State has no business taking BP's money

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2000

There's an old adage that says facts are irrelevant - perception is reality. And that's what we see with the state administration defending its decision to allow BP Amoco to pay for the state's legal bills on behalf of the company.

While there may be nothing legally wrong with the action, and while administration officials say it's been done in the past, this just doesn't pass the smell test.

BP already has reimbursed the state $1.5 million, and the state can seek more refunds in its decision to help the company in its fight against the Federal Trade Commission to allow it to take over Atlantic Richfield Co.

We see several problems with this ``arrangement.'' There is little common consensus among Alaskans and the Legislature over this merger. In fact, earlier this week the bipartisan Special Joint Committee on Mergers recommended the Legislature oppose the merger. There are an awful lot of people who don't like the fact the administration is pushing this through so hard.

Regardless of one's view of this merger, do we really want to appear to be bending over backward to help the corporation, especially since the state is so divided on the issue?

A couple of legislators put it best. Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, raised questions about being ``in lockstep'' with a big corporation and questioned the state's ability to remain independent.

Sen. Sean Parnell, an Anchorage Republican, was quoted as saying, ``it's the appearance of impropriety that smells.'' And we'd have to agree.

The state has no business taking money from BP to help the company fight its own battle. This is especially true when the state is supposed to be overseeing BP's actions and is involved in oil production and sale negotiations.

It may be legal. It may be common practice. That doesn't mean it's in the best interest of Alaska.

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