No one is watching Juneau. Sadly, the Anchorage Daily News and local television stations can’t afford to have full time reporters in Juneau during the session. Granted, Bill McCallister’s onscreen crush reporting and Wesley Loy’s at times “she made cupcakes!” stories weren’t exactly keeping us in touch. But their presence gave some lawmakers the impression of guards at the hen house. If the Governor appoints an “activist judger” and the 4th Estate doesn’t report it…did it really happen?
I understand it’s my political nerdiness that fills my TIVO memory with Gavel to Gavel. I zoom through most of it. There is a substantial list of commission appointees from the Office of the Governor. I read through the list…was delighted my high school counselor has a reappointment to the Board of Professional Counselors. It is surprising how many Boards there are and for what purpose they serve.
One in particular had me googling. The Commission on Judicial Conduct. Holy Crap! Really? There are judicial watchdogs? Great! I wouldn’t want activist judges running rampant letting Exxon off the hook…oh, wait…this is a state commission.
According to the state website, this is what they are: The Commission on Judicial Conduct is a constitutionally created state agency in the judicial branch but separate from the court system. The commission consists of nine members: three state court judges or justices, three lawyers with at least ten years legal practice in Alaska, and three persons who are not lawyers or judges. The chief function of the commission is to investigate complaints of ethical misconduct against state judges and justices. The commission has the power to recommend that the supreme court sanction a justice or judge. Possible sanction recommendations include suspension, removal, retirement from office, or public or private censure.
Well, that certainly is important. The appointment is for four years. The list of responsibilities is long. Any citizen can file a complaint against a judge. The Commission oversees the conduct of justices of the Alaska Supreme Court, judges of the state court of appeals, state superior court judges, and state district court judges. This Commission was formed in 1968 through an amendment to the Constitution. Over the past eight years of gerrymandering the judicial system in this country, the impression of Justice blindfolded has waned. That seems fair – judges should be held to the highest standards; beyond reproach. So who judges the judges? “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” came to mind.
The position is currently held by Ethel Staton. Here are her qualifications: ETHEL L. STATON is a Tsimshian Alaskan Native born and raised in Ketchikan. A successful business woman from Sitka since 1955, she and her husband have owned and operated several restaurants, a cocktail lounge, motel, and rentals over the years. Presently she owns and operates Log Cache Gifts and Jewelry store. Ms. Staton is currently serving on the Shee Atika, Inc. Board of Directors since 1974, the Board of Trustees of since 1993, and the Community Advisory Board for , WesTours, Inc. since 1994. Ethel Staton also served the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. In the past, Ms. Staton served on the Board of Governors for the Alaska Bar Association for six years, the Atikon Timber Board, the Advisory Board of Islands Community College, the Tongass Girl Scouts of the Alaska Council and the Tsimshian Tribal Association.
Big shoes to fill. The newest appointment is Mr. Chris Brown.
Not to take anything away from Dr. Swarner and his appointment to the Board of Examiners in Optometry, but I didn’t google him. My eyes are fine.
Commissioner Appointee Brown, you’ve been googled.
Treasurer Chris Brown’s credentials are proudly displayed by the Alaska Family Council. They are a curious bunch. All male. All white. All have the crusts cut off of their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Their board members and officers turn up on a few of Alaska’s top industry businessmen and lawyers…a few examples:
Mr. Rick Solie is the Vice-Chair for the AFC, as well as a former borough assemblyman in Fairbanks. He now works for the Conoco/BP love child “Denali(TM).” While serving as the chair for the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, the FCC gave their endorsement to the Denali(TM) project over AGIA. (Not even the State Chamber would take a side.) Mr. Solie, who was caught driving while intoxicated on the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Campus, got into a nasty court battle trying to cover up his 2nd offense. His wife, Cherie, managed Frank Murkowski’s campaign and was, at the time, working for the Governor in his Fairbanks office. The judge redacted her name from the record though she was with her husband for his 3am DWI.
Kevin Clarkson is a member of the Alaska Family Council. He represented lawmakers Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn in front of the Alaska Supreme Court trying to stop the Troopergate Investigation. Kevin Clarkson played puppet for James Dobson’s Liberty Legal Fund ushered in from Texas for their “constitutional expertise.” In February, the lawmakers reported $40,000 gift of services from Mr. Clarkson for a grand total of $185,000 in donated legal fees. The lawsuit was thrown out on it’s ear; baseless and an example of partisan political theatre. The AFC is very proud of their close association with James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” organization. They state, ” Throughout each stage of its development, the Alaska Family Council has worked closely with Focus on the Family.” Their partnership couldn’t have been better illustrated than when it came to the lawsuit attempting to stop a bi-partisan, State of Alaska sanctioned investigation that eventually found the Governor had abused her power.
Member, Robert Flint helped develop the Parking Authority. He represented the Alaska Seafood International in their $50Million boondoggle building. $48 million came from the Alaska Industrial Export Authority-oil revenues from the State of Alaska. The building now serves to “fisher men” rather than process fish. Sold for pennies on the dollar. Changepoint Church.
