By SHANNYN MOORE for the Anchorage Daily News
If you wait long enough you’ll have agreed and disagreed with just about everyone. I’m no different. I’ve found myself defending people I wouldn’t walk across the street to slap on a good day when it came to certain issues. It’s just what happens.
This time, I’m walking across the street.
The same Alaska GOP that subverted the will of Alaskans through an illegal gerrymandering of the state Legislature and brazen attempts to prevent Alaska Natives from voting apparently now has a new tack for undermining the public will: paid hacks are verbally and physically interfering with Alaskans who are gathering signatures to repeal the oil wealth giveaway.
Long time Don Young booster and Republican hatchet-man Art Hackney recently boasted about hiring cronies to harass members of the public signing the petition to repeal the oil wealth giveaway. In an e-mail from Hackney to fellow conspirators that went public, he concludes:
“State law has no provision for regulating an effort to stop a Referendum.”
First of all, Mr. Hackney, it turns out your assessment is a bit fudged and I can’t imagine you’d give the same allowances to the pro-Pebble Mine folks who would behave the same during one of your ballot initiative drives. Using force to prevent signature-gathering for a referendum process is a Class A misdemeanor known as “constitutional interference”. That’s “Class A,” as in punishable by up to a year in jail if convicted.
Hackney says he is funding folks to interfere with his own money. Really? Have you made so much money punching Pebble that you can afford to choose to be charitable to the poor oil companies who you think are taxed too much? Wow. If that is true, and there is no quid pro quo from industry or their allies, you have more money than sense, sir.
The Anchorage Police Department visited the Barnes and Noble signature gathering location on Thursday due to reports of continued harassment from industry shills.
So far APD hasn’t observed flagrant enough interference to bring charges, but several signature gatherers have reported direct physical interference through the grabbing of petition signers on the shoulders and arms that certainly appear to violate the law.
On its face, Hackney’s eagerness to execute the GOP and oil industry’s voter intimidation scheme is offensive enough, especially given their eagerness to use illegally-drawn legislatures and voter suppression bills to get their way in Alaska. The same parties claiming their massive corporate welfare check will be Alaska’s salvation haven’t called out Mr. Hackney’s behavior. Are they not confident enough in the merits of their argument that they will watch a man fight their fight for them and risk breaking the law to prevent Alaskans from having a chance to vote on it?
At this point though, it’s fairly predictable for the oil industry to use campaign dollars and D.C. insiders to impede Alaskans from reclaiming the Owner State. But you’ll be cheered to know this harassment and intimidation scheme to influence Alaskan elections also involves elected officials and state employees. Yes, once this hits the campaign stage, we have all those “Closed for business” ads to enjoy.
Since having two state senators literally on the Conoco-Phillips payroll isn’t enough, is the oil industry using Hackney to further grease the wheels of their cozy relationships with people on the state payroll?
The now-public face of the harassment effort is Sarah Hetemi, a former Senate page hired by none other than giveaway cheerleader and ambitious Lite Guv candidate Lesil McGuire, who has enthusiastically courted oil industry favor to support her sights on higher office. Hetemi also happens to be married to Ryan McKee, a long time staffer for Rep. Bill Stoltze.
Just another egregious conflict-of-interest story for a Legislature whose inner workings would already make Jack Abramoff blush.
We can expect much more of the same big-money schemes and oily relationships if we don’t use this referendum to reclaim the state for the good of Alaskans.
If we Alaskans can’t get it together, disagree on issues and substance as we tend to do, but agree to protect the process – the voice of the people to decent, to rally, to vote, to make the changes our corporate controlled legislature has failed to do – then we might as well pack it in.
The bedrock of our democracy is being challenged by the Republican party, Art Hackney and hacks, and the oil industry.
How can we let them continue to get in the way of Alaskans right to democratically decide our own destiny?