Opinion

COMMENTARY: Alaskans should be skeptical of anti-ANWR economic arguments

The Trump administration and Alaska officials are moving quickly to open up exploration for oil and natural gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New seismic testing on ANWR’s coastal plain is being planned for this coming winter, with an environmental impact statement, or EIS, being completed as soon as the spring of 2019 and federal lease sales planned for 2020. The accelerated review process has revived much of the negative messaging campaigns by national environmental groups. But companies invest to make money and as long as there is interest in ANWR’s vast resources, Alaskans should be wary of inaccurate and negative economic arguments regarding the workings of global oil markets or their influence on drilling the coastal plain. Opponents of opening the small portion of ANWR set aside for its rich oil potential claim there is “much uncertainty” surrounding the size and value of the region’s resources. They also argue that the “shale gale” that is breaking production records in the Lower 48 spells trouble for investment in ANWR. Neither assertion is true. There are two benchmarks that determine the global price for the kind of high-quality light sweet crude oil that Alaska has in abundance. The first is the U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, in Cushing, Okla., which determines the price of the majority of the oil being produced in the western United States. The other is Europe’s benchmark price known as Brent.   All of the crude oil coming out of the Middle East is priced to Brent, which carries with it a “risk-premium” due to the underlying threat of wars and regional conflicts destroying oil fields and export infrastructure. Oil traveling through Alaska’s Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is also priced to the “rest-of-the-world,” meaning Alaska oil carries the Middle East risk premium even though it’s on the opposite side of the world. The price “spread” between Brent and WTI is large, making Alaska oil delivered to California often worth $5 and sometimes nearly $10 more than Lower 48 crude prices. This price dynamic didn’t always exist, but after Congress lifted the domestic oil export ban in late 2015 and started sending cheap barrels through the Gulf of Mexico, the Brent-WTI spread became a semi-permanent fixture in the market. This means that as long as the Middle East is in turmoil, Alaska crude will earn a higher price than Lower 48 crude oil of similar quality benchmarked to WTI. The existence of this price differential is one of the main attractions to drillers currently working on the North Slope. Another criticism that is often made is that the amount of recoverable oil expected to be contained in ANWR – roughly 10 billion barrels, according to the federal government’s estimates – represents only a tiny percentage of America’s daily consumption and wouldn’t come online for a decade or more. But even small amounts of new oil can make a big difference in oil prices when the supply market is tight. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation approved by Congress to open ANWR. One of the arguments during that period of low oil prices was that because North Slope oil would take more than a decade to reach the market that it was somehow unneeded. Fast forward a decade to July 2008 and the price of oil spiked to more than $140 a barrel. Famed Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens said that the world was short about 1 million barrels a day of crude oil. That is exactly the amount of oil that would have been produced from ANWR if President Clinton had done what President Trump did 22 years later and signed ANWR language. Alas, record-high oil prices played a major role in initiating the 2008 financial crisis, the effects of which are still lingering today. It’s true that any production from ANWR is probably at least a decade off and perhaps longer, but current under-investment is the chief risk of future price spikes, according to the World Bank and OPEC. Economists see oil markets as roughly 25-year investment cycles that involve price spikes at the beginning of a cycle followed by heavy investment, a price equilibrium in the middle, and then a general price decline until under-investment eliminates spare capacity and a new price spike occurs. If the median estimates made by the U.S. Geological Service are true, ANWR’s 10 billion barrels of producible could create peak output somewhere around 1 million to 1.2 million per day by the mid-2030s. That production estimate is based on today’s oil prices; even more of ANWR’s oil would be economically viable at higher prices. It’s very possible that if the last price spike occurred in 2004-2008 timeframe, the next price spike could occur in the early 2030s, just in time for ANWR. A lot can transpire in a decade. We shouldn’t base our decisions regarding ANWR on the oil price we have today, but on the price and marketplace we can expect tomorrow.  Bill Murray was born and raised in Alaska. He currently works on energy and tax policy at R Street, a Washington, D.C., think-tank. He previously worked as an energy markets reporter for Bloomberg News.

COMMENTARY: Gasline deals put Alaska on cusp of opportunity

Last Monday was a big deal. Fellow Alaskans, I want to share in collective celebration the significant milestone Alaska reached last Monday, Sept. 10. The Alaska LNG Project is now a compelling step closer to bringing Alaska’s vast stranded natural gas to market. We are closer to significantly lowering the cost of energy for thousands of Alaskans; closer to creating 12,000 direct construction jobs that will put Alaskans to work building the gas pipeline project; and closer to providing thousands of indirect support jobs. There are two components now in place that advance the Alaska LNG project. First, we are building momentum for ExxonMobil to sell its share of natural gas, from both its Point Thomson and Prudhoe Bay fields. ExxonMobil and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. signed a binding agreement establishing terms for the price and volume of gas they’ll commit to the Alaska LNG project. BP Alaska signed a similar agreement earlier this summer. Second, we signed a letter of understanding with ExxonMobil and BP to re-align the 2012 Point Thomson settlement agreement, pausing deadlines in order to calibrate the pace and scope of work of Point Thomson’s development to match the Alaska LNG project. Why is this significant? ExxonMobil operates the Point Thomson field, controlling a 62 percent share of its natural gas. They also control a 36 percent share of nearby Prudhoe Bay. This makes ExxonMobil the largest holder of discovered gas resources on Alaska’s North Slope. By adjusting the deadlines for production at the Point Thomson field to match the Alaska LNG project, combined with ExxonMobil’s commitment to sell its gas to Alaska, we have an economic win-win. Monday’s events have enhanced significance because they turn Point Thomson into an oil producing field. As it stands, Point Thomson is one of the largest stranded gas fields in the world. It is also highly pressurized, with at least three times the pressure of Prudhoe Bay. This pressure poses a massive engineering challenge because when drilling for oil, it is incredibly difficult to reinject the gas into the ground without losing vast amounts of it. When the gas is lost, the potential for profit is lost — for ExxonMobil, and for Alaska. The Alaska LNG project offers ExxonMobil an opportunity to sell the gas at Point Thomson, instead of reinjecting it into the ground, which in turn will liberate up to 70,000 barrels of oil every day. That’s a 15 percent boost in total barrels flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline each day, creating revenue for our state. The bottom line: because of the Alaska LNG project, the gas at Point Thomson stops being an obstacle and becomes an asset. Access to Point Thomson makes oil and gas more competitive across the North Slope, creates revenue for Alaska from the harbored underground gas, and allows easier access to the oil trapped by high-pressured gas. To go a step further, Point Thomson is on the doorstep of ANWR. Building out the infrastructure necessary to bring the oil and gas to market from Point Thomson puts us in a better position for the future development of ANWR. This is great news for the Alaska LNG project, and great news for the state. For the first time in our history, a majority of the North Slope gas producers — BP Alaska and now, ExxonMobil — have agreed to terms for the sale of gas into the Alaska LNG project. This step is an important layer as we build the momentum for bringing Alaska’s stranded gas resources on the North Slope to Alaskans and the world market. This news comes less than a year after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of the five-party Joint Development Agreement to monetize Alaska’s natural gas. Together, with Monday’s ExxonMobil agreement, the Alaska LNG project has made more progress, and established more project certainty than any previous effort, facilitating the final commercial and financial steps necessary for completing the project. I cannot impress upon you enough the opportunities the gas line project will bring to Alaskans. Tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, well-paying jobs, access to stable low-cost clean energy, a diversification of state revenue, the list goes on. These are changes that will affect Alaskans personally. My life changed forever when the first pipeline was built: I still remember the feeling of receiving my first construction paycheck back in 1970. But getting TAPS from plan to reality took creativity and courage — not to mention a healthy dose of resilience in the face of those who called it a pipe dream. But those are the same ingredients we’re working with today to move the Alaska LNG project forward. Stakeholders are moving into position, the economics are in our favor, and we have the drive and focus to make this project happen. Alaska is on the cusp of opportunity. I could not be more excited. Editor’s note: The Alaska Journal of Commerce will publish up to two op-ed submissions from the candidates for governor between now and our Oct. 21 edition. Although this submission came from Gov. Walker’s office and not the campaign it will count as one of his two.

