The frenzy over Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes continues unabated, despite an investigator's finding that Renkes had no conflict of interest while he was negotiation an Alaska coal proposal with Taiwan.
It is becoming more clear that the hubbub is grounded in politics; that a lot of people taken aback by the investigator's conclusion are desperate to slap the horse from beneath Renkes and leave him swinging with a noose around his neck. Apparently nothing short of that will satisfy his detractors or maintain his accusers' credibility.
It is easy to follow.
A news story accuses Renkes of benefiting from the coal talks because he owns stock in a company developing coal-drying technology.
Gov. Frank Murkowski quickly hires former U.S. Attorney Robert Bundy to investigate. Does that placate the attorney general's accusers? Hardly. They bounce right back, saying Bundy, a former Clinton administration official, mind you, cannot possibly be independent in his investigation.
Instead of waiting for his findings, they demand a probe by the state personnel board, and file a complaint to get one, all the while keeping up the drumbeat that Renkes must go, he must be fired, he must resign maybe even impeached.
While that is going on, an environmentalist surprise! also files a complaint with the Bar Association against Renkes.
For his part, Bundy concludes the attorney general did not break the state Code of Ethics and had no conflict of interest despite newspaper accusations to the contrary. Renkes did show poor judgment in deleting about two years' worth of e-mails the day news stories about the coal talks broke, Bundy says, but that did not affect the investigation's outcome.
Then, the documents gathered in Bundy's investigation are forwarded to the state personnel board, where rules require that details of investigations be kept secret.
Would any of that placate the usual suspects, still smarting from Bundy's ruling? Will they wait for the outcome of the personnel board probe before screaming for Renkes' head? Nope. They could not get him on breaking the Ethics Code, so now they are focusing on the deleted e-mails, which Bundy said he retrieved from other accounts.
Instead of patiently waiting for the second investigation to conclude, Renkes' foes no obliquely are accusing him of perjury, wondering whether there are any other kinds of investigations they can get started and demanding all the documents Murkowski's office sent to the state personnel board.
It's the moving target theory of investigations. If we cannot get you on this, how about we try that? Or how about this other thing?
In due time, the state personnel board will finish its work and arrive at a conclusion. It would seem wise, and only fair, to await its action before buying a new rope and finding a suitable tree.
The Voice of the Times (Anchorage)
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