Governor names radio show host to commercial fishing post
August 30, 2023
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed a Republican advertising consultant and talk show host to a highly paid state government job overseeing commercial fishing permits.
Dunleavy this month appointed Mike Porcaro of Anchorage as one of two commissioners overseeing the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, or CFEC — a Juneau-based agency with some 20 employees. The commission issues annual commercial fishing permits, grants and denies permit transfers in the event of illnesses and deaths and publishes fisheries reports and statistics.
Porcaro is a Dunleavy ally whose communications firm has worked for the governor’s campaigns, and who has hosted the governor as a guest on his talk radio show.
Porcaro will work in his new state job remotely from his home in Anchorage, continue hosting his daily radio program from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and run his advertising agency outside work hours, he said.
Porcaro’s new job would pay $136,000 a year if he works full time, but he may work less than that and will only be paid for the hours he reports having worked, said Glenn Haight, the other commissioner.
Porcaro, 75, has never been a commercial fisherman and didn’t ask for the job, but he said he was willing to take it when Dunleavy’s office made him the offer.
“All I’m doing is trying to answer a call of service, and I’m going to do the best job I can do,” Porcaro said in an interview Thursday, Aug. 24.
In a prepared statement, a Dunleavy spokesman, Jeff Turner, called Porcaro a “longtime Alaskan and successful business owner with comprehensive knowledge and participation in Alaska’s business, nonprofit and public policy spheres.”
“His background will bring fresh insights and perspectives to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission,” Turner said.
To keep his new job, Porcaro will have to be confirmed by the Legislature.
While many past CFEC commissioners have either worked as attorneys or had some level of experience in or around commercial fisheries, that’s not a requirement: State law says appointees should have a “broad range of professional experience” and no economic stake in commercial fishing permits or boats.
Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes, a member of the House Fisheries Committee who has tracked the commission’s work, said: “It just seems like an odd appointment to me when you have no knowledge of the fishing industry.”
CFEC was established in the 1970s after Alaska voters approved a constitutional amendment to limit access to the state’s commercial fisheries — a right that had previously been guaranteed to all residents.
The commission’s original focus was deciding which fisheries to limit and deciding which commercial fishermen would get the valuable permits, based on their past history in the industry. But that work was largely finished by 2010: Commissioners’ decisions on individual permits, known as adjudications, dropped from dozens a year to just two or three.
A pair of critical audits around that time suggested that CFEC’s highly paid commissioners could be reduced to part-time or replaced by members of the governor’s cabinet.
But the commissioners and commercial fisheries interests lobbied against proposed bills that would have reduced commissioners’ salaries and transferred CFEC’s duties to the Department of Fish and Game.
Veteran commercial fisherman and industry lobbyist Bobby Thorstenson acknowledged that a commissioner appointment is “one of the most plum jobs up there.”
This article was originally published in the Northern Journal, a newsletter from Nathaniel Herz.