Jim Minnery, Founder and President of the Alaska Family Council seems dreamy. He works for all sorts of non-profits, and guest writes on occasion for ADN. His articles include a scathing piece on how Alaska chooses it’s judges. “Judges are some of the most powerful government figures.” Another article is titled, “Alaska’s black-robed elitists trample on parents’ rights.”
The Governor’s appointee, Chris Brown, is the Chief Operating Officer of AT&T Alascom. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. (A very pro-industry “non-profit” organization.)
The AFC touts: Chris Brown joined the Board of Directors of the Alaska Family Council in early 2008. Mr. Brown and his family have been Alaska residents since 2004. Chris is a 35 year veteran of the telecommunications industry, and has earned both an Electrical Engineering degree and an MBA, the latter from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has had executive experience in international firms, large US firms, and has participated in several start up and growth companies, including not-for-profit work. Mr. Brown is active in church and civic activities as an adult Bible study and worship leader, church elder, and men’s ministry leader. His interests include the study of the origins, a topic on which he has presented to medical students in Romania. He is active in local, state and federal politics as a volunteer, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. Chris and his wife of 27 years, Margaret, and their son Matthew, an Honors student at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, reside in Anchorage.
He sounds perfect. Really. Like a guy I’d love to discuss the book of Luke with over a casserole. His residency in Alaska is much shorter than the constitutional requirement for an attorney appointed to the same board. His endorsements from the likes of Mr. Solie and Mr. Clarkson worry me. Well, who hasn’t served on a board with less than savory folks? (Mr. Obama? Mr. Ayers?) What’s the board all about? Here are their goals:
•To serve as an effective, credible and professional pro-family voice in the state of Alaska. (So far, OK…a little vague as to what “pro-family” means….go on.)
• To promote ideas and timeless principles to restore hurting families and keep stable families intact. (I like the restore hurting families thing. It’s the little church code about “timeless principles” that bothers me…think Leviticus. )
• To build, sustain and expand a diverse, statewide constituency and equip them to become engaged as effective advocates in the public policy process. (I think this means “elected” and/or “appointed”)
• To collaborate and coordinate with like-minded organizations and coalitions in order to stand as one voice regarding public policy issues impacting Alaskan families. (I get it, strength in numbers. Hhmmm.)
• To create compelling public education campaigns and relationships with those in the media in such a way that dramatically influences public opinion. (HOLD THE PHONE! Public education? You want to control the public education campaigns? No. That’s why you have Private Schools. RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MEDIA? So you can DRAMATICALLY INFLUENCE PUBLIC OPINION???? Isn’t that called propaganda? Did they really write that down? Here’s a clue: if you have a good thing, you don’t have to hard-sell.)
• To identify, recruit and equip community leaders within the business, legal, medical, pastoral and educational sectors to serve as dynamic spokespersons and advocates for pro-family issues. (Again “Get people elected who want to criminalize abortion, who are afraid of gays and empowered women. It’s easier for us to get our pro-industry legislation passed at the expense of people who don’t know better.)
I’ve more than admitted, I’ve bragged about my upbringing in the First Free-Range, Organic, Christian Church of Homer. My faith is important to me. I’ve looked high and low on the AFC website for their definition of “pro-family.” I was hoping to see links to what really affects a healthy family environment; healthcare (Denali Kid Care), support of minimum wage increase, food assistance links, mental health and counseling opportunities, Earth stewardship and environmental protections. Not there.
The everyday stresses of families in Alaska were priorities for Jesus. Feed the hungry, heal the sick. There is not one miracle in the Bible of curing gayness. There was no stoning of a woman who had an abortion. Apparently the loaves and fishes, lame to walk, blind to see, forgiveness…well, they were worth a trip to Earth. After reading the goals of the AFC, you would have thought the New Testament was all about banning abortion and curing the queers. You tell me how abstinence education is working. Abstinence rocks-until it doesn’t. How about the legislation to ban divorce?…nope, not in there.
Palin’s appointment of Chris Brown, a man with no legal experience, who has lived in Alaska only long enough to receive 3 dividend checks is not only unacceptable, it’s dangerous. This is not a committee to oversee a new postage stamp or license plate. This is the over site of our judicial servants. Mr. Brown is a member of an organization whose stated goals include getting their people elected or appointed to dramatically influence public education, media and public opinion.
My ideals of freedom of speech only get tested when people say something I don’t agree with. Their agenda is part of the “free speech” I would protect. Is this legislation and influence really the end point for the AFC? Or does it create a Pavlovian response from “their base” to fill positions with allies friendly to global industry? I don’t know. Either way, Chris Brown’s appointment shouldn’t be tolerated by people of any faith.
Here’s your test…what if the AFC were the Arab Family Council? What if they listed in their beliefs Allah was the one and only true god? What if they stated their goals included influencing public schools, government leadership, public opinion and the media? What if they stated, “Humility and integrity are cornerstones of Islamic character and shall influence all that we do.”?
The United States of America is not a “Faith Based Government.” Neither is the State of Alaska. We are a government of checks and balances. Of the people, by the people, for the people.
Tell your legislator to throw this one back…keep fishing.