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Alaskans lost the referendum, but won a bigger victory

Shannyn Moore
OPINION: Shannyn Moore says Alaskans who voted yes on the defeated oil-tax referendum are still on the right side of history. Pictured: Vote Yes supporters at Election Central in Anchorage. Aug. 19, 2014 Richard Mauer / Alaska Dispatch News

Congratulations, Alaska! Thirty-one percent of registered voters decided for 100 percent of us what is “best for Alaska” in an election this week.

Last week I knew we were in trouble when employees of oil companies were bussed to the early polls. Buses with gift baskets and snacks. Must be nice. The election worker balked when I asked for a Republican ballot. I smiled. I voted.

Voting early on Tuesday, I drove into town and kept seeing signs made of bed sheets on the overpasses. One in particular got to me. It was the eight gold stars with “Vote Yes” in that perfect Alaska blue.

I got misty. Really. I decided at that moment Alaska had won something -- and it may not be the ballot initiative -- but something bigger. Tens of thousands of my brothers and sisters in geography had woken up.

The night of the election I found myself surrounded by legends -- Jack and Libby Roderick, Jane Angvik, Vic Fischer, John Havelock, the fabulous Gottstein brothers, Chancy Croft, and Bill Wielechowski, to name a few.

We waited for numbers to come in, and I looked around the room. I’d rather lose with these people than win with the other crowd. Don’t get me wrong -- I’d rather have had a different result -- but being on the right side of history doesn’t mean you always win. Those victories take time, and it takes actual pain and suffering to get some people off their democracy free-loading behinds to participate with a vote.

Even though Alaskans decided to give SB 21 more time to run us into the ground, the 50,000 folks who signed the petitions to get it on the ballot won something. The oil companies paid at least $15 million to air ads on television and radio (Oh, were you tired of seeing those?) making promises. They made all sorts of claims and predictions saying they would do things they refused to say they would do during the passage of SB 21 if we’d just vote no.

More jobs! More investment! More exploration! More oil in the pipeline!

Okay, specifically a million barrels a day. That was the governor’s goal with the passage, and now they can deliver. A MILLION barrels a day! That’s a fantastic goal! Let’s do this! A salmon in every pot!

Oh, wait. Hmm. We’re down to 507,000 barrels per day. That’s right. Less than when SB 21 passed over a year ago.

Waiting.

I guess now we’ll find out if ConocoPhillips was lying to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska on Aug. 6 of this year when their Commercial Supervisor, under oath, stated they have “no reason to believe that the annual decline in TAPS volumes will reverse in 2014 or the foreseeable future.”

A week earlier, under oath, ExxonMobil said the same thing. “I have no reason to believe that (the TAPS throughput) trend will reverse itself in the foreseeable future.”

They actually (again, under oath) said the TAPS production would be “at least 5.3 percent” less than 2013.

Well, this feels awkward.

I guess there is a reason they wanted their testimonies sealed. Seems to contradict $15 million worth of ads. Campaigns are kind of like dating, we all put on the best show we can, but elections are like marriage. Oh, really? But, you said when we were dating ... yeah, you’re married now ... where are you going to go? Thanks to the Supreme Court, money is free speech, and campaigns do not have to be truthful. It would be going against their First Amendment rights to require the truth.

So $600,000 versus $15 million-plus in any other race would have been a blowout. It wasn’t. At current count the no campaign is about 5,000 votes ahead. They bought those votes at $3,000 apiece. I’m impressed, Alaskans. Truly. I’m so proud that your votes were bought for FAR more than our legislators were bribed with in oil money during the Corrupt Bastards Club sting of 2006.

November is coming, and since we didn’t get rid of a failed policy in SB 21 -- let’s keep working and get rid of the ex-lobbyist/governor who signed it into law. It's time for us to join forces and make it happen. I’m thinking Walker-Mallott 2014.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.  

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com