Constitutional convention backers see PFD as ‘spark’ for complete, far-reaching rewrite

Bob Bird finishes what he thought was a good point while fellow pro-Constitutional Convention debater Loren Leman looks on with some confusion.

Adapted from The Midnight Sun Memo, a newsletter project from your humble Midnight Sun editor. For everyone who’s been asking about keeping up via email or how to support the work we’ve been doing here, we finally have an answer in this nifty newsletter… which comes with two free editions per week and extras for subscribers (though, as you might have learned from following this blog, the schedule can’t be entirely guaranteed). Sign up now!

Correction: I’ve been contacted by Bob Bird about a line that suggested the constitution proposed by the Alaskan Independence Party called for “gold and silver currency and the armed overthrow of the government.” That second claim was based on the self-defense clause of the AKIP’s proposed constitution, but it was an error to suggest that it is calling for the “armed overthrow of government,” a position that Bird says the group has never advocated. Instead, a more accurate reflection of the AKIP constitution is that it “explicitly reserves the right of the people to treat the government as “an enemy” with complete legal immunity “whenever the state shall threaten the natural law rights of the people.” I apologize for any confusion, especially to any FBI agents trying to base a bogus raid off this blog post.

It’s hard to believe that the general election is just a month and change away. In today’s edition, let’s take closer look at last week’s debate on whether voters should exercise their decennial right to call a constitutional convention and throw the doors wide open on the state’s guiding document.

The debate was an… interesting one. The no side—led by Joelle Hall and Matt Shuckerow—laid out the problems with uncertainty and instability that could come from the multi-year convention process, noting anything and everything could be on the table. Constitutional convention supporter Loren Leman attempted to frame it as a narrow exercise to enshrine the PFD—easily the clearest and most potent a point behind the effort—but was greatly undercut by the blustery rantings of Alaskan Independence Party chairman Bob Bird, who has a load of ideas about what he wants to see changed and wasn’t shy about saying the quiet part out loud.

“The PFD is the spark but when you the spark like that and there’s no limit to what a constitutional convention might produce,” he said in an interview played ahead of the debate. “Then we can look at the incredibly long list of things that need correcting.”

It’s a point that Shuckerow and some of the moderators touched on, noting that Bird has a whole lot of other ideas about changing the Alaska Constitution that include things like dissolving the current local government system for a preordained set of 20 counties and a return to gold and silver currency. Bird’s response is here:

(Also, if you need any idea of how the whole debate went beyond the roughly 75% “no” vote in the polling, watch Shuckerow’s expression at the end of the clip.)

Just what might be on the agenda if a constitutional convention is called is, of course, the big question and there’s really no clear answer. The convention format would be decided by the Legislature—if the Legislature can manage to figure it out—or else it’d be expected to default to the original convention’s format. There’d likely be a round of elections for delegates, the actual convention itself and then the whole thing would be returned to the voters for an up or down vote.

Even Bird noted that the final vote for approval would likely be a backstop against the constitutional convention including some of the nuttiest ideas into the state’s constitution. But I’d hazard a guess that he’s talking more about whatever Anchorage-area delegates might dream up—a place where “I don’t see much common sense”—and not the list of ideas he and the Alaskan Independence Party has wrote.

The fringe party has gone so far as writing its own version of the Alaska Constitution that’s high in animosity towards the federal government, the judicial system, public education, public employees and Alaska Native corporations. It’s pretty into gold and silver currency and explicitly reserves the right of the people to treat the government as “an enemy” with complete legal immunity “whenever the state shall threaten the natural law rights of the people.”

I’ve read through the document, which you can find here, and the clip above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Bird and company have in mind if they get their way. In no specific order, here’s an incomplete and summarized list of what’s contained in the Alaskan Independence Party’s proposed constitution.

