grow government.

The wit and wisdom of Jalmar Kerttula

Some time in the early 90’s Gov. Wally Hickel went on a trip outside during the session, and when he returned to Juneau he was loaded for bear. He had his aides scurry about the Capitol, rounding up as may legislators as they could find. When Hickel addressed them in his conference room, he read them the riot act.

Finishing his tirade, he said, “All you’re doing around here is f—ing the dog, just f—ing the dog. Well, that’s going to change. From now on we’re going to f— the cat!”

At that point Senator Jay Kerttula said to his neighbor, loud enough for all to hear, “I hear you can get clawed up pretty bad doing that.”

Jay Kerttula, 1928-2020 R. I. P.

Republicans at a crossroads in Alaska

With, at best, 20 House seats, Republicans won’t be able to force big cuts in the budget in 2021, regardless of how the Senate organizes. So Republicans have to make a choice. Do they cut the dividend to the bone, or do they raise revenue? It’s one or the other.

If Republicans decide to defend the dividend, where should the revenue come from, the people or the oil companies? That should be an easy choice. The oil companies have had it soft in Alaska for a very long time, for 40 years, in fact. It’s time the entire oil tax regime in Alaska is given a fresh look.

All the players in Alaskan oil should be invited to Juneau, and asked, “What’s the fairest, most efficient, and least discouraging way for the State to get the revenue it needs?” This is a conversation that is long overdue.

The oil industry took over the State Senate in the mid-80’s, in the person of Senate President Jan Faiks. They have had outsized influence in the legislature ever since. If the Republicans don’t bring them to the table, the Democrats will.

When the industry says they’ll no longer invest in Alaska, it’s bullfeathers. Alaska is where the oil is. And Alaska is at the doorstep of a market the oil companies can exploit.

That market is Japan, our most important ally in the world. China is our geopolitical foe, and Japan, that great big floating aircraft carrier of a nation, is the first line of defense. Valdez is as close to Yokohama as it is to Long Beach, so it makes perfect economic sense for Alaskan oil to be sold there.

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are China’s neighbors, and are thus critical to containing it. All are now dependent on Mideast oil, and they are nervous about it. Saudi Arabia and Iran are headed to war, sooner or later, and when that war comes the Strait of Hormuz closes.

All these countries would rather have good, safe, reliable American oil, and they will pay a premium for it. Alaskan oil is thus more valuable than any other oil in North America.

So the oil companies aren’t leaving Alaska. Alaskan oil must be developed as a matter of national security. If China’s neighbors are dependent on Alaskan oil, they are client states, and natural partners, and close allies.

Republicans want every well drilled in this state that makes economic sense. Because Alaska is so strategically located, it will still make sense even if a modest increase in revenue flows to the state.