U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released the following statement in honor of Veterans Day:
On Veterans Day, we express how grateful we are to all who served in America’s armed forces, and for the sacrifices that they willingly made on our behalf. We also know that many veterans endure the toll of their service well beyond the days of being in uniform. Their military service might be complete, but their sacrifice remains.
Our country and what it stands for was significant enough for veterans to volunteer not only for military service, but for long deployments, sometimes many of them. Some came home wounded in body and spirit. Some do not come home at all. Meanwhile, at home, military families endure their own share of sacrifice.
Today and every day, I join Alaskans in saying thank you to our veterans and their families for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve for the common good. Their service and sacrifice is something to be honored by all of us who breathe easier and live freely because of those who have defended us at home and abroad.
Thank you and God bless.”
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
The Alaska Permanent Fund: Taking Care of Alaska and Alaskans for 45 Years
The late Governor Jay Hammond liked to dream big. He wanted to “transform oil wells pumping oil for a finite period into money wells pumping money for infinity.” His dream came true. Because of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alaska is now the only State that earns much of its unrestricted general fund revenues from the global economy.
Today, the Alaska Permanent Fund totals more than $80 billion. It’s the largest sovereign wealth fund in the nation, the pride of Alaska and this month we celebrate its 45th anniversary.
The Fund’s roots date to 1968 when oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope. The find was world-class – what they call an “elephant” in the industry. The State held a lease sale just months after the discovery, and when the last bid was opened, the new State pocketed nearly $1 billion in bonus bids – enough money in those days to fully fund the state budget for a decade.
But needs were great in our young State, and the money was gone before the first drop of oil entered the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977. Without a mechanism to save some of this instant wealth, leaders like Hammond believed “politicians would spend every windfall to satisfy insatiable short-term needs and demand, only to find themselves in a world of hurt when oil wealth declined. Such had been the experience of virtually every oil-rich state and nation.”
Hammond, aided by legislative leaders, decided the solution was to put some of the incoming money into a fund that would strengthen the long-term success of the new state and reduce the tax burden on its citizens. This led to a constitutional amendment that Alaskans overwhelmingly passed in 1976 to create the Alaska Permanent Fund. The amendment directed that the Principal “shall only be used for those income-producing investments specifically designated by law” and that all income be “deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law.”
In the 45 years that have followed, realized income from the Fund’s investments totals $78.6 billion, and this money has flowed to the Earnings Reserve Account for appropriation. Since its inception, $30.3 billion of Fund income has been saved for future generations through inflation proofing and special deposits to Principal, $11.3 billion remains available for appropriation, and $37.0 billion has been paid out to current generations, fulfilling the founding vision of intergenerational equity.
Of the $37.0 billion paid out to current generations, $24.4 has gone to individual Alaskans in the form of Permanent Fund Dividends, $12.1 has been distributed since 2019 to support government services and programs, including the dividend, and $433.8 million has gone to the Alaska Capital Income Fund based on the Amerada Hess settlement.
As the Fund has grown, so, too, has its impact on the State. While the State was long dependent on oil to pay our bills, the Fund – through its many billions of dollars in investments – has indirectly but substantially diversified the State’s revenue.
Thanks to 45 years of expert management and a disciplined investment strategy, the Fund has matured to meet its founders’ expectations. Capital Finance International named the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation the Best Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment Team in the Americas for delivering a “stand-out performance.”
“APFC is strengthened by a diverse leadership team and staff that aim to protect principal capital and outperform market benchmarks,” the international business publication wrote. “It forges partnerships with premier external managers to amplify internal investment capacities and broaden the Fund’s investment reach.”
The Fund’s success also comes from the legislative and executive branches by supporting and protecting it through inflation-proofing and special appropriations to the Principal, easing of investment restraints and passing the Percent of Market Value rule to establish a known and manageable withdrawal structure that protects the Fund’s long-term value.
Today Alaskans are proud beneficiaries of a Fund that has grown large enough to pay for many of our essential services and programs.
As Elmer Rasmuson, the banker who served as the first Trustee chair, put it: “Money may not be everything, but I tell you, having the Permanent Fund gives us all a lot of confidence and determination for the future.”
The Board of Trustees, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation: Chair Craig Richards, Vice-Chair Lucinda Mahoney, Trustee Corri Feige, Trustee William G. Moran, Trustee Steve Rieger, Trustee Ethan Schutt
Alaska Campaign Finance Law
What are Alaskan voters to make of the recent Advisory Opinion that was issued by Thomas R. Lucas, Campaign Disclosure Coordinator for the Alaska Public Offices Commission? That advisory opinion was issued in response to a request to APOC for guidance regarding what limits, if any, still exist on a person’s ability to make campaign donations in Alaska. Uncertainty regarding this issue was created by the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Thompson v. Hebdon case, where a two-judge majority of a three-judge panel struck down as unconstitutional three provisions of the Alaska Statutes that placed caps on donations to the campaigns of candidates for political office. Alaska’s Attorney General chose not to protest the removal of all individual spending limits.
These caps on campaign donations are strongly supported by the people of Alaska. These limits were enacted into law by a direct vote of the people, through a 2006 initiative. 73% of voters voted for the initiative. The Alaska Public Research Group (AKPIRG) helped to run that successful ballot initiative. Polling since then has consistently shown that large majorities of Alaskans continue to support strict limits.
