Shannyn Moore: Senate majority, tainted by conflict, bows to oil

Shannyn Moore

Pick. Click. Giveaway.

We've all heard the ads, "ConocoPhillips: Alaska's Oil And Gas Company." They should change that to "Alaska: An Oil Colony of ConocoPhillips, BP and Exxon."

Fifty-five years ago Alaskans voted for statehood. We were tired of Outside corporations dominating our fisheries at the expense of Alaskans. It looks like we need to wage that fight once again as large Outside companies - this time oil companies - have taken over our government in a nonviolent, post Citizens United coup.

Former ConocoPhillips lobbyist Sean Parnell runs our executive branch. He's the guy who also worked for the law firm that represented EXXON against Alaskans in the EXXON Valdez lawsuit. He wrote the oil tax bill two years ago that attempted to give away billions to the oil industry. Freedom of Information Requests showed his administration met over a dozen times with the oil industry in writing that bill. It died when Senate Democrats asked tough questions - like what do we get in return for this giveaway - and he had no answer.

Failing to have ANY facts to support giving billions to his former employers, the governor and the Republican leadership thus appointed a Redistricting Board that had one mission: crush those who dared stand up against oil company domination of our state. Peter Micciche joined Kevin Meyer, both ConocoPhillips employees, to anchor the new Conoco Caucus in the Senate, along with newly-elected oil company-backed candidates Pete Kelly and Anna Fairclough. Cathy Giessel and Lesil McGuire got big oil company support in their reelection victories.

The oil companies appear to have invested wisely. Sen. Micciche chaired the first committee to hear the oil tax bill. He dutifully recommended massive tax cuts for his employer. Sen. Giessel, whose husband does consulting work for the oil industry chaired the second committee the oil tax bill was referred to. She concurred that it was imperative to hand over $5.5 billion to the oil industry with no strings attached. The bill then went to Sen. Meyer, who chairs the Finance Committee. He made further "improvements" (read - bigger tax cuts for his employer) to the bill.

Next in line was the Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. McGuire, who's taken tens of thousands of dollars from the oil industry. She promptly scheduled the bill for a floor hearing and pleaded for its passage - because her young son's future was dependent on it. I'm not kidding.

On the floor, both Sens. Meyer and Micciche made the perfunctory requests to not have to vote on the bill. They both have clear conflicts as their votes would give billions in tax cuts to their employer. However, under Alaska's arcane rules if any one Senator objects, they must vote. Conveniently for them, Sen. Kelly objected, and their two votes were the deciding votes.

Sen. Fairclough carried the bill on the floor. She said things like "investment is fleeing Alaska" and "Alaska is closed for business." Apparently she was not paying attention in committee as the governor's own experts show that capital investment has increased 206 percent since we passed ACES - to all-time highs. And she must have missed the governor's own advertisements in the Petroleum News saying, "Alaska: We're Open for Business."

And so the debate went. The giveaway opponents obliterated every anecdote and conclusion made by the Conoco Caucus/Giveaway Gang. It didn't matter. The voted was rigged at that point.

It's not just oil taxes where the system is rigged against Alaskans.

On the House side Speaker Chenault and Rep. Hawker continue their feverish pursuit to have the state pay $8 billion for a small gas line to Nikiski. I'm sure the fact that Speaker Chenault's family-owned business, Qwick Construction -an oil field maintenance company in Nikiski that, in Chenault's own words, has worked for the majority of Alaska's oil production companies -- plays no part in this. Nor does the fact that Hawker's wife works for ConocoPhillips -- who would love nothing more than for Alaska to build an expensive pipeline so they can bring gas to their Nikiski gas export plant.

A Senate budget subcommittee held a meeting without noticing it, with the cameras and microphones turned off and with no formal documents available to the public. Sen. Micciche quietly managed to strip out $800,000 in state funding for oil and gas royalty arbitration. That's money that could have been used in case a company like, oh I don't know, his employer ConocoPhillips tried to rip us off of our royalty oil. The state recently won hundreds of millions in a case using similar funds against BP and I'm sure they would love to bleed us of our ability to sue them in the future.

ConocoPhillips has announced it plans to stop exporting gas from its Nikiski LNG plant. They'd love to start IMPORTING gas through that plant and selling it for outrageous prices to Alaskans. So they had their guy Sen. Micciche offer an amendment on February 21 to have Alaskans pay to turn that plant into a gas import plant. Fortunately common sense prevailed on that one, as Micciche's amendment went down 3-2.

Realize these deciding votes are made by legislators who wouldn't be selected as jurors if an oil company was on either side of a court room.

Brothers and Sisters, we are no longer an Owner State. We are an Owned State.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show airs at 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on ABC affiliate KYUR Channel 13.