COMMENTARY: Restore the dividends, end the recession

The people we elect will either manage the state’s assets wisely or continue profligate spending, wasting our resources. Alaskans bear the highest unemployment rate, 7.3 percent, in the United States. We are in the third year of a self-inflicted recession. We’re missing the national Trump recovery because we have a governor and Legislature without a plan for a successful economy. They don’t know how to get us out of this recession. I do. As a banker and student of economics for decades, I understand consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of a state’s economy. The governor and Legislature cut dividends in half for the last three years. We had the money. The funds didn’t go to government services. They should have gone to the private sector, creating jobs throughout Alaska. The Permanent Fund Dividend program is a conservative, return on investment enterprise, uniquely Alaskan. We thought we protected the Fund and the dividends in the Constitution by passage of the amendment setting aside 25 percent of royalty income plus the earnings of the Fund. But, the Legislature arbitrarily overrode the statutory dividend and cut another $1,050 per Alaskan, for the third year. That cost our economy another 2,000 jobs. Dividends are only paid on collected earnings held in the Earnings Reserve. We have nearly $19 billion in the Reserve including $2.7 billion set aside to pay lowered dividends and general fund expenses for this year. The Constitutional Budget Reserve has another $2.3 billion in spare change. Cuts to the dividends weren’t used for operating expenses of government. They cut the heart out of small business. Alaskans’ personal economies suffered. I read financial statements and I’m horrified by what I read. In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the Legislature gave $376 million to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., an unbuildable pipedream. What a waste. Consolidating agencies should be a key part of Alaska’s money saving strategy. Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and the Alaska Industrial Development Corporation, could free their combined net worth (not used for mission), of $2.8 billion dollars. Gov. Bill Walker awarded a study to Boston Consulting Group for over $800,000 to study consolidation. Then buried it. That further demonstrates that costs are out of control, even under two different governors and many different legislators. The duplicity of most legislators and the governor is astounding. They tell you that Alaska had a 2017 budget deficit of $2.4 billion dollars. If you read the fiscal year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, you will find that Alaska had a $3.9 billion surplus. That’s like having a million in your savings account earning $100,000 while your checking account is overdrawn. Count only checking, you have a deficit. Count all the money, you have a surplus. Our Fund grew by $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and by about $5 billion in the fiscal year 2018 just ended. Our surplus will be even greater. Our oil income will be up almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2019 due to the rise in price and 30,000 barrels per day in new production through ConocoPhillips at Greater Mooses Tooth-1 and 12,000 barrels per day from Hilcorp at Moose Pad in the Milne Point unit. Earnings of the Permanent Fund and our recovering economy can and should fund both full dividends and protect education and public safety. Dividends are the private sector way to capitalize hundreds of small businesses. We need to implement a vision that grows the Alaskan economy. It was my honor to chair the statewide campaigns that elected or reelected Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Donald Trump. I also ran the campaign in 1999, Alaskans Just Say No, which stopped the last raid of the Alaska Permanent Fund. We won that campaign 83 percent to 17 percent. The public understood the raid and said no. If your legislator told you we had a $2.4 billion deficit, ask about the $6.55 billion in earnings of the Permanent Fund in 2017 that they were not counting in order to concoct the deficit. That’s how they’re cooking the books. Some Legislators just want more money. They want to increase oil and mining taxes. And they want a personal income tax. We have the earnings to manage our resources wisely, within a spending cap. Dividend cuts cost our economy consumer spending of $4,300 per person in the last three years, devastating our private economy. We can end Alaska’s recession with restitution of the 2016 and 2017 cuts and full payment of the 2018 amount statutorily required. Economists agree. Legislative inaction just cost us another 2,000 jobs. Join me in demanding a special session, called by the Legislature prior to the General Election, to correct their unjustified and injurious cuts to our dividends. The money is in the bank today. The public has a right to know which candidate is your Permanent Fund Defender or Permanent Fund Spender. Find out and vote accordingly. ^ Jim Crawford is the former president of the nonprofit Permanent Fund Defenders. He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. in 1975. He is a candidate for Senate District I (Spenard and Midtown, U-Med District in Anchorage)

OPINION: Following the 'Outside' money backing Stand for Salmon

The backers of the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative well understand the power of pitting Alaskans against quote-unquote Outsiders. The phrase “foreign mining corporations” is used no fewer than six times on the “Get the Facts” page on their website. One particularly strident sentence reads: “In order to protect our Alaskan way of life, we need to support this initiative and not buy what the dishonest foreign mining corporations have to sell.” Stand for Salmon Campaign Director Ryan Schryver used the occasion of a minor fine against the measure’s opponents to accuse them of trying to fool voters by not adding the words “Vote No on One” to their organization’s Stand for Alaska name promptly enough after the initiative was certified in March. “They have to create distrust and confusion to be successful,” he told the Anchorage Daily News. That is a particularly rich charge for an organization that created the ultimate bumper sticker slogan to promote its ballot measure. While the Stand for Salmon proponents attempt to paint the opposition as foreign interlopers into Alaska’s affairs, they are hardly being transparent when it comes to the source of their funding. The top contributors include the Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Alaska Center, Cook Inletkeeper, the Wild Salmon Center and Salmon State. The initiative itself was crafted by environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, which is well known for its legal activism against resource development in the state. According to campaign disclosures, about $730,000 of the $1.1 million in reported contributions to the effort are classified as non-monetary, with the Alaska Center topping the list at $357,000 followed by the Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund that employs Schryver at $227,000. Cook Inletkeeper is next at about $83,000 in non-monetary contributions to the effort. If money from outside the state is dirty, then all these groups with “Alaska” in their names hardly have clean hands. Trustees for Alaska lists 14 foundations as its top donors in its 2017 annual report, with only one having any staff based here and that one, the Leighty Foundation, was founded by a family from Waterloo, Iowa, but reported a Juneau address in its most recent IRS Form 990. The 14 most recent 990s for those groups show about $339,000 in donations to Trustees for Alaska. The Venn diagram of Trustees for Alaska foundation donors overlaps nearly perfectly with those to the groups backing the Stand for Salmon initiative. The Alaska Center received $255,000 in donations from the same foundations that back Trustees for Alaska in the most recent year according to the Form 990s. It has also received another $245,000 from the New Venture Fund for a total of a half-million dollars in “Outside” money in the most recent year forms are available. Cook Inletkeeper received about $260,000 in donations from the New Venture Fund and the Trustees for Alaska foundation donors. These 14 foundations collectively hold about $463 million in assets according to their most recent 990s, with the New Venture Fund adding another $230 million for nearly $700 million total. What these groups have in common is their fight against resource development of all kinds in addition to the money that insulates them from the consequences of the policies they are trying to implement around the country. All the groups with Alaskan addresses are a handy vehicle to carry through money in order to advance the goals of these non-Alaska foundations, with the added benefit of those organizations not having to disclose how they are contributing nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in “non-monetary” resources to an effort that will undoubtedly cost the state jobs if it passes. As just one example, the 444 S Foundation based in Bellevue, Wash., donated $115,000 to the Alaska Center and $60,000 to Trustees for Alaska in 2016, with another $100,000 to the New Venture Fund. What is the 444 S Foundation? Besides being endorsed by the Sierra Club, Code Pink and the socialist Working Families Organization, its executive director is Fred Munson, who is also a member of the Arctic Defense Fund advisory council, which dispersed funds to support the “kayaktivists” who blockaded Shell in Seattle in 2015 and later hung from bridges in Portland trying to prevent its outer continental shelf drilling. Arctic Defense Fund was created by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Market Solutions, whose principal officer is Jay Halfon, a professional litigator for Earthworks and well known “frackivist” leading the fights against the U.S. energy boom in natural gas. The point is not that there is anything wrong with these foundations contributing their money to the causes they support. And to be clear, their opponents have vastly outraised Stand for Salmon by a 9-1 margin so far. Rather, it is disingenuous to the nth degree for the supporters of Stand for Salmon to attack the companies that are being completely open about their donations while theirs come from groups in Boston, New York, DC and San Francisco who belong to the “keep it in the ground” movement that are rightly distrusted by those who live and work here. Admitting they take money from outside foundations as a means to even up the odds, even slightly, would at least be an honest argument. But that’s probably too much to expect when it comes to politics. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Truckers urge ‘no’ vote on Ballot Measure 1

