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Cruise industry cranks up state lobbying efforts

Lobbyists help craft changes to cruise ship initiative, winning widespread support

Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2010

With cruise ship and tourism issues rising in importance before the Alaska Legislature in 2009, the tourism industry jumped into contention with the oil and gas industry as the largest lobbying effort in Juneau.

The industry boosted lobbying spending by 35 percent in 2009. Carnival Corp., the world's leading cruise ship company, replaced ConocoPhillips Co. as the company with the biggest lobbying effort at the Capitol last year, according to lobbying reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

After a 2006 cruise ship ballot initiative added new regulations and taxes on the cruise ship industry, Carnival and its subsidiaries and other tourist industry businesses stepped up their involvement in the legislative process.

Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, said industry lobbyists helped craft a compromise bill to make improvements to the initiative, with Juneau-based Kent Dawson taking the lead.

"Kent brought the legislation to me initially looking for somebody to carry it," Harris said. "Nobody else seemed to want to, so I did."

The Alaska Cruise Association hired a number of well-known legislative lobbyists, including Sam Kito, Wendy Chamberlain and Jerry Mackie, and even ex-Gov. Sarah Palin's former chief of staff, Mike Tibbles, to help craft a compromise bill and win support for it among legislators and others following the issue.

Supporters successfully passed a bill that addressed some of the cruise industry's concerns about the initiative's onerous discharge rules, and also won support from the initiative's sponsors to fix some acknowledged flaws in the original proposal.

Despite Harris' name on the bill, the heavy lifting was done by lobbyists, he said.

"It was mostly Kent Dawson, he's the one who did the work," Harris said, after House Bill 134 passed nearly unanimously.

Dawson was one of several lobbyists hired by the Alaska Cruise Association for as much as $40,000 for session work for the industry. Dawson had previously worked for Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises, the state's largest cruise company, and continued to represent it.

Cruise industry spending on lobbyists climbed above $433,000 during 2009, up from $315,000 in 2008, APOC records show. The lobbying records for 2009 exclude the last three weeks of the year, and may slightly understate the increase.

Other lobbying efforts don't show up in the APOC records.

The Alaska Travel Industry Association has a contract lobbyist, Linda Anderson, representing it in Juneau, said Ron Peck, the group's executive director, who also lobbies himself.

The group's formal effort has remained unchanged, but the group's own members have been active in contacting their individual representatives on issues of concern, he said.

"Besides having a professional lobbyist who does good work for us, we're active in asking our members to move forward with our agenda and issues that are important to them," Peck said.

Citizens who aren't paid specifically for lobbying and spend less than 10 hours per month with face-to-face contact with legislators are not required to register as lobbyists, said Patti Ware of the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

While the cruise and tourism industry presence in the Capitol has been growing, oil and gas industry lobbying activity has fallen sharply following the big battles in 2007 and 2008 over construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline and changing oil tax rates.

Lobbying spending by the oil and gas industry for 2009 dropped to $614,000, down from $1.8 million in 2008.

The biggest decline has been from ConocoPhillips, which downgraded its contract lobbying effort and instead used company employees. That meant it was no longer required to register, Ware said.

Companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and TransCanada Corp. continued to hire lobbyists and register their employees, but spent significantly smaller amounts in 2009 than they did in 2004, APOC records show.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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