GUEST COMMENTARY: House Majority needs to bring SB 5 to a vote
There’s a very important bill stuck in the Democrat-led House Majority Coalition that needs to be on the books in order to stop corruption in the Capitol.
Senate Bill 5 is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, and has already passed the Senate unanimously.
SB 5 prohibits groups controlled by legislators or legislative staff from soliciting and accepting contributions or from making certain contributions and expenditures during a regular or special legislative session; and prohibits lobbyists from making campaign contributions to groups controlled by legislators who live outside their districts.
SB 5 was introduced by Meyer after the Alaska Public Offices Commission ruled on a complaint filed by the Alaska Democratic Party against the formation of Gabby’s Tuesday PAC, a group controlled by current House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.
The problem with groups controlled by a legislator is that it provides yet another way for lobbyists, unions and other moneyed-interests to funnel large amounts of money towards certain legislators and legislative candidates.
As it is, lobbyists are prohibited from making contributions to campaigns of legislators and legislative candidates outside their districts.
APOC stated they couldn’t prohibit LeDoux’s group because existing campaign finance and lobbyists laws and regulations needed to be changed by legislators to address such groups.
Fortunately, Meyer heard their call for action and drafted SB 5. His decades of experience as an elected official on the Anchorage Assembly, House of Representative and Senate has shown him that it’s best to curtail the power and influence of lobbyists and moneyed-interests.
Meanwhile, the lack of controls on LeDoux’s group has created a monster.
Before session began this year there were rumblings from lobbyists who received calls from LeDoux. She squeezed them to contribute to her group… or else. They understood they needed to pay in order for their clients’ interests to get any play in the legislature. LeDoux’s “pay-to-play” scheme is fundamentally corruption at its most basic level.
Then, LeDoux was elected into a leadership position by House Democrats to control the flow of bills as House Rules chair, a powerful position.
The lack of controls on LeDoux’s group also gums up the works in the legislature as she hurls threats at fellow legislators and others. Such a sordid culture of intimidation has not been seen since the 1990s when another representative from Muldoon ruled the House.
The late former House Speaker Ramona Barnes was renowned for her heavy-handedness. Nothing happened in the House without her say-so. Barnes was generous to her political allies and a menace to her foes.
The seeds of the VECO corruption scandal, when the FBI raided legislative offices in 2006, were planted with the rise of Barnes to leadership positions in the early 1990s. Barnes’ power grew through the years as her relationship with VECO CEO Bill Allen, lobbyists and other moneyed-interests solidified.
Do we truly want to go back to a time when lobbyists and moneyed-interests dictated what happened in our Capitol in Juneau?
SB 5 is currently stuck in the House Community and Regional Affairs committee, one of three committees the House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, assigned it — in order to kill the bill.
The other committees include State Affairs and Judiciary.
Multiple communications to the committee chairs have been sent.
Repeated emails to CR&A co-chairs Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, and Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, to hear the bill have gone unanswered. Obviously, they don’t seem to want to prevent and stop corruption in our Capitol.
State Affairs chair Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, has also shown no interest in corruption prevention as he’s also not responded to emails.
Surprisingly, Judiciary chair Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, responded with encouragement to push for SB 5’s passage — if it ever got to his committee.
It’s time for the Democratic-led House majority to oust LeDoux as Rules chair.
Then they need to do everything possible to put SB 5, a very important and much-needed bill, on the books before LeDoux and her “pay-to-play” scheme further destroys their ability to effectively legislate and appropriate without more undue influence, intimidation and threats this session.
Andrée McLeod lives in Anchorage and moved to Alaska more than 35 years ago. She is a registered Republican who believes in the power of the citizen to keep politicians in line.