If you eat anything, build anything, or purchase anything in Alaska, chances are it came on a truck. In fact, 94 percent of all Alaska communities rely on trucks to move critical goods. It’s hard to overstate how important the trucking industry is to Alaska. Unlike many employed Alaskans, we truckers don’t work in an office — we work on the road. The highways are our workplaces, and sometimes they even feel like home. We don’t mind, because we chose this line of work, and it is immensely satisfying to literally keep Alaska moving. It is this love of the job that compels the Alaska Trucking Association to speak out against Ballot Measure 1. It may seem odd for a trucking group to oppose a ballot initiative that supposedly focuses on fish habitat, but the facts of the matter make Ballot Measure 1 too dangerous for us to ignore. One in 19 Alaska jobs is tied to the trucking industry. That’s a lot of truckers, and a lot of trucking families making their living by moving goods. Our concern with Ballot Measure 1 is that it will unnecessarily apply the brakes to our economy, leading to fewer jobs of all kinds, but especially in the trucking industry. This is because the ballot measure places enormous burdens on project developers, even for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and culverts. Truckers drive a lot of roads in Alaska, moving more than 17 million tons of goods every day and traversing roads in winter conditions. We care about our highways and byways being maintained safely, efficiently and predictably. In July, the Alaska Department of Transportation stated that Ballot Measure 1 will lead to road construction delays, possibly making them not only more expensive to build, but less safe. While testifying in front of the legislature, a representative from the DOT said, “the roads, the bridges, everything that we build, are designed to maintain safety for the traveling public. And so there’s some concern that this (ballot initiative) may trump some of those safety concerns.” The road is our workplace. The road is our home. Workplace safety is our number one priority. For those of us who work on the state’s roads, that kind of safety risk in just flat out unacceptable. Truckers also provide revenue to government. In 2016, truckers paid more than $53 million in state and federal taxes. If Ballot Measure 1 were to pass, we will start to see our economy grind along in low gear, resulting in less need for trucking. If we drive less, we make less revenue and pay less in taxes, a total lose-lose for government and us. More than anything, we are proud Alaskans. We get plenty of “windshield time” to see firsthand the beauty of our unique state; we fish on our days off; and we raise our families here. We care about the future of this state, the future of our jobs and, most importantly, the safety of our drivers. On November 6th, please join Alaska’s truckers in voting no on Ballot Measure 1 to protect our jobs and our safety. ^ Aves Thompson is the Executive Director of the Alaska Trucking Association, a 200-member company trade association whose purpose is to foster and promote the trucking industry in Alaska.

COMMENTARY: Fixing the Clean Power Plan is a sensible first step

Washington loves controversy. And critics are undoubtedly clucking right now about the Trump administration’s plan to replace the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, with a modified effort. But the administration deserves credit for updating the plan, rather than scrapping it entirely. For starters, the CPP envisioned by President Obama represented a massive overreach of the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Instead of addressing individual power plants, the Obama administration simply mandated wholesale changes to large swaths of America’s power grid. The Supreme Court found this problematic, though, and issued an unprecedented stay of the rule while a lower court was reviewing it. It wasn’t just the EPA’s intrusion into the way individual states generate electricity, however. There was also the incredibly high price tag. According to a study by Energy Ventures Analysis, the CPP would have forced the closure of enough generating capacity to power 24 million homes. This would have cost consumers an estimated $214 billion in additional electricity costs between 2022 and 2030, plus $64 billion for replacement infrastructure. Such a massive expense prompted 27 states to challenge the rule, and a bipartisan majority of Congress to formally state their disapproval. What the Trump administration is now attempting with its Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule is to focus on improvements for existing plants. This is a far more lawful approach, and it means the EPA will respect both the boundaries established under the Clean Air Act and the ability of individual states to securely generate electricity. Essentially, the new rule means the administration wants to innovate and upgrade existing facilities, rather than scrap them. There’s precedent for this, since extensive investments in environmental controls for America’s coal fleet have already reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter by 92 percent per kilowatt-hour since 1970. Utilities have invested more than $127 billion in emissions technologies through 2018, and are also expected to spend an additional $5 billion through 2020. The CPP was a blunt hammer, and it aimed to rapidly eliminate coal-fired power in the U.S. But shutting down key parts of the nation’s power grid could have reduced the reliability and affordability of America’s electricity mix. A recent EVA study found that replacing just three of the coal plants facing premature retirement could cost consumers 15 times more than providing support to keep them operating. Coal currently generates 32 percent of the nation’s power supply. It’s part of a long-term effort to maintain a balanced energy mix. The CPP overreached, in that it would have imposed massive costs on U.S. consumers. But it offered little gain in return. A fully implemented CPP would have yielded only a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100, and reduced power plants CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent. Yes, the Trump administration has waded into a complex and controversial issue. But they’ve taken a prudent approach to help states generate electricity safely, reliably, and affordably. More can be done to scale up up wind and solar power, for example. But that should be encouraged alongside advances in coal technologies that can further improve safety while also providing reliable electricity every day. ^ Terry M. Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

OPINION: Getting to the bottom of shady votes in District 15

Among the many subjects that regularly earn Republicans a mocking from Democrats and their media sympathizers, perhaps none rank as highly as claims about election fraud. Attempts to secure the voting franchise through requirements for ID are universally decried as racist and based on bogeyman conspiracy theories about the dead or otherwise ineligible casting ballots. In House District 15, where Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux now holds an insurmountable lead of 113 votes over her inert challenger Aaron Weaver, a case is now emerging that voter fraud indeed took place. Seven dead people requested absentee ballots from beyond the grave. At least two others confirmed ballots returned in their names were not cast by them. A total of 26 absentee ballots — all cast for LeDoux — are now under investigation by the Division of Elections and the Criminal Division of the Department of Law. Fewer than 600 ballots were cast on Aug. 21 during the GOP primary election, with Weaver waking up to a three-vote edge, 294-291, after he went to bed without even bothering to follow the results as they began posting around 9:15 p.m. LeDoux crushed Weaver in the absentee count conducted Aug. 28 and now leads 452-339, but a strong whiff of corruption hovers over her apparent victory thanks to what appears to be a systematic effort to game the system. At the center of it is LeDoux’s Hmong outreach contractor Charlie Chang of Fresno, Calif., who she’s enlisted in each of her House District 15 competitions and was paid nearly $12,000 in July for get-out-the-vote efforts in the Muldoon neighborhood of Anchorage. Three components are central to any type of legal investigation: motive, means and opportunity. Every one of those elements fits LeDoux and Chang in House District 15. In her own statement denying any wrongdoing issued Aug. 28, LeDoux hit on motive: “District 15 is a very low turnout district.” A low turnout district means every vote is crucial, as was evident on election night with a margin of just three votes between LeDoux and Weaver. The means and opportunity fit as well as a substantial number of the ballots in question are linked to a narrow range of addresses in Muldoon where Chang’s outreach is focused. Finally, in the mother of all coincidences, every ballot under review was cast for LeDoux. Whether LeDoux faces any legal jeopardy seems unlikely absent a claim by Chang he was instructed to do anything improper, and the investigation is in too early of a stage to speculate on whether he did anything wrong, either. But there is another element of investigations — “Cui bono,” Latin for “who benefits?” — that clearly does not favor LeDoux. Something fishy went down in Muldoon, and the investigation must proceed expeditiously with the general election coming up Nov. 6 and the state Republican Party now deciding to attempt an actual effort to defeat LeDoux after basically sitting out the primary against one of its biggest and easily best-funded targets. The broader issue at play, though, is the routinely overlooked aspect of Democrat fights against election integrity. Claims that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise minority voters ignore the very real competing impact of voter fraud: the disenfranchisement of those whose legal votes are canceled out by illegal ones. It is no less an act of disenfranchisement to deny the vote to some by allowing the ineligible or deceased to vote — through negligence or corruption — as it is to deny access to the voting booth in the first place. The Division of Elections deserves credit for flagging these irregularities, which officials obviously believe bear enough signs of intentional fraud to warrant a criminal investigation. LeDoux may rightly believe there is no evidence that will implicate her in whatever events took place to result in every questioned ballot being a vote for her. She shouldn’t be as confident that this dark cloud won’t follow her into November. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Hatcheries a vital source of abundance for Alaskans

Few things define Alaskans more than our love of salmon. Not surprisingly, salmon allocation decisions and fluctuations in resource abundance often spur bitter political battles between user groups. A robust public process rooted in best available science has long been the arbiter of such disputes. As an Alaskan born and raised on the Kenai, and in my current role as Mayor of Cordova, it is with deep consternation that I followed a recent Board of Fisheries evaluation of an emergency petition seeking to restrict hatchery salmon releases in Prince William Sound. The Board narrowly voted to reject the petition averting a dangerous departure from best available science, transparency, and public process; the principles that are the bedrock of our management system. The inconsistency of the Cook Inlet salmon runs over the past few years have now arbitrarily pointed to hatchery releases as the culprit. It is understandable that as demand for Cook Inlet salmon expands and catch rates go down, fishermen from all user groups are looking for answers. Unfortunately, we have little control over the likely cause cited by scientists: the recent ocean conditions wreaking havoc on the Gulf of Alaska’s ecosystem. Referred to as “the blob,” the mass of warm water that formed in 2013 and lingered through 2016 stripped the typically bountiful Gulf of Alaska of vital nutrients, creating cascading effects throughout the food chain. Scientists believe it to be responsible for mass die-offs of juvenile cod and salmon—impacts that are clearly visible in this year’s salmon runs. It is important to recognize the resounding success of the hatchery management program. Salmon hatcheries have been a key component of our state’s commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries since the 1970s. Alaska’s hatchery program provides immense economic and social benefit to the entire state, particularly coastal communities like Cordova. The enhanced commercial harvest leads to the creation of processing jobs, fisheries tax revenue, economic investment, and state general fund revenues. An often-overlooked fact is that hatcheries create significant sport fishing opportunities in Prince William Sound and statewide, which increases the summer tourism industry. These benefits are essential to our coastal communities as well as the state, particularly in times of decreasing state budget resources. It is also important that stakeholders remain engaged in the public process and resource management decisions. However, it is also important for Alaskans to remember that our fisheries have remained sustainable because of a commitment on behalf of managers and users who rely on the best available science and data to make informed decisions. Making knee-jerk decisions in response to fluctuations in salmon runs year by year will not serve Alaskans well, particularly when the execution of said decisions could reduce future run potential. The established public process and science-based management in Alaska will keep us moving down the healthy path of promoting and protecting sustainability, feeding Alaskans, feeding the world, and providing wild salmon to all Alaskans for generations to come. Clay Koplin, Mayor of Cordova, is a lifelong Alaskan who grew up on the Kenai River where he and his family participated in sports fisheries and founded, as a family, the largest lure manufacturing business in the state. He and his family have subsistence fished for salmon and shellfish, and participated in the first Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery. Clay has witnessed the contributions of salmon hatcheries and releases developed on the Kasilof River, Halibut Cove, Ship Creek and others to enhance opportunities for sportfishing and all user groups.

