Alaskans deserve credible leadership in the Republican Party. It is time for Randy Ruedrich to resign as Alaska Republican Party chair.
In January 2003, I was one of the Republican members of the State Central Committee who pleaded with Mr. Ruedrich to choose between appointment as a quasi-judicial full-time commissioner on the Oil and Gas Commission or the Alaska Republican Party chair. He could do either job, but it was inappropriate to do both.
As someone who had served both as a commissioner of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (1993-96) and, very briefly, as Republican Party chair (2000), I understood the roles were incompatible.
After several months on his new job regulating oil and gas, concerns about ethics act violations emerged from commission staff. As ethics supervisor, Commissioner Sarah Palin did her duty and forwarded the concerns to the Attorney General. The AG did his duty and opened an investigation. Subsequently, Mr. Ruedrich resigned from the commission, denying at the time that he had done anything to violate the law.
The Attorney General's investigation found four examples of Mr. Ruedrich's conduct that rose to the level of a violation of state ethics law. Mr. Ruedrich repeatedly denied that his conduct violated state ethics law.
That was the situation when the Republican convention took place in Soldotna. The State Central Committee listened to a 40-minute presentation by the party attorney. He earnestly insisted that the charges were baseless. A motion was then made to express confidence in the party chair, Mr. Ruedrich.
Some abstained, but most trusted their leader and the party lawyer. At the time, that was a reasonable choice for most Republican committee members. Criticism of the State Central Committee has been unfair.
All the State Central Committee knew then was that the chair had been accused and that the party attorney asserted that "someone" was on a witch-hunt and had been out to get Mr. Ruedrich "from the beginning"; that Assistant Attorney General Barbara Ritchie was a die-hard Democrat out for Mr. Ruedrich's hide; and that the Anchorage Daily News was making a mountain out of a molehill. There was no evidence to prove any violations of the State Ethics Act.
Reflecting on the course of events, I think it is obvious that the Attorney General and Mr. Ruedrich's ethics supervisors Sarah Palin, Kevin Jardell and Mike Miller were obviously not witch-hunters or pawns of some mysterious person out to get Mr. Ruedrich. I know Assistant Attorney General Barbara Ritchie and, as I would expect, she did her job in a quintessential professional manner.
Unfortunately, it was not until a month after the Republican convention that Mr. Ruedrich finally admitted that indeed his conduct had violated state ethics law.
The state dropped one of four charges. Mr. Reudrich admitted he violated state ethics law three times: 1) misuse of official position by engaging in partisan political activity in his Oil and Gas Commission office; 2) improper disclosure of confidential information; and 3) incompatible outside voluntary service for the Republican Party of Alaska acting contrary to the manner he said he would in his Ethics Act disclosure statement.
Mr. Ruedrich also agreed to pay what is apparently the largest fine ever for violating state ethics law.
The investigation and prosecution have run their course. Guilt has been admitted. There is no room left for reasonable doubt.
This is no time for Mr. Ruedrich to assert it was just easier to admit guilt than to defend himself against these charges. This does nothing but reflect badly upon Mr. Ruedrich and put the state Republican Party in an untenable position in its effort to get on with the business of helping to elect principled, conservative candidates.
Immediate past chair
Alaska Republican Party
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