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BP pays Senate candidate's firm more than $1M

Posted: October 5, 2012 - 12:03am

ANCHORAGE — A state Senate candidate has released a list of his civil engineering firm’s clients that show oil giant BP as the biggest client.

Bob Bell says that will not influence how he votes if he’s elected.

Bell, founder and chief executive of F. Robert Bell and Associates, is challenging incumbent Sen. Hollis French for the Anchorage Senate seat. He said he had proved his character in municipal government when he refused campaign money and potential contracts in exchange for his support of a private prison project.

“What it gets down to <0x2014> do you have the strength of character to be able to represent people and not be biased by what goes on around you?” Bell said. “I proved that when I was on the Assembly. A good example would be that prison that Veco wanted to put in South Anchorage.”

VECO Corp. was once a major oil field contractor in Alaska and its chairman, Bill Allen, was later convicted of bribing state lawmakers. The company in the mid-1990s proposed constructing and operating a private prison.

“They approached me and said we got a whole bunch of money here for your re-election campaign and we’ll give you the engineering contracts and everything,” said Bell. “And I said, ‘Ain’t going to happen. Nobody in South Anchorage wants that prison there and I represent them and it ain’t going happen.’ “

Bell this year is in a race that features oil politics.

French is a leader in the Senate bipartisan coalition that rejected Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan to lower oil company taxes. Parnell and other supporters contend the tax cut is needed as an incentive for producers to drill more wells in older fields and increase production.

Majority senators said the measure would have cut $2 billion a year in state revenue without holding the industry to additional production or investment requirements.

Parnell has targeted coalition members for defeat in November.

Bell told the Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/ReoWh6) he will not support a tax cut unless it leads to increased oil production. The House bill backed by Parnell, he said, “is a good place to start” but he would not have backed it as written.

Bell at first would not list clients for the firm he founded nearly 40 years ago. The engineering firm was sold to an employee trust in 2007. Bell said he thought that absolved him of having to list clients.

The director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission disagreed. After a citizen complaint, the APOC investigated and Director Paul Dauphinais concluded that Alaska law required Bell to disclose the clients

The list released Wednesday showed BP was the largest client. Bell was not required to reveal an exact amount that the firm received for work performed, only that it was for more than $1 million.

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