COMMENTARY: PFD should be enshrined in Constitution for all Alaskans

My roots in Alaska go deep. I’ve had incredible opportunities here. At 93, my greatest hope is that my children and future Alaskans continue thriving here in a land of opportunity. When I arrived in Alaska after WWII I was glad to be alive. I had served over two years with a naval construction battalion on Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Malaria and other jungle diseases wracked by body. I was a wreck in some ways. But Alaska provided. Alaska healed me. I met the love of my life here and raised a family in Halibut Cove. Alaska provided abundant fish and spectacular land and seascapes that made me whole. The people of Alaska were hard working, thrifty, and committed to building a better future for everyone – my kind of people. We worked following the war to build a bright and inclusive future. Statehood was the goal. Control of our destiny was the value we cherished. We achieved statehood by working together, across party lines, over geographical boundaries and in spite of personal beliefs. It had to be done and it was. The great promise of statehood ensured Alaskans would obtain the land grants and control of our inshore fisheries we needed to thrive. We selected wisely, including the incomparable lands along the Sagavanirktok River near Prudhoe Bay that yielded a stupendous amount of oil revenue. When the oil revenue started rolling into our state coffers, Alaska’s great promise appeared to have been fulfilled. But the initial bonanza of oil revenues was spent like a sailor hitting port after a long voyage. Some of us worried about spending every cent of our non-renewable oil revenue without saving for the future. Visionary legislators like Oral Freeman and Hugh Malone led the call to save a slice of our oil revenue. They were assisted by my pool playing buddy, Governor Jay Hammond, who grew up poor in upstate New York and knew the value of savings. Working together with Alaskans from across the state, we established the Permanent Fund. We only saved only 25% of the oil revenues. The rest was available and spent by the politicians. Some of it even benefited the people. Jay Hammond convinced me and many other Alaskans the only way to fully protect our Permanent Fund was to make sure each and every Alaskan had a stake in the fund. Hammond believed as long as every Alaskan obtained an uncapped dividend each year, the voters would protect the Permanent forever. Which brings me to the point I want every Alaskan to consider. The Permanent Fund, now at $65 billion, has benefited all Alaskans for decades. The current law requiring the Permanent Fund Corporation to inflation proof the fund and then pay the PFD according to a legal formula, has been a boon for every Alaskan and the private sector. Alaskans are treated equally according to this distribution law. Whether you live in Bethel or Ketchikan, Anchorage or Fairbanks, the dividend is your legal right. And why not? The dividend came from our Permanent Fund savings account – a fund established in our Constitution using the oil wealth owned in common by all Alaskans. Politicians and special interests have tried to hijack your dividend since it was established. For the first time in history they’ve succeeded. In the last three years our politicians failed to address revenue shortfalls in a responsible way. Instead, they stole thousands of dollars from you by shorting your dividend so they can spend your money on projects and activities they believe are more important than your interests. As a group, our elected officials are addicted to spending. They’ve spent down most of the state’s savings account. Now they are ignoring the law and grabbing your PFD. Eventually they’ll go after the Permanent Fund if we let them. All of us who helped establish the Permanent Fund did so to pass along a little of the oil wealth to future generations. The PFD isn’t a welfare program or a rainy-day account for government. The PFD was established so every Alaskan would share equally in the Permanent Fund earnings and to provide a firewall between the grasping hands of politicians and special interests trying to rip off our communal savings. I came back from the war in the Pacific sure in the knowledge that Alaska was a great place to live and full of opportunity. The sea and the land provided. Life was good because we all worked hard, built a better future, and saved a portion of the bounty we inherited. Letting the politicians raid our savings and cut Alaskans’ PFD is political robbery. Anything short of full constitutional protection of the PFD is unjust and robs every Alaskan of their equal share of our savings. We must defend our Permanent Fund. To do that, the original PFD law must be protected in our Alaska Constitution. Clem Tillion is a former nine-term legislator and retired commercial fisherman residing in Halibut Cove near Homer. He is the president of the Permanent Fund Defenders (www.pfdak.com) and helped design the Permanent Fund with Gov. Jay Hammond and others.

OPINION: Thank you for not voting

Forgive two movie references between the headline and this lede, but Everything is Awesome if turnout is any indication about how Alaskans are feeling about the state of the state. Recession, unemployment, negative migration, addiction, crime and the Permanent Fund Dividend have dominated the news and internet comments for the past three years, yet fewer than 1 in 5 Alaskans cast ballots in the Aug. 21 primary. There are plenty of good reasons for that. The Democrat race for governor was essentially uncontested, there was no U.S. Senate race or ballot initiatives, the incumbent Gov. Bill Walker wasn’t on the ballot and as usual many House and Senate races had fewer choices than an election in North Korea. As expected, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy crushed latecomer and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in the GOP primary by a 2-1 margin. Treadwell, who vastly overestimated his name recognition and ability to parachute into the race at the filing deadline as a last-ditch alternative to Dunleavy for the party establishment, sang a song of sour grapes as the results came in. "We have to bring the Republican Party together because right now the ideas that we brought forward on trying to save jobs, build jobs in this economy, having experienced people run this thing, we did not get very much attention,” Treadwell told the Anchorage Daily News. “The biggest issue was who was tallest." Unconstrained by holding any elected office, Treadwell had more than a year to run, make his case and raise money to earn the GOP nod — there was even a gap where Dunleavy suspended his campaign for health reasons — but he apparently believed he could stroll to a win in a couple months if only he’d gotten more attention. Note to Mead: You can’t beat something with nothing, and looking for scapegoats anywhere but the mirror is a bigger waste of time than your short-lived campaign. But back to the turnout, which while largely explainable was baffling in a few notable contested races. In Eagle River, the race to fill former Sen. Anna MacKinnon’s seat between two well-known politicians was a blowout win for Rep. Lora Reinbold over Rep. Dan Saddler by nearly 800 votes but fewer than 5,000 people voted in a district of nearly 29,000 registered voters. In House District 25, House Minority Leader Charisse Millett was sacked by newcomer Josh Revak with neither accumulating even 1,000 votes. With turnout of just 11 percent, Revak had a lead of 916 to 685 in a district with more than 14,000 voters. But wait, it gets worse. Over in Muldoon, House Rules Chair and the Legislature’s most prolific fundraiser Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux couldn’t even turn out 300 people to vote for her. She ended the night trailing by 3 votes, 294-291, and may yet pull out a win, but it is still a pathetic showing for the would-be kingmaker. LeDoux and Millett, who both voted for fully funding the PFD this past session, may well go down to defeat, and even in races where candidates made it an issue the results were decidedly mixed. Paying a “full” dividend is just not an animating issue for the majority of Alaskans, despite what Dunleavy’s win might indicate. The issue did appear to bite a member of the Senate Majority leadership with Peter Miccicche trailing by 12 votes in his race on the Kenai Peninsula. But like Millett, his loss, if it holds, can just as easily be blamed on complacency as a reduced PFD that is still bigger than all but seven that have been paid in state history. Whether the internet-amplified anger over the PFD translates to a Legislature that will send a formula-funded dividend to the governor’s desk remains to be seen, but if Tuesday was any indication the issue did not drive turnout in any race. The math of a three-way contest rather than the math of calculating the PFD still appears to be the most decisive factor heading into November. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Alaskans need a champion of women on the court

