Loose Lips: The swearing-in edition

capital domeSupposedly, there was a fair bit of noise and rancor in the House today, as Speaker John Boehner, once again, fended off a tea-party challenge to his Speaker’s position. But it wasn’t likely nearly as loud and boisterous as what was going on in room 235, the Commerce Committee room in the Russell Senate Office Building, where, from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m, more than 300 Alaskans, from all across the state, and Alaska-wannabes and lobbyists and D.C. sycophants and loads of Senator Dan Sullivan’s family gathered for a reception hosted by Alaska’s new senator. They drank beer and coffee and soda and ate salmon and cheese and fruit. There were swearing-in receptions all over the Russell Senate Office Building. None were as large or as noisy as the one in room 235, and supposedly, word all around the Capitol was that it was those loud Alaskans down the hall who brought the snow and caused schools to be cancelled in the D.C. area.

Sullivan wore his new cufflinks given as a gift from the Mat-Su Republican Women’s Club for the big day. They were cufflinks signed by the late Sen. Ted Stevens, and were inscribed with his well-known saying: “To Hell with Politics. Do What’s Right for Alaska.”

The crowd watched Sullivan take the oath from large screen TVs set up in the room. After he did so, the room erupted in a cheer, which may have been the reason that a security guard got a complaint about the noise, which might have come from one of the many relatively sedate Senate parties down the hall.

Among those spotted: DC lobbyists Jack Ferguson and CJ Zane; NSB Assemblyman Mike Aamodt and his wife Patsy, who serves on the ASRC board of directors; Drue Pearce; John and Sen. Anna McKinnon; Mary Ann Pease; Catherine Stevens; Andy Baker from Kotzebue; Reps. Bill Stoltze, Bob Herron and Lynn Gattis; GCI’s general counsel Tina Pidgeon; Karl Rove; BP’s Cindy Baily and Phil Cochrane; Dawn Linton; Saltchuk’s Harry McDonald and Chris Coakley; Sen. Charlie Huggins; Kenai sports fishing enthusiast Bob Penny; Craig Fleener; Elizabeth Stevens; former state Attorney General Greg Renkes; Greg Smith and Bill Hardham from Repsol; Art and April Hackney; Tom Barrett from Alyeska Pipeline; Mike “Fish” Palawski; Curtis and Josie Thayer; lobbyist Jeff Logan, Pacific Seafood Processors Association’s Vince O’Shea; Jon Ketchum; John Hendrix of Apache; Sen. Lesil McGuire; former Parnell staffer Heather Brakes; Kevin Jardell; Jared Green and John Sims from ENSTAR; Sullivan campaign manager Ben Sparks; Larry Burton with CVS; Republican consultant Mike Dubke and wife Shannon; Sullivan campaign co-chair Tara Sweeney from ASRC; Parnell Labor commissioner Dianne Blumer; chairman of ASRC’s board Crawford Patkotak; Jeff Kinneeveauk from ASRC Energy Services; Bill and Liz Armstrong; Eddie Ahyaka from Fairbanks; Sen. Click and Darlene Bishop; Regina Daniels from Soldotna; CITC’s Gloria O’Neill; Kate Wolgemuth and Kip Knudson from the state’s DC office; Gov. Bill Walker and his wife Donna; Linda Leary; and Northwest Strategies’ Kristina Woolston.

Some in the crowd then headed over to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s and her husband Verne Martell’s open house, a few blocks away from the Capitol building.

If you weren’t stuffed by the close of the business day after multiple receptions, ASRC hosted a reception honoring Alaska’s Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski at 101 Constitution Avenue, NW on the 8th floor above the Palmer Steak House which is a beautiful venue that looks out upon the lighted capitol dome at night.

The last feeding of the day was a buffet dinner hosted by Sen. Dan Sullivan’s family at the lovely and historical Willard Hotel, across from the White House, which is where some claim the word “lobbyist” was coined. Besides a gaggle of Sullivans and Fates, the group included many of Sullivan’s early supporters and a hand full of legislators.

Rep. Don Young was also planning on hosting a reception but cancelled it due to the death of his older brother Russell.

While Gov. Walker was in D.C. attending the swearing-in of the 114th Congress and participating in the related celebratory social events, his COS Jim Whittaker was making phone calls to some of the Alaska Gas Development Corporation’s board members. Dick Rabinow, Al Bolea and Drue Pearce all got calls terminating their service on the board. It should come as no surprise because Walker said on the campaign trail that he wasn’t going to have any out-of-state folks on boards or commissions. That leaves John Burns and Dave Cruz as the only two remaining board members outside of the governor’s appointed commissioners: DOL Heidi Drygas and Commerce’s Fred Parady. In a Tuesday night release, Walker said that he terminated the three two days before an AGDC board meeting where members were expected to sign confidentiality agreements, and he’s instructed Drygas and Parady not to sign the agreements. Word is that DNR Deputy Commissioner Marty Rutherford is the only Walker administration member who has been allowed to sign any confidentiality agreement related to the AKLNG line.  And she can’t talk about it. So basically, nobody in Walker’s cabinet, including the governor, knows what’s in the contract to build one of the biggest largest construction projects in the world.

