Corporations will use new unlimited election spending rules to try to sway your vote this November. The smart move is to take attack ads and flyers from corporate groups you've never heard of with a grain of salt. Roughly 80 percent of these ads will be negative and deceptive. They were last election.
The corporate spending goal is a one-party state, that will give away $2 billion/year in poorly crafted oil tax breaks under a governor's bill that lets companies take that money and spend it outside Alaska. A Legislature that has balance on both sides of the aisle, and an oil tax law that requires increased Alaska well, exploration and production investments in return for tax breaks, would serve us better.
Why is unlimited corporate election spending on the horizon? Five right-wing Supreme Court justices ruled in Citizens United that outside multinational corporations can spend unlimited money on elections. How's that for letting the privileged buy your democracy? This year outside oil companies and their allies will spend big to elect legislators who'll vote for the governor's $2 billion tax giveaway -- written so these corporations can take that money and spend it in Libya, Azerbaijan and other places instead of in Alaska. Nice law if you can get it.
Unlimited corporate election spending was celebrated at the GOP Convention this year. Party and oil industry activist Rebecca Logan took the stage to call Citizens United a "gift" to the oil industry's efforts to elect Legislators who will give them their $2 billion gift of your money.
House Democrats, and Republican and Democratic Senate bi-partisan coalition members will be attacked because we proposed better ideas these outside corporations didn't like. We proposed pro-Alaska tax breaks conditioned on investment in new Alaska fields, new exploration, added development in existing fields, and jobs in Alaska, not Libya.
Unlimited election spending is a threat to the democratic ideal of one person one vote. The ads will come from shady corporate groups you've never heard of with great sounding names.
Tying tax breaks to increased Alaska investment in processing facilities to move new fields forward, and to increased well development and exploration makes sense. House Democrats voted to do that, and members of the Senate bipartisan coalition also offered smart ideas that weren't ill-conceived giveaways of your money.
Giving away $2 billion/year of your money will kill our savings accounts, education system, construction budget, law enforcement and construction jobs, and lead to harsh cuts to the PFD or an income tax.
History shows what would happen under the giveaway all House Republicans but Alan Austerman, Paul Seaton and Carl Gatto voted for last year. Until 2006 we had a near zero percent production tax on 15 of 19 North Slope fields, and all new fields that weren't massive. Under Big Oil's trickle down theory, zero percent production taxes should have attracted tons of investment, right? Well, they didn't. While oil prices had risen from $20/barrel to nearly $60/barrel in that time, production declined between 5 percent and 8 percent a year from 2000-2006.
Under current laws these companies call oppressive, Conoco has earned an average of roughly $2 billion in annual Alaska profits. Exxon and BP hide their Alaska profits but Exxon has testified their profits are similar to Conoco's. And employment and capital investment on the North Slope are 40 percent higher today than in 2006 because today companies can only lower their tax rate by investing in Alaska.
Giving away Alaska's money, with no requirement of increased Alaska investment, is a fool's game
Finally, corporations cry firefighters, police and other unions spend too. No union can spend what the Big 3 oil companies, who earned $75 billion in profits last year, will spend. Though unlimited spending by anyone distorts elections.
Look skeptically at the negative attack ads corporate groups will direct at Senate bipartisan coalition members and House Democrats. We want tax rules that will work. Those buying the ads want a law that lets them take your money Outside. And those ads are coming your way soon.
Rep. Les Gara is a Democratic House Member. He represents neighborhoods in Anchorage.