Should Brett Kavanaugh be nominated to take a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court? The national debate on Roe vs. Wade presents an opportunity to step back and take stock: what is the status of women’s rights in America? Will this nominee strengthen democracy, improve equality and justice for all? As a strong Alaskan and female leader, we count on Sen. Lisa Murkowski to ask these questions as she weighs her decision. Consider two things you need to control your life: 1) financial independence, and 2) freedom to control your own body. Kavanaugh poses a threat to these critical rights. His non-committal stance on Roe alarms those concerned with the freedom to choose to bear children. This question is critical to a woman’s capacity to support herself and her children, a challenge that still places women at a disadvantage. To those who assert, “women control over half the nation’s wealth,” and are therefore financially secure, I ask, what does “control” mean? And which women? Sweeping language about women unilaterally having economic power equal to men distorts truth: women still face hurdles to equality. The median pay for women on the list of the highest-paid U.S. chief executives was  $15.7 million in 2014, $1.6 million less than for men. Have we broken through the glass ceiling? Only 11 of those 200 CEOs were women. Census data confirms that women earn $.80 cents on average for each $1 dollar that men do. Progress has been hard fought and slow paced, and remains predominantly enjoyed by white women. Across all major racial and ethnic groups, women earn less than men of the same group. Female leaders in corporate America earn compensation packages that rival their male peers. But how many women make it to the top? Women of color made up only 5% of executive or senior-level managers in 2015. In 2017, Hispanic women earned 62.1% what White men earned, and Black women earned 67.7% of White men. Given the Supreme Court’s role, Kavanaugh’s nomination has tremendous impact on the future of women. Let us thank the powers that be for ‘elastic’ Constitutional interpretations - for if it were not the job of the Court to interpret, rather than simply impose, women would lack legal access to any kind of equality today. Does it not say that, “all men are created equal”?  That’s not us, ladies. To many of us, the bottom line is this: if a woman cannot 1) earn enough to support herself and 2) control her reproductive rights, then she cannot be a full participant in democracy. Voting is powerful, but only one tool. The right to decide when and if to start a family represents a significant determinant in both financial and personal freedoms. Women with children often leave the workforce to do most of the unpaid labor of raising the next generation of citizens, a well-documented setback to lifelong earning trajectories. These women are raising the our future scientists, Supreme Court nominees, social workers and manual laborers. In other words, all of us. As a single woman under 30, I want what many “up and coming” women do; home ownership, a corner desk, and financial security for the family I will start someday. I’ll need the law’s support to do that. Sen. Murkowski holds a seat in the United States Congress, whose membership is only 20% female. She knows there are inequities; she has championed women before. Now we’re counting on her to do it again. Claire Pywell resides in Anchorage with her partner, Dave. She is a volunteer with several community organizations and an avid outdoors person.  

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 threatens TAPS operations and the environment

The Stand for Salmon movement promises “vital infrastructure will still move forward” in the event of its passage. In reality, the initiative becoming law would bring a standstill to actions that protect the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System today, while putting fish habitat around it in more jeopardy. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company operates TAPS, a vital piece of Alaska’s economic engine, and maintains its 800-mile route across more than 700 fish streams from the North Slope to Valdez. We are committed to operational excellence, long-term TAPS reliability, and the health of its surrounding environment. I know our personnel, almost all Alaskans, along with our Alaska-based industry partners, Tribal organizations, and state and federal agencies that regulate our work, share Ballot Measure 1’s supporters’ appreciation for Alaska’s special waterways and vibrant marine life. But that’s where common ground ends. Many states have lost salmon species or declared them endangered due to overfishing and blocked migration routes. Not so in Alaska, and certainly not along TAPS. We regularly clear, repair, and modify streams to maintain fish passage and prevent erosion. TAPS workers act to deliver system and environmental sustainability, not simply suppress infrastructure threats. After over 40 years of TAPS operations, our Environment, Right of Way and Baseline teams are experts in monitoring and inspecting hundreds of waterways and dozens more that connect to them along TAPS. Many hold master’s degrees in fisheries, marine biology, wildlife biology, environmental science and engineering. All take great pride in their role protecting the environment; if they don’t, they don’t work here. They know these waters, and the more than 30 fish species inhabiting them, from daily and annual surveillance and from constantly anticipating and responding to the forces of nature and Alaska’s often harsh and unpredictable weather. TAPS is already heavily regulated; we comply with requirements of more than 20 state and federal agencies. Since 2000, Alyeska has received more than 700 individual permits for routine maintenance activities, new installations, and projects along waterways to safeguard pipeline integrity and protect the environment. We hold 80 to 90 active annual permits for work in fish habitat areas. The fish habitat initiative puts at risk timely permitting and conduct of our actions. With rigid new agency review requirements and permitting criteria, and a wide-open appeals process, the initiative would complicate and delay inspection and certain maintenance activities, and create uncertainty about what is considered minor routine maintenance and grandfathered projects. Simple but important projects would face convoluted if not unpassable hurdles. And when we confront natural disasters, such as floods, fires and earthquakes, there’s no time to waste. Every spring, the Sagavanirktok River — better known as the Sag River — floods along the Dalton Highway and TAPS right of way for long stretches. Sometimes the flooding is annoying. Sometimes it’s troublesome. In spring 2015, it was disastrous. By spring’s arrival, ice buildup was 12 feet high in some places. Record-high temperatures led to swift snow melt and record river flow. Suddenly, the Sag flooded miles of the North Slope and endangered two of Alaska’s critical economic lifelines: TAPS and the Dalton Highway. TAPS personnel saw it coming. The Dalton was eventually closed, but because of very rapid preventative actions along waterways near TAPS, the pipeline and the fragile environment around it was spared catastrophic damage, and the pipeline stayed in operation. Over the weeks and months that followed, we conducted a massive cleanup, dozens of inspections, many repairs, and wide-ranging restoration of waterways and fish passages impacted by the flooding. Under this initiative even as amended, permits necessary to rapidly accomplish such critical work to protect TAPS would be more difficult to obtain, as would permits for spur dikes that redirected the Sag River’s main channel away from the Dalton Highway and the oil pipeline. TAPS, the Dalton Highway, fish streams and waterways could suffer devastating consequences. Many individuals, organizations, and local and state agencies representing diverse interests from all corners of Alaska have stepped forward to object to the risks surrounding the initiative. TAPS personnel have embodied Alaska true grit, pride and environmental stewardship from construction to today’s vision for the next 40 years of TAPS operations and the innovation it will take to achieve it. We plan to keep Alaska’s pipeline operating safely, while protecting Alaska’s environment, fish and wildlife. The initiative makes achieving that goal more difficult. If the fish habitat initiative becomes law, it will hinder and prevent Alyeska from obtaining permits needed to perform work crucial to TAPS’ safe and reliable operations in a timely way. We care deeply about Alaska’s salmon and environment; we are passionate about sustaining safe, reliable TAPS operations, and its daily contribution to the Alaska economy, long into the future. I ask you to vote No on Ballot Measure 1. Tom Barrett, a retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, is president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

COMMENTARY: Clarifying Endangered Species Act for modern conservation

A modern vision of conservation is one that uses federalism, public-private partnerships and market-based solutions to achieve sound stewardship. These approaches, combined with sensible regulations and the best available science, will achieve the greatest good in the longest term. Last month, the Trump administration took this approach to bringing our government’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act into the 21st century. We asked ourselves how we can enhance conservation of our most imperiled wildlife while delivering good government for our citizens. We found room for improvement in the administration of the act. When Congress created the Endangered Species Act, it built a tiered classification for our most at-risk wildlife, designing different protections for “endangered” and “threatened” species. The act was designed to give endangered species the most stringent protections while affording federal agencies the authority to tailor special rules for lower-risk, threatened species on a case-by-case basis. It may surprise most Americans, however, that the highest level of protection is often applied, regardless of the classification, through application of a “blanket rule.” The use of this rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service automatically elevates protections for threatened species to the same level as those given to endangered species. But automatically treating the threatened species as endangered places unnecessary regulatory burden on our citizens without additional benefit to the species. The blanket rule reflexively prohibits known habitat management practices, such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species. We need creative, incentive-based conservation, but that becomes impossible with the current blurring of the lines between the two distinctions. This muddle discourages collaborative conservation from the parties we most need to partner with us — states, Tribes and private landowners — ultimately harming species that can thrive with a more tailored approach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that also administers the act, understands this. NOAA has never employed a “blanket rule,” and we propose to follow this approach. The Endangered Species Act provides intensive care for the species with the greatest need in order to ensure they survive for future generations. Like with a hospital’s intensive care unit, the goal is not to keep patients there forever. The goal is recovery — to send the healthier patients home where they can continue to receive the lower level of care they still need. The criterion for admission to a hospital’s ICU is the same as it is for discharge: critical need. The same principle applies to the act, but over the years, the standards for down-listing (from endangered to threatened) and altogether delisting a species have been pushed higher than the standards for initially granting protection under the act. We are proposing to clarify that the standards for listing and delisting are identical. With limited resources, we cannot and should not keep recovered species on the list forever. We must return conservation management back to the capable hands of the states and focus our federal protections and resources on those species that need them most. These changes are just some in a series of proposals that will improve the administration of the Endangered Species Act, encouraging collaborative conservation and leveraging flexibility to incorporate innovation. We are also clarifying the meaning of certain terms that are in the act itself but not defined. For example, the law allows us to list species as threatened when they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, but it does not explain what “foreseeable future” means. We aim to provide the public and our federal agencies with a universal language that will increase regulatory certainty. In addition, we want to keep everyday Americans apprised of the impact the government’s work will have on them. We will continue to consider only the best scientific and commercial data in our listing determinations, as required by the act. But collecting data about the economic impacts of a species listing and presenting it to the public increase transparency — a hallmark of good government. This is the first step in a deliberative process. Rather than allowing special-interest groups to start and end the debate, we will give everyone — including the local voice and the rural voice — an opportunity to have their say. We have kicked off a 60-day public-comment period, after which we will evaluate the feedback and move forward, making adjustments where appropriate. Familiar faces have come out in opposition to the proposal, which is no surprise, though sadly, much of their response has been hyperbolic and unhelpful in promoting constructive discussion. But they, too, should submit their ideas, because the status quo is unacceptable for everyone — including the various species of flora and fauna that merit the act’s protection.