Some Alaska Republican women visiting D.C. found time to attend a reception at the National Federation of Republican Women’s Clubs while in D.C. According to Dawn Linton, the Alaskans attending the reception were the hit of the party and clearly traveled farther than anyone else there.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


16 thoughts on “Loose Lips: The swearing-in edition

  1. Hopeful

    I believe the legislators who traveled to DC are honorable people and will pay their own way. Governor Walker may have had the state pay his way as he had meetings with the Sec. of Interior and hoped to meet with others. I am sure the state did not pay for the First Lady’s trip. Again, these are good, honest Alaskans, and they understand the current financial straits.

  2. AH HA

    Well I’ll be damned…… Who would’ve thought? Build a LNG plant and a port near the production wells and build a few ice breaking LNG ships and you can enter the worldwide market at about half the price of our fabled pipeline to nowhere..

    Perhaps we don’t build a pipeline at all? Why not build a gas plant and a port on the North Slope, Say at Prudhoe and then use the newly accessible polar routs to deliver to world wide gas markets? After all, all of the ‘smart’ science tells use that the ice is rapidly receding and will be largely gone by the time that a port and plant are built and ready for production.

    The Russians seem to have figured this out…. TOTAL SA is nearing completion of a 27 Billion Dollar project, to date the largest Arctic LNG project and plans to use 16 Ice Breaking Tankers to move LNG product from a field of 22 producing wells and a LNG plant on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula….

    Designed to produce as much as 16.5 million metric tons of LNG a year on the peninsula at the Ob River estuary, which is ice-bound nine months of the year, Yamal is central to Total’s plans to boost output and Russia’s bid to export more of the fuel.

    According to TOTAL SA this is one of the largest industrial projects in the Arctic and more than 200 wells are planned.

    With the project more than half completed and production / shipping expected to start in 2017, the project has run into financing problems as president Obama has placed economic sanctions against Russia causing TOTAL SA to look for non dollar funding. According to TOTAL SA, they now expect to have a variety of funding sources in place shortly, including China and several EU sources and expect no more than a one year delay in project completion.

  3. Lynn Willis

    Good Afternoon Jon,
    (Very few visitors to this sight would use the descriptive term “a ton of expert witnesses” so I assume this is you. )
    In any event, the critical issue is not how fast can we get to a Final Investment Decision (FID). The critical issue is can we, as a sovereign, afford the risk to participate as an equity partner in any endeavor.
    SB 138 was not subjected so much to a hearing process as to a sales pitch from the Administration to receptive committee chairs and some members eager to have a gas line plan before the election. Consultants constantly pointed out that while this scheme might work, it was certainly not a “robust path” to success. I contend SB138 was not thoroughly vetted, particularly regarding the issues of the participation of Trans Canada, the question of why did the producers need us as a “partner” at all if this was economically viable (they didn’t need our money for TAPS), the funding for the intrastate utilization of the gas, the impact of the Jones Act on this endeavour, local taxing authority issues, what could (and did) happen as “alignment” changed, social impact, and participation opportunities for future gas producers to utilize the line. Most of these issues were pushed forward to be addressed later and now we are obligated to pay millions to address these issues when we might have spent more time on them and spent less to find out the answers.

  4. Anonymous

    Limited hearing referrals? Wrong. SB 138 had hundreds of hours of testimony. Nothing was rushed through – the bill was introduced early in session and went through at least four committees. There were a ton of expert witnesses, including critics like Roger Marks. To say that this bill didn’t get adequate scrutiny is a bit absurd.

    Anyway, nobody sanctions a project based on today’s LNG prices. Companies look at these projects on 30 year horizons. The issues that will determine the outcome of this project are: (i) whether Asian economies will continue to grow and have massive energy needs; (ii) whether coal will continue to be phased out; (iii) whether LNG will be a fuel of choice for Asia; and (iv) whether the AK project can be cost competitive.

    Assuming Walker wants an LNG project, the real question facing this administration is what the fastest way to a Final Investment Decision – how do we get credible cost estimates, how do we get a better handle on the permitting requirements, and how do we get through the FERC process? SB 138 sets out a robust path that is moving the project forward. And here is the best part: Exxon, BP, Conoco, and TransCanada are paying for most of the costs.

    So, if we blow up AK LNG, and the process laid out under SB 138, and then decide to continue with another LNG project, how do we do it a way that gets us a credible cost estimate and allows us to get through the permitting process in a more timely and cost effective manner than AK LNG?