  • No more co-equal branches of government. They’d be ranked as follows: Legislature #1, Governor #2 and Judicial #3.
  • Reinforces the fact they’re no longer co-equal branches of government with the explicit statement that: “The judicial branch is to be the least influential of all branches of government.” Their power to interpret law would only go as far as the governor’s willingness to enforce those decisions.
  • In fact, the governor’s office would also be granted the power to interpret law and could refuse to enforce whatever law he decides… as long as “they’re a violation of the Natural Law.”
  • No more Alaska Judicial Council, judge positions would simply be appointed by the governor with confirmation by the Legislature. Judges would also be required to post a bond, which seems to come up a lot.
  • At the convening of the first Senate, someone would have to post a bond of “ten ounces of good or one hundred and sixty ounces of silver.” (These are not anywhere close to being the same value.)
  • Education is no longer a duty of the state but “the responsibility of the family and the individual.” Local school districts would become optional with education financing coming “only from those who utilize the service directly.”
  • No statewide educational standards because “the state recognizes the responsibility and genius of local control in education.”
  • “The state recognizes that private charity for disaster relief is the primary remedy in emergencies.”
  • Seeks to dissolve the current structure of Alaska Native Corporations because their mere existence “creates division and confusion amongst Alaskans, and are arguably in violation of the Constitution of the United States.”
  • Tribal status of Alaska Natives is recognized only where required by Congress.
  • No more election of a lieutenant governor. Instead, they’d be selected by the membership of the House and could be literally anyone but not all members of the House would be eligible to be Lt. Governor because of the position’s requirement that the person holding the position be at least 35 years old.
  • A new Secretary of State of Alaska position that would be responsible for identifying violations by the federal government. They’d be picked by the Senate and could also be anyone, but not all Senators would be eligible as the position needs to be at least 40 years old and a citizen of the state of Alaska for 15 years.
  • Declares that the U.S. Supreme Court has no power over Alaska.
  • Membership in the United States of America would be made voluntary, and the state would “reserve the right to withdraw from the Union of States.”
  • No more boroughs. Instead, we get 20 counties set out in the Alaska Constitution. Also, each one would have a publicly elected sheriff.
  • Those county boards would also elect state Senators.
  • Would declare the “alleged” 14th, 16th and 17th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution “null and void.”
  • Because the 17th Amendment was “fraudulently approved,” the Legislature would select its U.S. Senators and not the voters.
  • Membership in the United States of America would be made voluntary, and the state would “reserve the right to withdraw from the Union of States.”
  • All crimes would be handled through a fine system. Once you pay your fine or if you’re personally pardoned by the victim, you’re free to go. You’d expected to work to pay off your fine and, if found acceptable by the victim, could be freed in order to work and pay off the fine.
  • “Taxation is a threat to personal freedom.”
  • No personal income tax, ever.
  • A judge who enforces taxation will face immediate impeachment.
  • You get your subsurface mineral rights. Have fun with them.
  • Explicitly eliminates the right to an abortion.
  • Wilderness preservation “shall be a secondary goal to” resource development.
  • Government employees are not allowed to vote on candidates or ballot measures related to their level of employment (state employees can’t vote on state office or statewide ballot measures, county employees can’t vote in county elections, school district employees can’t vote in school district races, etc.).
  • No one receiving any benefits—other than social security—from the federal government can vote in federal elections.
  • According to the U.S. Constitution’s mention of gold and silver, which seems to be one of Bird’s favorite parts of the U.S. Constitution, only gold and silver coin could be used to pay debts. And people could conduct “free market transactions with gold and silver in all its forms of specie.”
  • A new oath of office for the governor: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) to defend the rights and liberties of the people of Alaska, to faithfully abide by the principles of the Natural Law and the Declaration of Independence of 1776. And I promise to defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Alaska, assuming responsibility whenever those instruments may conflict with the rights and liberties of the people. And I ask for the prayers of the people of Alaska, for the strength to faithfully discharge my duties with a pure heart and a clear conscience, so help me God.”
  • Any pay raises for legislators require a public vote.
  • A slightly different take on the existing disloyalty clause: “The people shall not be prohibited from organizing their own defense, either individually or collectively. The state may never regard the people as an enemy, but the people reserve the right, under the principles of the Declaration of Independence of 1776, to regard the government as such, with complete immunity from criminal accusation, whenever the state shall threaten the natural law rights of the people.

The constitutional convention will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Register to vote here. Find your polling place here. Sign up for an absentee ballot here.

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