Murkowski Must Show His Cards
By Sarah Palin
April 27, 2006
Gov. Frank Murkowski is known as someone who keeps his cards
close to his chest. This is fine in poker when you gamble your
own money, but it's very dangerous when it's other folks' assets
put at risk. Murkowski claims he was victorious in crafting a
deal with three big oil companies to build a natural gas pipeline
through Canada but now says he won't disclose what's in the deal.
Until we see otherwise, it appears he's gambling public assets
and also claiming to have won the game while refusing to put
all the cards on the table to prove it.
Not only is the governor's gas line contract still unavailable
for scrutiny, but newly introduced legislation puts the public
at even greater risk by eliminating our opportunity for fair
assessments of what went into the governor's decisions to strike
this deal through a foreign country.
In Juneau, Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 502 are proposed to
alter the grounds for judicial review of the "best interest
finding" used to support the governor's gas line decisions.
Murkowksi must justify his contract decisions, and the Stranded
Gas Act is the document he uses to do so.
Currently, Alaskans are able to challenge the best interest finding
if the governor's contract is, for instance, developed illegally
or not supported by fact. This judicial review process affords
the public access to supporting documents used to create the
best interest finding.
SB 316 and HB 502 remove the public's ability to challenge the
legal and factual basis of the best interest finding and restrict
it to challenges on constitutional grounds only.
The governor is unfairly replacing the unbiased decision making
of the court with the political decision making of the Legislature.
This isn't even fair to legislators. Checks and balances protect
them, and us, when the public has access to all three branches
of government. This law would tip the scales to favor a governor
over the public.
This attempt to potentially thwart our checks and balances through
judicial review is eerily reminiscent of the only other time
I remember the public being denied the best interest finding
process, which was the Mat-Su's coal bed methane program. That
had disastrous results. Mat-Su's experience should be our learning
tool when weighing public approval of politicians' attempts to
eliminate judicial review. We're wise to learn from that failed
As a resident of the Mat-Su and as chairwoman of the Alaska Oil
and Gas Conservation Commission around that time, I remember
it was bad for the public then. So why is it good for all Alaskans
The best interest finding is how the public can ask Gov. Murkowski
if what he negotiated is legal, and if what he's saying is factual.
In my opinion, it looks like the governor is rushing a change
through the Legislature that keeps the public from asking, "What
if this Canadian deal is not legal and not supported by fact?"
SB 316 and HB 502 would allow the governor to essentially fire
the public before we can get answers to the same questions the
Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin was asking before he
got canned for speaking about the questionable legalities of
the gas line negotiations.
Judicial review is an important part of the gas line deal and
the public needs to weigh in on the idea of giving up a tool
that allows checks and balances. There may be disagreement with
my interpretation of the intent of SB 316 and HB 502, but I lived
through and learned from the coal bed methane issue as a resident
and state regulator, and I base my opinion on that experience.
There's so much at risk with the secret gas line deal. We want
to trust government leaders while they're at the table dealing
with multinational oil companies that make mind-boggling profits
off resources owned by all Alaskans. Tweaking the judicial review
process leads one to believe we're not playing with a full deck.
Wasilla, AK - USA
About: Sarah Palin is former
chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
and former mayor of the city of Wasilla. She is also a Republican
candidate for governor.
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on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
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