What’s to gain for those funding political attack ads?

Wow! You can’t turn on the radio or TV these days without hearing a negative campaign ad.

The election races this year are more heated and hateful than we have seen in years. It’s easy to recognize that much of what is being said in the ads is nonsense, but nonetheless, people and political action committees are spending a huge amount of money to get us to believe things that just aren’t true.

So I have to ask, what’s in it for them? What do they get in return for the “free” advertising supporting certain candidates, and how is any of this good for Alaska?

This is an incredible period in our young state’s history. Budget deficits are high and state cash flow is at the lowest level in decades. The near-term outlook isn’t rosy either, as oil prices are predicted to stay lower for longer.

If you believe the barrage of campaign ads, the problems that Alaska faces today were caused by a handful of current Legislators in Juneau, rather than being the result of sudden price collapse in the largest sector of Alaska’s economy – oil and gas development – which generates nearly 90 percent of the state’s income.

Those paying for all the campaign attack pieces don’t want you and I to think rationally and try to solve the state’s problems with common sense solutions and good business practice. Instead, they want us to react emotionally and behave like school kids circled around the playground bully chanting “fight, fight” while he kicks dirt in the face of the class nerd.

That makes great theatre, but it doesn’t solve Alaska’s budget problem and it doesn’t make the state a better place to do business or raise a family.

What does make Alaska better is having strong leaders and elected officials who aren’t afraid to look past the drama and do the hard work necessary to find real solutions and fix the problems we face. There is no magic bullet or quick fix here.

Alaska has got to reduce the size of government, especially in those areas that do not generate revenue for the state or serve a core government function like education or public safety. And Alaska has got to have a stable, balanced tax policy that lets the oil industry know that we very much want them to be here, but that we have got to mind our own checkbook, too.

Yet it seems those behind the campaign attack ads want us to believe that no one in Juneau has been working to find solutions, and that simply is not true.

During the last Legislative session, members of the House and Senate took action to reduce the size of government and cut reimbursable oil and gas tax credits that had simply gotten to be too much for the state to bear. Sen. Cathy Giessel and Sen. John Coghill both worked to find a comprehensive bill that overhauled the oil and gas tax credit system, yet retained incentives critical to advancing new oil developments on the North Slope.

This approach also allowed Alaska to maintain its reputation and credit worthiness. Strong, resourceful leaders like Giessel and Coghill are just the people we need to keep in Juneau. People who aren’t afraid to take some heat doing what is right for Alaska, even if it means facing a firestorm of political ads aimed at twisting the truth and scaring us into believing that new taxes and changing the Permanent Fund are the only solutions.

So, the next time you hear another attack ad on the radio, stop and ask yourself what those who paid for that ad stand to gain from unseating someone like Sen. Giessel.

Do they really have your interests and the interest of a thriving Alaska at heart, or are they just trying to load our Legislature with people they can manipulate?

Corri Feige is a geophysicist and former Director of the Division of Oil and Gas for the State of Alaska.

11/06/2016 - 10:31pm