OPINION: Attacks on speech won’t end with Jones

This defense of free speech isn’t going to begin with the obligatory preamble denouncing Alex Jones. Over the past week, Jones and his Infowars site were simultaneously sent to timeouts of various lengths ranging from 30 days to three months from Facebook and YouTube while Spotify and Apple took down multiple podcasts from Jones’ show. Twitter — perhaps shamed by the daily exposure of the hate it tolerates from the left highlighted by recent New York Times editorial board hire and open racist Sarah Jeong — has refused to follow suit despite pressure to deplatform Jones. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who himself succumbed to the left-wing online outrage mob earlier this year after he made the mistake of posting about eating at Chik-fil-A, did manage to nail the obvious problem with banishing Jones. Dorsey posted that Twitter will not take “one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.” Bingo. There’s an old joke that goes, “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get me.” In a fell swoop of virtue-signaling, Facebook, YouTube (Google), Spotify and Apple made a “feel good” decision to silence Jones that is likely the biggest gift he could have ever asked for. What’s unlikely is that the disciples of net neutrality realize they are cheering on the tech titans for actions that are the polar opposite of their claimed desire for a free and open internet where content is treated equally. But then again, self-awareness isn’t a quality generally possessed by progressives now tolerating, encouraging or outright embracing the violence of the “antifa” movement that’s made its mission to shut down any speech falling to the right side of Mao on the ideological spectrum. Because make no mistake: this isn’t going to stop with Jones. The term “alt-right” has been used for more than two years now to degrade and delegitimize the supporters of President Donald Trump as a basket of deplorable racists. These tech corporations are carrying out the censorship that the left cannot achieve at the ballot box or the Supreme Court and have crossed the Rubicon into the territory of policing speech that goes far beyond the unprotected category of incitement to violence. They have every right to boot Jones from their platforms, temporarily or permanently, if they choose. But they’re going to need to hire a whole lot more cheap foreign H1-B interns if they are going to equally police content that falls in the category of “offensive” or “hateful.” I’ll pause so you can stop laughing. The Facebook page “Occupy Democrats” has 7.4 million followers and has a typically hyperbolic photo up featuring Uncle Sam that states “If you still support Donald Trump and plan to vote for him again, you are a traitor!” Quick quiz: what’s the federal penalty for treason? Answer: the death penalty. Follow up: what are the odds Occupy Democrats ever gets its account suspended for “bullying” or “hate speech”? Answer: zero. And the press, the supposed protectors of free speech, formed their own outrage mob last week when they pressured the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to stop selling T-shirts that said “You are very fake news” in its gift shop. This tweet from Boston Globe Deputy DC Editor Matt Viser perfectly illustrates the recent twisting of the First Amendment protection of the press into some sort of blasphemy law: “This T-shirt doesn’t belong anywhere. It particularly doesn’t belong at the @Newseum, a place that celebrates journalism and has the First Amendment etched in stone outside its building.” Viser clearly wasn’t the one respondent out of 1,000 in a recent survey that could name all five protections spelled out in the First Amendment. The press coined the term “fake news” in the aftermath of the 2016 election as a way to explain the loss of the inevitable Hillary Clinton and are now outraged that it has been co-opted and turned against them. What’s obvious is that their issue is not with the term itself, but with their inability to control whom it is aimed against. This is an industry that spent the past 20 years attacking and attempting to marginalize Fox News. They are members of a progressive movement that dubbed the network “Faux News” long ago, with Urban Dictionary entries on the term dating to 2003. They were the dutiful stenographers for President Barack Obama, who routinely called out his perceived enemies in the press by name from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity. None rushed to the defense of conservatives, and there was certainly no collective outrage about a president attacking the press as there is today about Trump. While there is plenty of hand-wringing over the supposed misleading information and conspiracies from the likes of Jones being pushed on the fringes of the internet, the mainstream press so offended at being dubbed an “enemy of the people” has been pushing the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories for the past 18 months accusing Trump of colluding with Vladimir Putin to steal a presidential election. This is the same press whose talking heads routinely compare Trump to Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao, who ironically were all leaders of the murderous left. Of course, if that were true, Jim Acosta would be against a wall with a blindfold and a cigarette, but realizing that would take a well of historical knowledge deeper than a thimble and a better memory than a fruit fly. In other words, don’t hold your breath. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

OPINION: Trump is playing to win. Are Republicans?

The establishment defenders of the global status quo are doubling down in their battle against President Donald Trump. Citing trade and immigration, the Koch Bros. announced their intention to withhold support for Kevin Cramer against Democrat incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in a key race the GOP seeks to flip in a state Trump won by 36 points. They might as well save their money. For the one-time elites in the Republican pundit class, think tanks and Super PACs, it must be frustrating to realize their utter impotence to move the needle against Trump with GOP voters who back him by a nearly 9-1 margin. Much like President Bushes 41 and 43 and failed Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney — who, thanks to their criticism of Trump, have all enjoyed an image rehabilitation from the media and Democrats that once demonized them — the bogeymen Koch Bros. and their agenda of open borders for trade and immigration are aligning with the left. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also investing heavily in an anti-tariff campaign, highlighting as an example the dilemma of craft brewers dealing with duties on aluminum imports in a July 26 post. One can only wonder where the chamber was in the last decade as China began dumping below market price aluminum in the U.S. to ease the glut of overcapacity it built up as it went from 11 percent of global production in 2000 to more than half just 15 years later. According to data from the Aluminum Association, “U.S. imports of semi-fabricated aluminum products from China grew 183 percent between 2012 through 2015 before leveling off (in 2016).” The association notes that, “Eight U.S. based aluminum smelters have either closed or curtailed since 2014 meaning only five smelters are operating in the United States today and only two at full capacity. This represents the lowest level of U.S. production since just after World War II.” This is the status quo the U.S. Chamber is trying to preserve and which Trump is trying to upend. Tariffs are a negotiating tool, albeit a blunt one, but Trump was not elected to keep the Koch Bros. or the U.S. Chamber happy. He promised to disrupt the system and negotiate better deals, and unlike most every other Republican politician who spent cycle after cycle pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare or enforce the border and immigration law, he is keeping those promises. Of course there will be short-term pain for some sectors, either from retaliatory tariffs on American exports or higher costs for domestic manufacturers who still need steel and aluminum from foreign sources until the decimation of our industries can be reversed through restarting mills or opening new ones. Another blunt tool wielded by Trump was the $12 billion proposal to aid the the agricultural sector facing those tit-for-tat tariffs as China and Mexico try to hit him in his red state bases. That drew the ire of our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who complained that the Alaskan seafood industry wasn’t included despite its heavy reliance on trade with China that is largely comprised of fish being sent there for processing and then reentering the U.S. or other markets. The question not being asked is why is it more economic to send product all the way to China for processing before it is sold in the U.S.? That work could and should be done here in Alaska. Copper River Seafoods operates a year-round processing plant in Anchorage that employs nearly 200 people producing fish for Walmart. Avoiding a trade conflict with China will not answer that question or lead to more value-added processing in Alaska. Nor does it make sense to abide a system in which we continue to pump hundreds of billions per year into a country that is building militarized islands in the South China Sea, waging cyber warfare and intellectual property theft against us and even threatening our airlines that won’t print its approved version of the map of Taiwan. What Trump’s agri-bailout signaled to the world is that the U.S. is willing to take a punch in the course of winning the fight. It was also an action that couldn’t legitimately be criticized by other countries given their own subsidies, bailouts and protectionism for favored industries. As a result, the European Union’s trade representative flew across the pond to Trump’s turf to start negotiating a solution. Trump worked to find new markets in the EU for products like American soybeans hit by Chinese tariffs. The Putin puppet is also trying to replace Russia as the dominant energy supplier to Europe. The American energy sector, now the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, is also feeling the effect of the metal tariffs. The possible impact on the ultimate price of the Alaska LNG Project has been tossed around as well, but at the last board of directors meeting company executives reported they’d identified potential U.S. sources for rolled 42-inch steel pipe. The demand for U.S. energy isn’t going anywhere even if there are intermediate increases in costs. Sanctions are about to be reimposed on Iran with the U.S. set to cut off the despotic mullahs’ crude oil cash stream used to export terrorism and crush its people. Supply is dwindling from the failed socialist state of Venezuela and there are ongoing production disruptions in the failed state of Libya created by former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump is presiding over a U.S. economy with a booming energy sector, historically low unemployment, rising wages and soaring consumer confidence. He’s negotiating from a position of strength with every intention to win while the Washington Generals that make up the GOP establishment and donor classes are trying to throw the game. At least they’ll have their token Republican talking head slots on MSNBC as a consolation prize. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: State-run Health Care Authority a bad idea for employees

