Candidate's name: Diane E. Benson
Occupation: Small business owner
Employment history: Casting and talent agent, writer, producer, researcher, paralegal and truck driver.
Previous public offices held: ---
Previous unsuccessful runs for office: U.S. Congress (2006)
Education:Pursuing a master's degree in public policy; master's of fine arts (2002); bachelor's in theater with justice minor (1985).
Children: Sgt. Latseen Benson
Web site: www.bensonforcongress.com
1. Why are you running for office?
I'm running for office because I believe that our representative government should be for the people and by the people of the United States. Not for the lobbyist and by the special interests. Alaskans deserve a government that they can trust to fight for cheaper energy prices, lower health-care costs and a better future for their children. Career politicians have failed to get the job done thus far. It's time we had a real Alaskan represent Alaska.
2. The most important issue in this election is ____.
I believe that cleaning up our government is not only the defining issue in this election but for the people of America as a whole. While some people might think of clean government as just some esoteric matter of principle, the need for a clean government is the entire basis for our representative democracy. Without a trustworthy government all the great speeches and political promises Americans are inundated with on a daily basis mean nothing.
3. What specifically should Congress do, if anything, to address rising energy prices?
Congress can lower the cost of energy by diversifying America's sources of energy. America's energy security should not rely on the members of OPEC being in a "good mood." It's time we invest in renewable energy and use our resources more wisely.
4. If oil and gasoline prices continue to rise, could you support government price controls?
If the price of gas continues to skyrocket, I would support temporary price controls to alleviate the burden on the American people. However, price controls are only a temporary solution. Developing America's and Alaska's renewable energy is the key to providing a long term solution for high gas prices.
5. Do you support drilling in ANWR? If the answer is yes, tell us something new that you as a member of Congress can do to open the coastal plain to drilling.
I would support a bill to open ANWR if it offers environmentally safe and socially responsible methods and would primarily benefit Alaskans and not just oil corporations. As a member of the majority party there are many new options I can bring to the table such as a strengthened push for environmentally safe drilling practices.
6. TransCanada has suggested the federal government can help the proposed Alaska gas line by acting as a "bridge shipper." That means the federal government would agree to buy enough gas to fill the line if necessary, or at least guarantee the equivalent revenue stream for the pipeline owner. Will you support legislation to do this?
If TransCanada can't convince North Slope gas owners to use its pipeline, then I would suggest exploring other opportunities to tap into Alaska's gas. It makes no sense for Alaskans to pay for the pipeline directly and then pay for the pipeline indirectly by spending billions of government dollars on covering operating costs. It would be much wiser for the government to invest those billions of dollars in health care, education, and infrastructure.
7. Do you support offshore drilling in Bristol Bay?
Bristol Bay is home to one of the most environmental sensitive ecosystems in North America. Opening up this area to drilling would likely cause severe damage to the local environment while horribly disrupting local fisheries that produce $2 billion in revenue each year. In addition to the commercial fishing that takes place there, many people rely on this area as their primary basis of subsistence.
8. What can the federal government or Congress do to further a natural gas pipeline should state measures such as an AGIA license fail to pass, or fail to "induce" a pipeline?
If AGIA fails to induce a pipeline then we should expand our options by renewing the push for an all-Alaska pipeline. The federal government could assist by approving the land needed to build. An all-Alaska pipeline could provide gas in half the time being discussed in current proposals. In addition an all-Alaska pipeline would create thousands of jobs that could never be outsourced from Alaska.
9. Some say oil companies have leased vast public acreage and are now sitting on the leases without drilling. Point Thomson in Alaska has been mentioned as an example. Do you believe this has anything to do with our energy crunch?
If major oil companies don't want to search for oil on the land they've leased then they should stand aside and allow smaller companies to search. The fact is, this land was leased to these oil corporations to help alleviate the high costs of gas. If the United States is going to lower the prices then we must take advantage of our natural resources.
10. Rural Alaska has been hit particularly hard by high fuel prices. Are there specific steps Congress or a member of Congress should take to address this?
Families who live in rural Alaska spend around 40 percent of their paychecks on providing energy to their homes. This is unacceptable. When elected to Congress I shall push for an aggressive development of renewable energy generation in places like rural Alaska. Small wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal heating pumps, these are all easily implemented measures rural Alaskans could be using right now to heat their homes rather than the costly diesel fuel being used now.
11. Should Congress continue President Bush's tax cuts to stimulate the economy? Explain.
The Bush administration's reckless government spending and irresponsible tax cuts are one of the driving forces behind our country's poor economy. Rather than give the Paris Hilton's of the world unnecessary tax breaks that are paid for by the middle class; we should reinvest in America. Instead of handouts for the wealthy, taxpayer dollars are better spent on investments that are proven to help the economy like education, health care, or repairing America's crumbling infrastructure.
12. How important a priority is reducing the federal deficit? Explain.
With a trillion dollars being spent on the war in Iraq and billions of dollars being handed out to special interests, it's no wonder our federal deficit is so high. America cannot continue the reckless spending habits which force us to sell our children's economic future to China. While cutting federal spending is important, the best way to reduce the deficit is to invest our money wisely. A $1,000 investment today can save $1,000,000 dollars tomorrow.
13. Should the U.S. tax code be simplified? Is it fair?
We need to simplify the tax code by closing the numerous loopholes and tax shelters that many corporations use to avoid paying their taxes. No one I know jumps for joy when tax time comes, but we all sit down and do our duty as Americans and pay our taxes. Small businesses and working-class Americans should not be forced to shoulder the burden of our economy while corporations ship jobs overseas to save money.