And it’s not hard to see why these limits are so important. Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true–instead, whoever has the most money has the most influence. This increases the power imbalance, discouraging decision making in the best interests of all Alaskans in exchange for a hyper-inside baseball cronyism that benefits only the wealthiest. We should not create further incentives towards corruption.
Unsurprisingly, some entrenched politicians have worked to weaken these campaign donation limits. The 2006 initiative was only necessary because the Alaska Legislature had voted to loosen the caps on donations in 2003. It was an amazing display of political determination and organizing that allowed the people to restore the previously existing stricter caps within just three years after the Legislature had weakened them. Politicians who rely upon large donations from small numbers of donors are often likely to undermine the desire of the people for strong limits.
So now, in his advisory opinion, APOC’s Campaign Disclosure Coordinator seeks to restore the much weaker campaign contribution limits that had been enacted by the Alaska Legislature in 2003, and that had been overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Alaska. On one hand, it is important that APOC establish a spending cap. However, we do not think these proposed limits are the ones that will serve Alaska best. This advisory opinion is not an official decision of APOC acting as a commission, and these issues will need to be sorted out by the commission, and by the Alaska Legislature.
We are writing on behalf of organizations that support clean and fair elections. We believe that the will of the Alaska people regarding campaign donation limits should be restored to the greatest extent possible, and that this can be done by simply taking the campaign limits that were in the 2006 initiative, and then indexing those limits to the rate of inflation.
Using the Alaska Urban Consumer Price Index, for example, a contribution limit that was $500 in 2006 would be a limit of $619 as of the first half of 2021. While no one can be one hundred percent certain what the courts will do in the future, we believe that this approach would do the most to preserve the limits that were established by the Alaska voters, while still having an excellent chance of surviving constitutional review.
The Commission members of APOC will have their next regular meeting on January 26, 2022, although Commission Chair Anne Helzer said the commission will likely hold a special meeting before then to decide whether to approve the new proposal. The Alaska Legislature will be meeting in its next regular session starting on January 18, 2022. Both bodies will have the opportunity to address these issues, and to try to restore the protections of the 2006 initiative to the greatest extent possible.
The people of Alaska have the opportunity to communicate with both bodies, and to support the restoration of our strong campaign donation limits. If they fail to act, it will be up to us to once again make use of the initiative process to restore fair and reasonable limits on campaign donations in Alaska.
Veri di Suvero, Executive Director
Alaska Public Interest Research Group
Beverly Churchill, Alaska Move to Amend
Easily create interactive stories, animations and games for free
As humans, we are hardwired to share our experiences through the telling of stories. Communities value the stories passed on by Elders as it keeps history alive. And, youth love to create their own stories and illustrate these on paper.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) launched Scratch in 2002. With Scratch, youth and teens can easily create amazing animations, games, and interactive stories. Scratch is a free online tool that allows youth to easily create animations, games, and interactive stories to share.
Designed to be used by 8 to 16-year old youth and teens, Scratch is available in more than 60 languages and is being used in more than 150 countries. In addition to the online cloud-based version, a Microsoft Windows app is available for download from the web site.
Scratch is designed for intuitive use as it allows youth and teens to drag and drop command graphics that instruct character or shapes what to do. For example, commands include telling your character to move a certain number of steps, change color, resize, play a sound, glide a specific number of seconds, turn a number of degrees and so much more.
ScratchJr is designed for children aged 5 to 7 years old. ScratchJr aids children in developing creativity, designing projects and improve their problem-solving skills. Best for use on a tablet, ScratchJr is available for free via download via the Apple and Google Play stories. ScratchJr is a collaboration between the DevTech Research Group at Tufts University, the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Playful Invention Company.
There are many tutorials available. Visit the Scratch Team’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjcQmKeifVUUH5s4E4OrMhg
SCRATCH FOSTERS CREATIVITY, INITIAITVE and LEARNING
In a study of 4th graders in Thailand, initiative and flexible thinking increased significantly in those students who created stories in Scratch. A 2019 study of Indonesian students revealed the use of Scratch increased creativity and helped students learn more compared to students who didn’t use Scratch.
SOME WAYS TO USE SCRATCH
IDEA # 1 – Ask an Elder to Tell You a Story
Reach out to Elders and ask them to tell you a story that you could then create on Scratch.
IDEA #2 – Create a Story About Your Family
Use Spark to make an animation that tells your family’ story.
IDEA #3 – Create a New Super Hero
Which super hero powers do you want your character to have?
IDEA #4 – Develop a Game for You and Your Friends
Creating games in scratch is one of the most fun things to do. Design your game and make it come to life in Scratch.
IDEA #5 – Make an Animation for Your Family
Make an animation for a family member’s birthday or for a family gathering. Be sure to tell them how important they are to you.
SCRATCH JR https://www.scratchjr.org/
CAMP FIRE SPARK
Camp Fire Alaska will be writing a weekly article featuring ideas and activities for youth, teens, and families to do together. Share your stories, games and animations with us. Send us details at [email protected] and use the hashtags #CampFireAlaskaScratch and #CampFireAlaskaSpark in your social posts.
Joe Slowinski, Camp Fire Alaska