We got out, picked up the upper end of the tree and moved it out of the way so that one lane was open. Judy was starting to clear limbs and foliage off the road, but I reminded her that it would probably be gone in ten minutes, from the winds.
Sometimes debris gets swept away. Sometimes you have to clean it up yourselves. Thus, this week, the Alaska progressive bloggers were stuck, having to remove more Alaska political debris, left untouched by our mainstream media:
I. The Bill Allen sentencing: Steve at What Do I Know? was there for the sentencing, as he has been for many of the trials that emanated from the FBI sting on Allen's bribery schemes involving Alaska legislators. Steve gave an eyewitness account of the sentencing hearing at the Anchorage Federal Courthouse.
Steve also wrote about how the parameters of an acceptable sentence had been arrived at by Judge Sedwick. He also wondered why the protections Allen had apparently gotten for members of his family from Federal prosecution weren't mentioned in the hearing:
In this case there was a lot of discussion about how Allen had agreed to cooperate immediately when he was taken in to the FBI headquarters and shown some of the tapes of him in his Baranof Hotel suite; about how much work he did for the prosecution; how he was important in getting the various convictions this investigation has gotten. So all this cooperation meant that he ended up getting more than the normal lowering of levels. OK, sort of.
But what wasn't mentioned was the agreement that was discussed in the press and at the Kott and Kohring trials, that part of his agreement to cooperate included immunity to prosecution for his children. Given that he thought they needed such immunity, I'd say this was a big benefit that he'd already gotten for his cooperation. It would seem to me that it should have been factored in. Perhaps in the agreement it was also not supposed to affect the figuring of what level he deserved. It just seemed like a glaring omission to me.
AK Muckraker from The Mudflats was also at the sentencing. She wrote a long, descriptive essay that leaves one with no doubt that, as sympathetic of a character as Allen and his attorney would have liked to portray him, it just didn't work. AKM writes:
It started off with Allen’s attorney Bob Bundy, talking about how Allen was known to be a generous person, so these bad bad legislators knew right who to go to for the money. His generosity and kind heartedness made him a…..”sitting duck.” Really. Those were his exact words. “When they came to him he responded,” the attorney tried to convince the judge. You see, it was because Bill Allen really believed that the petroleum profits tax that would benefit the oil companies was the best thing for Alaska that he did it. It was his love of this great state and the people in it that led to his downfall. He was vulnerable…he was weak. How could this good and noble man resist? His passion for the best interest of all people led to his downfall. The illegal activity only happened because of solicitation, you see. It was those others. They ASKED. What could he do, being so generous and selfless and all? Him with that big heart of gold. They played him like a fiddle. And, he explained, there was “no organization of the illegal activity.” Allen would never do that. And cash changing hands was “serendipitous as it occurred,” he explained. Serendipitous, indeed.
At this point, the people in my row were looking at each other incredulously. As soon as the words “sitting duck” came out of the attorney’s mouth, there was a rapid-fire clacking on the keyboards of the laptops in the room. It was kind of fun to listen to the level of sound from the keyboards. You always knew when something really quotable was being said by the increase in the tap tap tapping. Kind of like when the shutters of cameras go crazy.
Fortunately Judge Sedwick piped up at this point. It was the only time I saw him look irritated, and justly so. He basically said, “You expect me to believe THAT?” but in longer and more eloquent sounding words.
AKM hastily drew a rendition of the courtroom atmosphere at this point in the proceeding:
Shannyn Moore from Just a Girl From Homer was also at the Allen sentencing hearing. She collected her thoughts fairly reflectively, finally posting an essay about the larger context of the Allen affair late Friday. She observes that the whole scam Allen got busted for involved money for his company, but a whole LOT MORE money for the big oil companies Allen served:
In Frank Murkowski’s Alaska, The Producers dusted off and resurrected Hollywood’s net profits scheme and changed the name to the PPT. The PPT would forever tie Alaska’s primary revenue stream to the efficiencies of the oil producers while simultaneously incenting them to be inefficient; that is, the higher their costs (INEFFICIENCY) they could deduct, the less their royalty payments would be (INCENTIVE) and therefore the less revenue for the state of Alaska (INDUSTRIOUS SCHEME).
