The Denali Commission in Alaska, set up in 2008 thanks to earmarks by former Senator Ted Stevens, came under withering criticism from … the Denali Commission, or at least one member of it.  The Washington Post reported yesterday afternoon on a letter sent by its Inspector General to Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, asking Congress to fire him and everyone else at the Denali Commission.  Calling the bureaucracy “a Congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out well,” Mike Marsh wants Congress to save $7.4 million a year and eliminate a “middleman” agency.

Needless to say, his co-workers aren’t exactly enthusiastic about Marsh’s latest project:

Until a Washington Post reporter called, Marsh’s fellow employees did not know he was lobbying to have them cut off.

“No. Never heard that,” Joel Neimeyer, the top federal official at the Denali Commission, said when a reporter called. “Thank you for sharing,” he said. Still processing it. This was a man he and other staffers had gone to dinner with: Neimeyer thought Marsh was “charming, with a pretty good sense of humor.” …

Marsh sent his first requests to Washington this summer. Then, this month — as Congress fought a battle over next year’s budget — he sent another letter, this one to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). He said his opponents in the agency were “shooting the messenger, tackling the referee, or berating the pathologist who has to convey the news one would prefer not to hear.”

He’s right that they’re not happy.

“He’s done a great job of flummoxing our ability to serve these communities any better,” Vince Beltrami, a Denali Commission member and a leader of the Alaska AFL-CIO, said Tuesday when the commission met in Anchorage.

The Post has an annotated version of the original letter he sent to Congress in June, and the IG makes a pretty good case. He argues:

  • The infrastructure Congress funds through Denali is unsustainable
  • Denali is just a middleman for federal funds, which other agencies could spend directly
  • Alaska should be taking care of Alaska

On the last point, Marsh argues that Denali could transform into an independent entity for Alaskan support:

At this point, I recommend that Congress no longer send Denali an annual “base” appropriation.  This will give Denali an incentive to leave the federal nest and chart its own course as a federal entity.

This will also give the State of Alaska an incentive to find and fund its own solutions for the residents of “bush” Alaska — as it should.

In an age of budget deficits, it’s refreshing to see a federal bureaucrat point out wasteful spending.  Congress will get right on this, I’m sure. Er

So far, Congress does not seem convinced: The agency appears poised to be funded again (as long as the government doesn’t shut down).

Well, one easy anagram of Denali is denial.