Alaska attorney general needs distance from Gov., critics claim

Legal News Line Jul. 2, 2007, 7:48am

David Marquez

JUNEAU -- Alaska's recent corruption scandals have placed the issue of electing the state's attorney general squarely back on the political agenda. Some of Alaska's politicians have again renewed calls for the state's top law office to be voted on by the people rather than appointed by the governor. Attempts earlier this year to revive the perennial issue failed to gain traction, LNL reported. But criticism of both the incumbent attorney general and his predecessor has continued building over the past few months as the scandal over the bribing of state reperesentatives has grown. That has helped fuel pressure to make the attorney general more independent. Democratic state Representative Harry Crawford is again calling for Alaska -- one of only five other states where the governor appoints the AG -- to allow its citizens to vote for the office, the Juneau Empire reported yesterday. Crawford was co-sponsor of the failed amendment earlier this year. Amongst those charged in the recent scandal, where oil-industry executives are alleged to have paid politicians for votes, is former state Sen. Ben Stevens. He's the son of Alaska's long-time GOP U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. Current Republican attorney general Talis Colberg already has taken heat for doing little over the first few months of this year as the scandal was building. Colberg didn't call for a state probe until after the FBI had made arrests, LNL reported in May. And former attorney general David Marquez is now accused of ignoring corruption allegations raised last year by ethics watchdog and former Republican Moderate Party state Rep. Ray Metcalfe, the Empire also reported. Marquez, a former oil-industry attorney, was appointed AG by former Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2002 and served until last year. Murkowski's government was ousted in 2006 as ethics allegations mounted around it. And critics are now asking how three state agencies -- the attorney-general's office, the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics and the Alaska Public Offices Commission -- could have missed the scandal, the Empire reported yesterday. Despite this, respected Alaska figures such as Metcalfe and former Democratic Rep. Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage still oppose popularly electing the attorney general.

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