25 September 2006

Where I have heard this before?

The gubernatorial candidates are promising ethics reform. The Bill Allens of the world should run and hide:

As voters wait to see why the FBI raided the offices of several Alaska legislators last month -- and to see who, if anyone, will get in trouble -- candidates for governor say they've got plenty of ideas on how to keep politicians honest.

More money for the watchdog agency that looks into public officials' pocketbooks? Pay it, say Democrat Tony Knowles, Republican Sarah Palin and independent Andrew Halcro.

The former attorney general could own more than $100,000 of stock in a company he could assist in his state job because of fuzzy ethics rules? Candidates say they want to make the law crystal clear.

And what about those state legislators who are paid thousands of dollars as consultants for private companies, but don't have to say what it is, exactly, they do for the money? All three candidates say it's got to stop.

Wait, this sounds familiar. Where have I heard this before? Oh right, before the last legislative session. And what happened? Nothing.

The only way ethics reform will ever happen is if it's in the interest of the politicians concerned. And right now it's in the interest of some (powerful) politicians not to change the system because they derive such a huge benefit from it ("consulting" contracts, conflict of interest loopholes, and so on).

The only way to make ethics reform in the interest of a majority of lawmakers is if something more basic than cash is put at stake - their job. If there's a continued "public outcry" (sparked by media coverage) for ethics reform, then lawmakers might feel sufficiently pressured to change their ways. But January is a long way away and the legislative agenda has a way of getting crowded quickly (natural gas pipeline, anyone? PERS and TRS relief?). So don't count me surprised if these ethics problems are not addressed next session.

There's another way, of course.

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