State needs better argument to bed with BP

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Not that anyone should be against the state's saving money, but there is something wrong with BP's paying for the state's hired contract lawyers to defend a deal that benefits BP much more than the state, with the state's name, not BP's, on the legal papers BP is paying for.

What is wrong are the labels an objective outside observer might put on the State's role. Here are some of the labels.

``Shill.''

``Stooge.''

``Stalking horse.''

``Flunky.''

``Flack.''

``Front man.''

The oil companies' tax dollars pay for what, 85 percent of state government. That is a close enough relationship. Why should one particular oil company's deal dollars specially pay, dollar-for-dollar, for the state's deal-defending, high-priced legal help? Why should BP's legal arguments appear in two separate sets of legal papers, BP's and the state's? Why should the state expose itself to the charge that BP's dollars have bought Tony Knowles and Bruce Botelho?

As a patriotic Alaska lawyer I have a suggestion. Here, utterly for free, is a three-paragraph legal argument the state could file in federal court, no BP payoff, or continuing BP ``reimbursement,'' involved:

``The State is not particularly happy that one of the two largest North Slope producers wants to buy the other one. All other things being equal, this will lead to less competition, less exploration, and fewer tax dollars for the state. However, we did not think the legal arguments against this were very strong, and we worked very hard to negotiate the best deal we could. We think the deal is better for Alaska than the alternative.

``To help us negotiate and defend the deal, we hired lawyers who knew a lot about antitrust law. We have now donated those lawyers to BP. At no continuing cost to the State, they will help BP explain why this deal is in the public interest.

``Let us know how things come out, OK?''

Bruce Botelho, Attorney General

Wouldn't this be slightly cheaper - it takes an army of state workers to deposit and turn around those BP checks - and a whole lot less hypocritical?

Mark Regan



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