An Alaska government takeover of healthcare is in the works. This plan will increase state spending, grow healthcare costs, and result in less flexible, less effective care. We’ve seen this story before. This time, it is called the Alaska Health Care Authority, or HCA, which creates a structure that expands the size of Alaska’s bureaucracy at a time when Alaska’s government is struggling to fund public education and infrastructure, and is cutting your Permanent Fund dividend. The current administration and several legislators support the idea, and have allocated hundreds of thousands of state dollars to study the concept. While the concept may be well-intended, it is a misguided effort to address Alaska’s very complex, high cost healthcare system. We all recognize a need to cut healthcare costs. And I appreciate the administrative and legislative efforts to find cost savings. But an HCA is a bad idea for many reasons. Under the proposed HCA, the State of Alaska would force every state agency, state corporation, University of Alaska and school district employee and retiree and, potentially, every political subdivision employee and retiree, to get their health care coverage through a new government bureaucracy. In other words, establishing an HCA would force more than 50,000 Alaskans to change their health plans.   The proposed state-run HCA would take over privately-managed health plans, requiring Alaskans to abandon their well-managed healthcare plans with adequate reserves for emergencies, to state plans that are struggling to stay solvent. How would you react if you had an innovative, effective health plan that worked for your family, and you were informed that this coverage would now be to the supervision of the State of Alaska? Under a Health Care Authority, your coverage would become part of Alaska’s fiscal struggles. Despite the idealism of those who would like to create and implement an HCA, this concept serves no one well. Last year the State of Alaska conducted three studies on the topic. They all speculated that an HCA could save healthcare costs for the State of Alaska, but only if all publicly-funded entities are required to participate in the program. They highlight health authorities in Washington and Oregon and mention Hawaii as model examples. These studies overlook glaring concerns that Alaskans deserve to know: Washington’s HCA miscalculated and underfunded its budget by $463 million in 2016. An Oregon State audit found approximately 41 percent of the Medicaid enrollees in the Oregon HCA were ineligible, resulting in $88 million in avoidable costs during a six-month period in 2017. Oregon school districts that rejected participation in the Oregon HCA offer better benefits at lower administrative costs, thereby saving the school districts funds to offer superior pay and hire more teachers. Hawaii has had no functioning Health Authority since 2015, yet the State of Alaska continues to publish that Hawaii has a model that Alaskans could emulate. Other issues include the fact these reports reflect a biased, predetermined outcome, as the only private sector assistance in developing or completing the studies were paid consultants and advocates of the HCA. At present, there is no funding mechanism associated with the proposed HCA. While we lack details around implementation, it is fair to say this change would require hiring new employees, new software programs, and significant onboarding work. HCA is reminiscent of Senate Bill 91, the crime reform bill that legislators scrambled to fix; it lacked effective analysis, and now many people are demanding its repeal. These are just some of the holes in state-funded studies that advocate for the HCA.  Rather than addressing these deficiencies, the State of Alaska simply cites the reports as justification for moving forward with the HCA concept. In fact, the state scheduled two public meetings, on Aug. 9 and 30, 2018, to discuss the governance structure of a proposed HCA. This is premature. Rather than proceeding to discuss the HCA governance structure, the state should first restore the credibility of the process. Unless we are confident that an HCA can institute competitive and common-sense private sector practices, the Alaska HCA concept should be scrapped, and we should look seriously at other means of reducing healthcare costs for all Alaskans. The HCA story is a fictional narrative in need of a replacement. Fred Brown is the executive director of the Pacific Health Coalition. PHC is comprised of over 45 member health benefit plans in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. These member funds represent over 100,000 employees and their dependents in Alaska. He can be reached at [email protected]  

COMMENTARY: For women, Kavanaugh's confirmation is about more than Roe v. Wade

The word "women" appears in the Democratic Party platform 49 times. By comparison, the word "men" appears four times. Women and girls have three sections of the platform devoted entirely to them. These three sections discuss protecting women's rights (two sections) and ending violence against women (one section). If one were to consider only the DNC platform, women are victims in an unforgiving world. Whether it be to their rights or physical safety, women are under threat at every turn. The growing economic status of women, however, is largely ignored. According to Forbes, women now earn over half of all bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Seventy percent of women with children under the age of 18 work outside the home, and women serve as the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of these households. Women hold over half of all management and professional positions. And, perhaps most surprising given the Democrats' focus on guaranteed equal pay, women control over half of the nation's personal wealth. Women are, as the vernacular goes, #winning. This growing force includes unmarried women. Per Harvard University, unmarried women are buying homes at twice the rate of unmarried men, and unmarried women comprise more than a full third of real estate ownership growth since 1994. In addition to their growing educational, financial, and professional stature, women are also exercising their political voices; according to Rutgers University, women outvote men, both nominally and proportionally. From their platform, Democrats appear to be champions of women. So why are they infantilizing a group of people who are outperforming their male counterparts in a wide range of factors? We have now seen two weeks' worth of lobbying against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Many of the objections cite women's rights as a reason to deny this (or, indeed, any) conservative nomination. By making Roe v. Wade the lynchpin of these protests, however, Democrats ignore all the other issues important to women as breadwinners, heads of households, and business people. Women, both single and hitched, are a block of power and wealth. Such a group would surely want predictable laws on a wide range of issues — taxation, regulation, patents, defense, and free speech to name a few. By interpreting the laws as written, Brett Kavanaugh would provide stability in interpreting constitutional provisions. As seen, women are not shy about voting for both the people and policies they desire. Correspondingly, they should have faith that the laws put into place by those candidates for whom they vote will not be revamped at the whim of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the court, as a wholly unelected body, can give ever-broadening powers to government based upon an elastic construction of constitutional interpretation. As a single woman under the age of 30, I fit the mold for these new, up-and-coming females. I have a house, a master’s degree, and many professional aspirations. I am also a constituent and supporter of Sen. Murkowski's. I hope she does the right thing. Sarah Brown was born and raised in Fairbanks and is a graduate of West Valley High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania) and her master’s degree from the University of Oxford (England). She can be reached at [email protected]