14. What should the future U.S. role in Iraq be?
The path to peace and freedom for the Iraqi people requires economic aid and infrastructure rather than military force. While America should continue to encourage the process of democracy and human rights, the time has come for the Iraqi people to govern themselves and grow as a nation. It would be more cost effective and more persuasive to invest in electrical infrastructure and other sustaining needs.
15. How long do you believe the U.S. occupation should continue?
To ease tensions in the Middle East, the occupation should end. "Work smarter not harder"; therefore we should relieve our over-deployed troops. Unlike other candidates in this race, I am intimately aware of the demands and the costs of war - my son, lost his legs by a bomb in Iraq. We can hardly care for our Veterans let alone pay the economic or personal costs of this war.
16. Should a date be set for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq? Explain.
America's presence in Iraq should not last one day longer than is needed to safely withdrawal our troops. Most estimates suggest that with proper planning we could withdrawal all of our troops within 12 months. We can plan now. We should focus on stabilizing Afghanistan and finding Osama Bin Laden.
17. What role should Congress have in deciding the kind of military approach the U.S. uses in Iraq?
The job of Congress and the President is to provide an overall foreign policy strategy. Any military tactics, within the boundaries of the law, should be left to the military.
18. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons?
I do not support the use of pre-emptive military strikes, which are often based more on ideology than intelligence. Rather than recycling failed Bush administration strategies, the United States should focus on diplomatic discussions with Iran. I reject the premise that we must use a military-first foreign policy. If we could talk to the Soviets during the Cold War, we can talk to Iran.
19. How good a job is the military and the Veterans Administration doing in providing ongoing care to soldiers and ex-soldiers who served in the war? What specifically would you do to improve services?
The first thing I will do is push for assured funding for the VA so that no veteran will go untreated because of "lack of funds." Second, I will stop the VA from using the same denial management techniques insurance companies use to deny treatment to sick Americans.
20.What role do human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases play in global warming: None, some, most, or all? Explain.
No doubt humans play a role in global warming. But the real question isn't what have we done to cause global warming, it's what will we do to stop global warming. There are many different policies currently being discussed in Congress. But what often gets lost in this discussion is the impact that every individual can have by making minor lifestyle changes. (Car pooling, recycling, etc.).
21. What legislation currently in Congress comes closest to the policy you would advocate for dealing with climate change?
No bill is perfect but the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act sponsored by Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer would be a big step toward decreasing emissions in America. In particular, the free market-based "cap and trade" system could generate $50 billion dollars in profit too, some of which could offset short term economic impacts.
22. Coastal erosion is a serious issue in a number of rural Alaska villages, with discussions about relocating some communities. Do you believe this is appropriate or realistic? Explain.
Decisions regarding relocation are best made within the tribe. For tribes that wish to relocate the most important step is to begin immediately, as one village has already. The federal government and the state need to speed up their efforts to help move the communities now. Money can be saved through innovative housing, and renewables like wind that contributes to less shipping costs.
23. Is it appropriate to use the polar bear listing as a threatened species to limit oil and gas development in the Arctic or regulate distant greenhouse gas emissions? What other steps, if any, do you think government and industry should take to protect Alaska's polar bear population?
While science clearly shows that polar bears are an endangered species; the Endangered Species Act is not the best regulator of emissions. Polar bears aren't a threat to Alaska, carbon emissions are the threat. We need comprehensive energy and environmental policies that will lower emissions around the country, rather than forcing the burden on Alaska. Decreasing carbon emissions is the best action we can take to protect polar bears.
24. What's your position on the proposed Pebble mine in southwest Alaska? How do you plan to vote on the "Clean Water" initiative on the August ballot?
Mining and fishing are important industries in Alaska. If a renewable resource is in conflict with a non-renewable resource, Alaskans should support the renewable. In this case the renewable is fishing; an industry that provides food, employment, and lifestyles. I am not convinced that the initiative limits all mining as some charge.
25.Are changes needed in the way congressional earmarks work? Under what circumstances should members of Congress be allowed to direct federal spending to specific projects in their district?
Earmarks are not the problem; the abuse of earmarks is the problem. The real issue is transparency. Taxpayers have a right to know where and how their money is being spent. If legislators believe they are ethically using earmarks then they should have no problem with the public knowing how much money they're spending and where the money is going. This system will ensure that earmarks go to constituents rather than special interests.
26. What should Congress do, if anything, to help increase the supply of doctors in Alaska?
Access to quality medical treatment is one of the most important issues facing Alaska. Congress could help alleviate Alaska's shortage by: increasing the number of visa waivers given to immigrant medical students who are willing to work in rural areas, expanding loan forgiveness programs which forgive the debt of med school graduates willing to work in areas of high need. If elected, I will push Congress to help Alaska create its own medical school.
27. Some major Alaska fisheries have been "rationalized." That is, individual shares have been assigned to fishermen and even to processors. Do you support this approach for more of Alaska's fisheries?
While rationalizing might be a great solution for an economist it's a bad solution for fishermen, and women, who make their living on the cold seas. Too often the rationalization of fisheries is nothing more than a business scheme meant to take Alaska's resources from the people of Alaska. The people of Kodiak saw the effects of rationing firsthand as fisherman saw almost 1,000 jobs disappear after crab rationalization was implemented.