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Voices of Alaska: Stevens' 'consulting fees' a conflict

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2005

Corruption is killing the Alaska Dream and it's soon going to take your dividend, and possibly your job, if you don't pay attention.

Twenty-five years ago, State Senator George Hohman's fellow Senators expelled him from the Alaska Senate and an Alaska Judge sentenced him to three years because someone said he said supporting a certain legislative proposal might be good for a thousand dollar "campaign contribution."

Today, State Senator Ben Stevens doesn't need "campaign contributions." He's collected nearly two million dollars in "consulting fees" from people hoping to benefit from his legislation. Today, prosecutors ho-hum such indiscretions to death while our ethically bankrupt Senate Leadership rewards Ben's behavior with the Presidency of the Alaska State Senate.

Nearly a quarter-million of Ben's payments came from VECO, in exchange for services Ben fails to define in his "Conflict of Interest Report" beyond "Consulting fees."

If you find all this hard to believe, direct your browser to http://www.repmod.info/ and click on "Conflict of Interest Documentation." View the facts and decide!

In 1999, VECO supported a $350,000 campaign seeking voter permission to redirect Permanent Fund Dividends to capital projects. The vote was 83% "NO."

Since the 1999 vote, VECO has paid $400,000 to six lobbyists and $243,000 to Ben Stevens, seeking ways to fund government from Permanent Fund earnings to thereby reduce public pressure for the Legislature to demand world market value for Alaska's oil.

VECO's interest in raiding the Fund stems from their wish to sustain an endlessly increasing series of taxbreaks, (taxbreaks commonly referred to as ELF), that the oil companies lobbied through many years ago. While oil company profits soar, ELF has cut Alaska's tax on oil in half.

ELF's taxbreaks increase automatically every year. If not reversed, ELF's increases will soon cut our severance tax on North-Slope oil to one-fourth of the original pre-pipeline agreement. If labor leaders continue to ignore this issue, everything from patching potholes to competitive salaries for teachers and troopers will become impossible without taking away dividends and slapping the public with a very big tax. Giving away Alaska's oil is not a winning formula for successful bargaining.

When Stevens was sworn into the State Senate, he signed an oath, (a contract with Alaska) promising to uphold Alaska's Constitution. Alaska's Constitution requires him to seek the highest possible payment for Alaska's resources. Stevens then contracted his advice and loyalty to a company seeking to extract Alaska's resources for as little as possible.

Shortly thereafter, Stevens introduced a Bill attempting to redirect $337 million from the Permanent Fund Earnings Account, into capitol projects.

The Permanent Fund Earnings Account has for 25 years been Alaska's piggybank for dividends.

Stevens argued that the cost would just be a few dollars per person, but do the math. Divide $337 million between 650 thousand Alaskans. You'll come up with $518 for every man, woman, and child in Alaska; and you can be sure they will extract more next year.

Contracting to advocate the position of two clients on matters of each client's mutually shared but conflicting interest is generally considered fraudulent and corrupt. Due to the opposing objectives of such contracts, it is not possible for a single consultant to loyally advocate victory for both sides. "By necessity of law," one of any two such contracts was irrefutably signed in bad faith.

Stevens' failure to define what he actually does for his "consulting fees" violates Alaska's Conflict of Interest Disclosure Law (Sec 24.60.200) which requires Legislators to provide the public with details sufficient to tell the reader what work was performed in exchange for payment received.

Alaska Criminal Law (Sec. 11.56.110) reads: "A public servant commits the crime of receiving a bribe if the public servant solicits a benefit with the intent that the public servant's vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision, or exercise of discretion as a public servant will be influenced." Receiving a bribe is a felony.

If enough Alaskan's do nothing while Ben Stevens does VECO's bidding and raids the Permanent Fund, corruption will flourish, and Alaska's Dividend distribution program will soon be history.

Ray Metcalfe is the chairman of the Republican Moderate Party.



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