OPINION: A smoking gun that shot blanks

The Journal was involved in two stories this past week we wanted no part of, but that ended up presenting a textbook case study in how and how not to practice journalism. On Friday, July 13, Republican blogger Suzanne Downing put up a post under a click-bait headline of “Smoking Gun” accusing Gov. Bill Walker of breaking state law by submitting an opinion column with a link to a campaign video and the Journal and its parent newspaper the Anchorage Daily News of committing campaign finance violations by publishing it. On Tuesday, July 17, the House Subcommittee on Ethics was presented with the deposition of former Journal reporter Naomi Klouda in the case against Rep. David Eastman, who was booted from the Ethics panel this session by a 31-6 vote based on a finding that he violated Alaska law by revealing the existence of an ethics complaint against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux to Klouda on April 28, 2017. The Journal’s involvement in the Eastman case began that day when Klouda did what real reporters do when they are presented with an allegation: she attempted to verify it. In the case of Eastman, she was actually following his own advice when he told her that she should call the Legislative Ethics Office and ask Administrator Jerry Anderson about a complaint that had been filed within the previous week against LeDoux. Unbeknownst to Klouda at the time, though Anderson would quickly make her aware, ethics complaints are confidential until they are resolved. Anderson informed her that he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any complaint and asked who had told her about it. Klouda, whose interview with Eastman was entirely on the record, told Anderson that he had told her to call the Ethics office and ask about LeDoux. Because we could not confirm the existence of the complaint, and after Anderson informed us of the serious nature of anyone disclosing a pending complaint, we did not report Eastman’s allegation against LeDoux. A couple weeks later, Klouda and I met with Anderson at his cramped Downtown Anchorage office where for the second of four times, including a deposition given under oath, she recounted in exact detail what Eastman told her that day. Unlike Eastman, her version of events has never changed, and his attorney was left with nothing else but to attack her preservation of notes despite all the contemporaneous documentation at the time, the phone records that show she called Anderson immediately after talking to Eastman and Anderson’s own sworn testimony that all support Klouda’s account. When we reported on the Ethics committee’s recommendation to remove Eastman this past January, LeDoux did confirm that a complaint had indeed been filed against her. We learned on July 17 that the complaint had actually been filed April 27, 2017, the day before Eastman told Klouda to call the Ethics Office and ask about it. The reason for the alarm expressed by Anderson on receiving Klouda’s inquiry the very day after a confidential complaint was filed suddenly became clear during the July 17 hearing. Besides attacking Klouda’s notes by introducing the entirely irrelevant Reuters guidebook and inventing other standards for reporters out of thin air, Eastman’s attorney argued that it wasn’t reasonable to believe that he would do something so stupid as to violate the ethics law by telling her about a pending complaint against a fellow legislator. Just because an action is stupid doesn’t mean people don’t do it, which brings us to Downing and the striking contrast with Klouda. Without a shred of evidence, Downing accused the governor of using state resources to promote a campaign video and the Journal and ADN of being accomplices in the violation by publishing the column with the link to YouTube. Downing didn’t contact ADN Opinion Editor Tom Hewitt to ask about the origin of the column or what the editorial policy is regarding submissions by candidates. Nor did she contact yours truly despite having my cell phone number. Instead, she published a piece of fake news with no reporting and appointed herself as judge and jury of the Alaska Public Offices Commission to declare it was only a question of how many, not if any, legal violations took place. Klouda attempted to verify an allegation before publishing it. Downing made no attempt to verify her allegations. When Klouda could not confirm the existence of a complaint, we did not publish the allegation. Even after being informed that the Walker column came from the campaign and not from his state office, Downing has yet to correct or update her post as of the morning of July 18. Klouda had no agenda when she called the Ethics Office to check on Eastman’s allegation. Downing’s anti-Walker agenda is plastered all over her blog. If the Journal shared Downing’s lack of standards, we could have reported Eastman’s allegation of a complaint and the details he described to Klouda along with the obligatory “could not confirm or deny” from Anderson. We instead chose to be responsible and regardless of how the Ethics committee ultimately rules, Klouda’s effort to get the story right was presented in detail during the July 17 hearing as Eastman’s attorney was left with only an emotional misdirection about her credibility and a defense that boiled down to his client not being that dumb. Downing won’t make that same argument but the next time you read one of her attacks on her ideological foes keep in mind her standards when she writes about her friends. Editor's note: On July 19, the House Subcommittee on Legislative Ethics upheld its decision that Eastman violated the law by disclosing the existence of the complaint to Klouda. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Without better habitat protections, salmon are vulnerable

As a commercial fisherman for over four decades, I am supporting Ballot Initiative 1 and voting “Yes for Salmon.” I have participated in a variety of fisheries around the state from Southeast to the Bering Sea, and have experienced a multitude of uncertainties inherent in the business. Fish stocks fluctuate, weather conditions vary, markets can be fickle, mechanical breakdowns happen, foreign exchange rates rise and fall, and politics shift with the wind, to name a few. Exposure to risk — both physical and financial — plays an especially outsized role in commercial fishing, but like any other type of business, finding some level of predictability is a key to success. Although there are many risk factors beyond our control, Alaska fishermen are lucky to have predictability when it comes to management of fisheries. The mandate for sustainable resource use in Article 8 of the Alaska Constitution provides a foundation for a sophisticated management system administered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department uses the best available science and data collection methods along with a participatory public process at the Board of Fisheries to develop regulations that promote sustainable resource use. That predictability allows fishermen like me to make better decisions about my business that have ripple effects on family, crew, community and throughout the economy. Alaska’s fishery management system may be the envy of the world, but we are clearly vulnerable when it comes to protection of freshwater habitat. Throughout the northern hemisphere, where salmon were once bountiful, most places have seen their great runs diminish to a mere trickle or even lost altogether. The causes for salmon run decimation are well documented and nearly always related to loss of habitat. It’s often not from any one factor or project, but the cumulative effect of many disruptions. One only needs to look at the Pacific Northwest as an example of the loss and subsequent difficulty in rehabilitating those once-abundant stocks. I am hoping that Alaska will learn from the mistakes of others and act to effectively protect salmon habitat before it is too late. While some claim that Alaska has “robust” permitting laws, the few column inches pertaining to salmon habitat protection in the voluminous book of fishery statutes (Title 16) is grossly insufficient. ADFG — the agency with actual responsibility for upholding the constitutional mandate — needs the authority required to assure that salmon habitat is protected. Present habitat permitting laws date back to statehood 60 years ago at a time when our population was 224,000 residents, a third of today’s roughly 740,000! Over the years since statehood, many have recognized the shortcomings of the present guiding statute (AS 16.05.871 section d), which states that “The commissioner shall approve the proposed construction, work, or use in writing unless the commissioner finds the plans and specifications insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.” “Proper protection” falls for short of a “robust” standard that will bring us the salmon-enhanced future that most of us desire. Two years ago, the Board of Fisheries stepped in with a request to the Legislature for changes to the permitting statutes. Alaska Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, rose to the challenge with proposed legislation, but the bill never made it out of committee. Legislative inaction has made the “Yes for Salmon” ballot initiative a credible alternative if salmon habitat is to be protected. With increasing pressure to develop Alaska’s non-renewable resources, the threat to salmon habitat is real. The status quo may be appealing to development interests, but unless costs are internalized — borne by the entity undertaking the project, the rest of us end up paying the price. When considering salmon habitat protection, Ben Franklin might have altered his famous axiom to state that “an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.” So, I am supporting the “Yes for Salmon” initiative because there is nothing in the present statutes that will preclude a long-term decline in salmon viability as the state becomes more developed. The initiative clarifies what constitutes “proper protection” of fish and game, sets up a permitting process that is transparent and workable, and recognizes that not only has the state of Alaska changed, but the state of the science is also far more advanced. Chip Treinen of Anchorage holds an MBA from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and has over 40 years of fishing experience in Alaska’s waters.

COMMENTARY: Stand for Salmon will hurt rural Alaska

Generations of Alaska Native people have revered salmon for its life-sustaining properties and role in the growth and survival of our communities. To say that Alaska Native people respect fish, especially salmon, is an understatement. Salmon constitutes a big part of who we are as Native people. As a proud Alaska Native woman and the Executive Director of the ANCSA Regional Association, I have the privilege of working with the CEOs of the twelve Alaska Native Regional Corporations. Together, our corporations, formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, are owned by over 127,000 Alaska Native people. The Association exists to promote and foster the continued growth and economic strength of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations on behalf of their shareholders. Our mission is simple: collaborate to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native people. Recently, our organization took a public stand opposing Ballot Measure 1, also called “Stand for Salmon,” which its organizers claim is designed to protect fish, including salmon. Some Alaskans question why we became involved, and why we chose not to support the Ballot Measure. It’s critical for our shareholders and others to understand that the position we took was in no way “anti-salmon,” as some false accusations have claimed. On the contrary, our position is very much pro-Alaska, and especially pro-rural Alaska. Salmon have provided the bedrock of our communities for hundreds of years and must be protected for the next generations; no one disputes that core precept. But this ballot measure is so deeply flawed, and does so little to actually protect salmon that we were compelled to speak against it. Indeed, we feel so strongly about this issue that we have committed our official support to the ballot measure group, Stand for Alaska, which opposes the Stand for Salmon measure. It’s important to note that we do not take issue with the purported purpose of Ballot Measure 1, which claims a desire to protect fish, especially salmon. However, when more is learned about the ballot measure, including who wrote it, the lack of public input, the legal questions it raises, and the economic harm that it would cause to our communities, we could not in good faith stay silent. Not only would its passage jeopardize important resource development projects in Alaska, but also smaller infrastructure projects in rural Alaska. I listened with great interest when Doyon Ltd. President and CEO Aaron Schutt told a group that if the ballot measure passes, water and sewer projects would become all but impossible to construct in rural Alaska. As an organization whose membership is dedicated to improving the quality of life for thousands of Alaska Native shareholders and descendants, we can’t allow this to happen. We must stand together and reject this ballot measure that purports to be designed to protect salmon, but that will likely set our communities and Alaska Native people back by decades. Salmon has sustained our people for many generations; it’s become a part of who we are as people and what has allowed our communities to thrive and exist today. It represents our past, present, and future — and it’s engrained in our heritage. But on this issue, we must join and stand together for Alaska and our future by voting no on Ballot Measure 1. ^ Kim Reitmeier is the executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association.

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