JUNEAU (AP) -- Retiring Sen. Jerry Mackie has been appointed to the board of a new tour company created by a major cruise line. Former Sen. Steve Frank of Fairbanks is also on the six-member board.
Royal Caribbean International, which paid heavy fines for pollution Southeast Alaska waters, says it wants Mackie, a Craig Republican, for his understanding of state government, business and tourism.
The new subsidiary will develop excursions for the Interior. Also on the board is tourism entrepreneur Tom Tougas of Seward.
''These board members provide the perfect mix of solid experience and political acumen, as well as a firm knowledge of Alaska and its diverse travel and tourism industries,'' RCI president Jack Williams said in a statement last week. Williams also will sit on the new board.
Mackie, who completes his legislative term Jan. 8, recoiled at the idea his appointment could be a breach of ethics or conflict of interest.
''The first meeting of the board won't take place until after I'm out of office,'' he said. ''And furthermore, state law does not allow former legislators to lobby for at least a year. So where's the conflict?''
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean International, was fined $6.5 million in 1999 for pollution violations in Southeast Alaska waters.
Mackie says he was angry about the pollution himself.
''Some of these companies made mistakes, but Royal Caribbean is an example of a company that wants to do the right things and be a good corporate citizen in Alaska.''
Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat, understands why a major player in the visitor industry would want Mackie on its board.
''Jerry was the Senate point person for restructuring of the tourism marketing initiative for the state of Alaska, and he has a good understanding of the interaction between the state and tourism,'' Elton said.
Royal Celebrity Tours will focus on developing land-based excursions, but Mackie could be asked to discuss ''tangential'' issues that may involve ships, said John Fox, RCI vice president for governmental affairs.
The RCT board will meet about twice a year. Mackie could be paid up to $1,000, in addition to his travel costs and other expenses, for each meeting.
''It's just a nominal payment. We haven't nailed down any details yet,'' Fox said.
The state ethics code prohibits lawmakers from lobbying the Legislature for one year after leaving office.
''The code is silent on lobbying the administration,'' said Susan Barnett, administrator for the legislative ethics committee.
Mackie was hired earlier this year as the state government affairs manager for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. He's responsible for communicating the company's position to state and local government agencies, and informing lawmakers about Alyeska projects.
''There's a big difference between lobbying and just providing information,'' Mackie said. ''Lobbying is when you push to have something introduced, or urge a lawmaker to vote for or against something. That's not what I'll be doing.''
Mackie and Frank think serving on the new tour board will only help the state.
''I'm impressed that they think it's good to have Alaskans on their board,'' said Frank, the former state senator who owns the River's Edge Resort in Fairbanks.
''The more Alaskans involved in some of these corporations, the more they'll be responsive to Alaska issues and needs,'' Mackie said.
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