Despite the tandem of strong-handed lobbying from Governor Murkowski combined with Bill Allen’s bribery of state lawmakers, and Ted Stevens yet-to-be-indicted son, Ben, presiding over the senate, the Alaska Legislature barely passed HB 3001 (the PPT) on August 10, 2006. Murkowski signed the bill into law nine days later. But, just like in Hollywood, the FEDS got involved and uncovered the plot. And, given the money at stake-hundreds of millions; in fact billions of dollars would flow either into state coffers or inflate the already record-high Producers’ profits. Had the PPT not been thrown out, the promised net profits would have literally become empty pipe dreams for Alaskans.
Just eleven days after the PPT became law, Allen was with Republican Senator Fred Dyson heading to breakfast when they were confronted by the FBI. Allen claimed during his sentencing statement to Judge Sedwick that after listening to the damning tapes he immediately decided to quit drinking and cooperate with the FEDS. The next day, August 31, lawmakers’ offices in Juneau were raided by the FBI.
Politics in Alaska forever changed.
One might hope this is the case, but listening Friday night to former Mark Begich super-fan Gini rail about her disappointment in Mark's conduct in the Senate, and knowing what I do, I sometimes wonder how long that "forever" was.
Moore's essay is so critical of our Alaska media on coverage of the 2005-2006 petroleum tax sessions, I almost felt I had written it. Except Shannyn didn't swear nearly as much as I do:
Remember the beloved PPT? That was the industrious scheme concocted by Murkowski and The Oil Producers behind closed doors. Alaska’s 4th Estate failed to explain it. Your morning newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, never once called the PPT a NET PROFITS TAX! Nor did the ADN ever fulfill their social and unwritten pact to educate the public on something so basic, yet so vital!
II. Don Young is BACK. After being left fairly much alone for awhile, our lone Representative in the U.S. House again made the press and the Alaska blogs this past week. First, Young's name resurfaced in the Allen mess. There's a lot of speculation that Young's multimillion dollar criminal legal fees have been about Jack Abramoff ties, Coconut Road, other transportation earmark misconduct and his Veco ties. Early in the week I decided to write a summation of some of the more important past articles at PA and other blogs I have written about Young.
Friday morning, the Washington Post published two articles about a leaked memo from the House ethics body, one of which mentioned Young's Coconut Road 2005 earmark. PA posted an article linking the articles, and observing that Alaska civil rights and integrity activist Diane Benson had filed a complaint against Young on the Coconut Road earmark's illegal insertion into congressional legislation back in September 2007.
The Mudflats also covered this Friday.
III. University of Alaska Professor Rick Steiner. I was happy to see far more coverage of Prof. Steiner's case this past week than had been the case. He is the only National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration granted educator to have ever had his funding revoked by NOAA. Additionally, it was done with the connivance of Steiner's employer, the University of Alaska. And, within the past few days, NOAA has indicated that Steiner was right and that the people hounding him are wrong. But UAF and NOAA may not be backing down. We'll see.
The Mudflats posted two essays - one to accompany the Mudpups' live blogging of Moore's show with Steiner, the other one looking through some of the materials Prof. Steiner has released, related to his case. AKM noted in the second post:
The real issue here is bigger than the University of Alaska, bigger than Dr. Steiner, and bigger than oil. This situation asks if institutions of higher learning will succumb to pressure from moneyed interests at the expense of academic freedom. Is the integrity of our state universities for sale to the highest bidder?
This is true. And, sadly, as Shannyn Moore noted about Alaska mainstream media coverage of what PPT really entailed, our press hasn't had the courage or vision to call UA and NOAA out on what has happened here. Big oil was able to hide behind Allen on the Corrupt Bastards case, and Gen. Hamilton is quite willing to fulfill the role of cutout for big oil in the Steiner case.
Both PA and What Do I Know? have been following the progression of Rick Steiner's case for a while - PA since late 2007, What Do I Know? since early 2009. I hope to compile a comprehensive listing of these articles soon. Meanwhile, it appears UA President General Mark Hamilton may have accepted a joint appearance with Steiner on Alaska Public Radio's Talk of Alaska on November on November 24th.
IV. The Crazy Woman's Incomplete Final Public Officer Disclosure filing. Linda Kellen Beigel posted two excellent essays on Sarah Palin's filing last week of expense and contribution information, at Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis. The Mudflats covered them in two parts. The Immoral Minority observed their importance in the context of the array of interests the Alaska progressive bloggers try to cover. AKM carried Linda's essays to The Huffington Post. PA carried them to Firedoglake.