Paul Jenkins: Both Hollis French and the Senate coalition need to go

Paul Jenkins

The run-up to any election is every bit as much fun as setting your hair afire with a blowtorch. If there is an upside, it is in watching Democrats come unhinged, especially when things are not going well.

In this crossroads election, Alaska's fiscal future is up for grabs, the stakes are high and the Left is nuttier than a boatload of PayDay candy bars. At stake is whether the Senate's Democrat-driven, bipartisan working group will maintain its stranglehold on tax policy -- to the state's detriment.

Unfortunately, the coalition has cost Alaskans. Because of the state's excessive taxation, North Slope oil production is down, investment by the Big Three to find new oil is down, jobs are headed elsewhere and throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is down -- and dropping. All this is happening as production in other states -- states with rational taxes -- surges. We can thank the coalition.

The only thing up in Alaska is state spending. About $2 billion a year is being stolen -- let's call it what it is -- from North Slope investors by Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share oil tax to support excessive spending.

If nothing changes in Tuesday's election, the only question: How long before our economy tanks? If the coalition survives mostly intact, not long. Two Republican senators in the coalition of 10 Democrats and six Republicans bought the farm in the August primary election. More should join them Tuesday.

Of important Senate elections, the showcase contest pits Republican Bob Bell against incumbent Hollis French, a liberal Democrat and the coalition's poster boy. Up for grabs is French's West Anchorage seat, which has a new, more conservative look because of redistricting.

Things must not be going swimmingly. Supported heavily -- directly and indirectly -- by union PACs, lawyers, greenies and government types, French and his pals have gone bonkers in attacking Bell. His company -- gasp! -- did business with BP. He failed to disclose clients of his firm because he -- and apparently the Alaska Public Offices Commission staff -- did not know he had to. There is nothing the French camp will not say or do, and the media seems eager to help.

Nowadays, French, a lawyer, is touting his humble roustabout oil field beginnings and for all the world is trying to sound Republican, although this is the same guy who, only a few years ago, blocked legislation in his committee that would have banned barbaric partial birth abortions.

Nowadays, French is trying to hang onto that $2 billion a year for Big Government. His buddies at Putting Alaskans First, headed up by Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, are busting their tails to help, spending money by the bucketful, offering the same tired rhetoric, the same tired lies and half-truths.

To allow the industry to keep the $2 billion stolen by the state would be a "giveaway," this bunch says. That even sounds stupid. It is akin to a bank robber giving back his loot and accusing the bank of getting something it is not entitled to.

Or, how about this? "It's our oil," French's pals say. But, of course, it is not. "Our" oil is the 12 percent or so royalty Alaska receives, which eventually adds to our Permanent Fund dividend check. We sold rights to the rest a long time ago.

The latest and most asinine approach is government by extortion. It goes like this: If industry would just add jobs and increase production, then maybe a tax cut. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Imaging trying to sell that to the money guys. "Look, we're not making enough dough. So, let's spend more and maybe we'll be taxed fairly." The Left must think Alaskans -- and oil industry guys -- are morons. French even has an ad indicating he wants the industry to obey - like his dog. Do what he says, then get a "treat." Good grief.

The problem with any coalition is that it thwarts the will of voters who went to the polls and voted, most likely for a Democrat or Republican. When, for personal aggrandizement or political expediency, a lawmaker joins in a coalition, he or she is sublimating their constituents' wishes to their own. Voters are ignored.

With this coalition, we ended up with big-spending, government-happy Democrats, like French, in charge - and the very real possibility that Alaska's economy is in jeopardy.

Tuesday is a good day for change.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the