Every Alaskan is now playing in the highest stakes game of our lifetime, as the Professional Poker Tour (P.P.T.) hits the last frontier. Sitting around the green felt covered table playing this slow-paced game of Alaska Hold-em are the last three remaining teams.
The most prosperous team is made up of the Big-Three Multi-national oil producers supported by their highly paid lobbyists, public relations experts, “grassroots citizen” front organizations, and the Voice of the Veco Times, all funded by billions of dollars worth of Alaska’s oil. Also in this group are Governor Frank Murkowski, Senator Ted Stevens, and a dwindling number of State Legislators including Senator Ben Stevens and Representative Mike Chenault. Team Oil has a massive pile of chips in front of them and is holding a pair of deuces.
The second team is made up of Representatives Gara, Berkowitz, Gardner, Kerttula, Gruenberg, Guttenberg, Croft, Crawford, and a growing number of other legislators that support HB-3004. Team Legislature has a small pile of chips in front of them and they are holding a pair of fives and a joker.
The third team is made up of every Alaskan alive today and future generations yet to be born. This team is lead by a growing number of notable citizens such as ex-Governor Walter Hickle, businessmen Larry Carr and Barney Gottstein, the ex-Commissioner of Natural Resources Tom Irwin and others. Team Alaska only has a couple of chips left but they are holding an ace high royal flush.
In the bizarre rules of Alaska Hold-em, the team with the least amount of chips must surrender their cards to one of the remaining teams and plan to live with that decision for a very long time. In this hand, Team Alaska must choose between Team Oil and Team Legislature.
With HB-3004 Team Legislature is proposing fair taxes in exchange for Alaska’s oil plus reasonable incentives for future oil exploration and development. While Team Oil is offering an even worse tax structure than the last one they had put in place (called ELF, which gave them billions of dollars worth of tax relief at Alaska’s expense).
Team Oil is spending millions to tell anyone who will listen, to “trust us” one more time. Obviously there is no mention in their professional marketing campaign that Team Oil has been short-changing Alaskans for years with their ELF legislation and has yet to settle a 17 year old multi-billion dollar lawsuit with commercial fisherman affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
It has been suggest that Team Oil is looking out for their stockholders, and another huge tax break will give them even greater profits in the future. It’s hard to believe that anyone would not call Team Oil’s bluff, but their strategy in Alaska Hold-em has been working for years. They know more than anyone that money can buy a lot of votes when needed to support their corporate bottom lines.
On the table are Billions of dollars, representing Alaska's future. Which of the two remaining teams is really looking out for the best interest of Alaska? Team Alaska has the best cards, but must make a difficult choice. This game of Alaska Hold-em is where a good poker face and a great marketing bluff can and often does win the biggest pot.
This game of Alaska Hold-em will greatly affect our future. I hope we have the wisdom and backbone to make sure that the right choice is made. Contact your team of choice and tell them what you think! Your silence today could mean a bleak future for Alaskans.