  5. Lynn Willis

    I agree. The question now is how will our legislature deal with reality. In the most literal sense, we simply cannot afford another AGIA approach.
    If we stay in “Pre-Feed” or end our participation in the AKLNG project we can minimize or forestall the fiscal damage yet that tactic is not without consequences. According to the testimony of the Department of Natural Resources ending this process soon by the legislature not approving the necessary contracts will cost the State $88 million to $110 million ($35mil – $43mil of state funds plus $53mil -67mil Trans Canada funds) plus a 7.1% penalty of the value of the Trans Canada contribution.
    Our quandary is, in no small part, the consequence of betting a single solution would solve our problem, on rushing legislation through the process with minimal committee referrals, on limiting testimony to only those who you want to hear, and on a forced standing caucus allegiance (or as some would describe it – ” necessary caucus discipline”).
    Now will these same tactics be applied to our budget problems?

  6. Garand Fellow

    No sane, honest person can look at world energy markets today and believe that customers, lenders and investors can come together for an $80 billion Alaska LNG project. Every dollar spent in that direction is a dollar wasted.

  7. Orwell Was An Optimist

    “Doing what is best for Alaska (and those who paid dearly to get you elected)” is exactly what has gotten us to the point of being past bankruptcy and put the financial future of the country and our children in doubt. How about “Do what is best for the country?” Sullivan will be no better than Murkowski and sell us all down the drain in the name of lobbyists and special interests. It is a sad state of affairs when this is who Alaska sends to the Senate. My fear is that he will be senator for life, bummer for the country and the state.

  8. Anonymous

    Walker Supporter:

    You might be surprised just how closely “Forecaster” is associated with Gov. Walker. The writing style is extremely similar to that used under various aliases over time and in various forums. He has a direct association on Port Authority matters…and likely coming to a state corporation in the near term.

  9. Shannon

    Enjoyed reading about the DC buzz and activities. Especially enjoyed reading about many of the folks who crossed the country for the event. Hope the legislators were traveling on their own dime and not at state expense.
    Very disappointed in Kevin Meyer too. Unfortunately, he’s no Charlie Huggins and it shows.

  10. Walker Supporter

    I’m a strong and early supporter of Bill Walker’s.
    I know the Governor would be outaged by the insensitive and often ignorant remarks made by the person who uses the name “Forecaster” making comments. Please realize that even Bill Walker has some nut jobs supporting him and that this individual is not reflective of his views.

  11. Garand Fellow

    We worked on the Sullivan campaign and I am of course happy to see him sworn in. Sending an Obama disciple to DC from Alaska worked every bit as poorly as everyone I know expected. Sullivan will do a much better job for Alaska than Begich did. However, please tell me that legislators spent their own money – not state petroleum money! – to travel back there. If they spent state money then they just don’t get this fix we are in.

    The governor is missing an opportunity by not using his own money for this trip and then telling Alaskans he did so. Only actions of that sort will begin to convince Alaskans we must all work together to solve this. Right now we are all in the Cliff Groh and Scott Goldsmith mode of saying the only way to move forward is to tax that other guy. And of course the trouble with that is that the other guy can move right to Hell out of here.

    I always heard and read that the Willard is where the term hooker originated. Hooker and lobbyist are often synonyms I suppose, or at least they travel together from time to time when the hooker has low standards.

  12. Lynn Willis

    Regarding the removal of the AGDC board members and confidentiality agreement ban; first, there is no contract to build the AKLNG pipeline, only a memorandum of agreement toward that end. That said, the firing of these AGDC board members coupled with the prohibition of participation in confidentiality agreements by the remaining board members and members of the Administration is another (and perhaps the fatal) blow to the “alignment” that is so critical to the AKLNG gas line project.
    Couple the impact of these changes with the last election results (which removed key players) , the collapse of oil prices (which will limit capital availability from all the parties for construction) and now the prospect of success is practically nil.
    Governor Walker apparently has an alternate plan for a gas line project. So, until that plan is revealed, how will the legislature react to this change in reality? How can they possibly attain the objective of the enabling legislation for the AKLNG project now when only half of the participants have agreed to these confidentiality agreements? Will the Legislature act responsibly or simply “kick the can down the road” as they did with the AGIA pipe line project? That approach ultimately cost us 540 million dollars and we wound up with nothing but perhaps a few file cabinets of mostly irrelevant data and another expensive relationship with Trans Canada.

  13. Law

    Way to go, Senator Sullivan! I and many other Alaskans are so proud of you, Julie and the girls. Now get to work!

  14. forecast

    The media would do Alaskans a favor by itemizing the expenses Alaskans will have to pay to fly legislators to DC for this party. All for a Senator that will represent Maryland/Ohio… A sleazy guy who fraudulently lied about his residence for financial gain…

    Mead Treadwell would have been a much better Senator.

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