Commentary: Some of Alaska's ethics rules are too lax

Alaska's attorney general is working up a new set of state ethics rules and the changes will make an ethically questionable state policy even worse.

Under the new rules, which are nearing final adoption, it would be harder for Alaskans to know when a special interest is footing the bill for travel by state officials.

Current law allows outside parties to pay travel expenses for a state official who is traveling on state business. (That's what the McCain campaign did for Gov. Palin's aide Kris Perry, who handled state business for the governor as she campaigned across the country.)

It's simply inappropriate for a partisan group or a special interest to pay any state official's travel expenses. The potential for conflict of interest is obvious. Just imagine if travel budgets are tight for state tax auditors, and a company offers to save the state some money by flying state auditors to corporate headquarters and putting them up at a nice hotel.

But at least current rules require this kind of arrangement to be disclosed. The official in question has to report the donated travel as a gift.

If Attorney General Dan Sullivan approves the new rules as proposed, though, that reporting requirement goes away. The new rules will treat the donated travel as a gift to the state, not to the state official, as long as the arrangement is pre-approved by a supervisor and the trip is for official state business. Because there's no "gift" to the state official, there's no public disclosure on it.

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