Sam Karson


In recent years, Alaska has developed an increasingly robust economic relationship with China. China is the largest foreign buyer of Alaskan goods and China continues to invest in Alaska and promote Alaskan tourism. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government’s relationship with China has deteriorated over concerns that China poses a danger to U.S. national security. As the U.S. federal government continues to scrutinize Chinese investment and trade with the United States, Alaska’s economic relationship with China increasingly hangs in the balance. Alaska’s relationship with China thus joins a long history of economic ties between states and foreign nations that pose conflicts of interest for the U.S. federal government. Beginning with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and leading up to the present, the states have staked out a role as advocates on behalf of their citizens in promoting economic ties with foreign nations. This Note argues that the anti-commandeering doctrine provides constitutional protection for Alaska’s promotion of its economic relationship with China from interference by the U.S. federal government. While the federal government may itself regulate commerce between Alaska and China, the federal government may not muzzle the Alaska state government and prevent it from promoting commerce with China. While this state of play might seem like a hollow victory for Alaska, the anti-commandeering doctrine requires the federal government to take action itself — rather than coerce Alaska to take action — and thus forces the federal government to expend greater political capital in passing a law or regulation. The anti-commandeering doctrine thus properly apportions political accountability among the state and federal governments and makes federal intervention less likely.

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