Group hires Liddy of Watergate fame to promote Alaska petroleum drilling

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The lobbying group that uses state of Alaska money to push for petroleum drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has hired Watergate conspirator and talk radio host G. Gordon Liddy to broadcast live from Alaska.

Arctic Power spokesman Adrian Herrera said Liddy was hired to broadcast from Alaska for five days in mid-July. His listeners are mostly blue collar and middle-aged, Herrera said.

"That sort of demographic is very good," Herrera said. "Those are voters. Those are people who will call their congressman and say, 'Hey look, I heard on Gordon Liddy the real truth about Alaska. And I think this is important and I think you should support Alaskan issues."'

State Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said bringing Liddy up sounds like a "sick joke."

"I think it's terrible," Elton said. "If Alaska wants to put the best face on things, it's probably best to not hire felons."

Liddy helped plan the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. A government cover-up of the scheme led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Liddy served 4½ years in prison.

Former state Rep. Mike Navarre, co-chairman of Arctic Power, said most people who listen to Liddy probably do not know the details of Watergate. Bringing Liddy to Alaska is a cost-effective way to get the state's message out, he said.

Arctic Power is looking for corporate sponsors to offset its costs, which might be approximately $50,000, Herrera said.

The organization plans to fly Liddy up a few days before live broadcasts in Anchorage and on the North Slope. He may visit Prudhoe Bay and possibly Barrow and Kaktovik, a village within the refuge, Herrera said. Liddy also might visit the Red Dog Mine, the largest lead and zinc mine in the world, in northwest Alaska.

The effort is about promoting Alaska energy and not just ANWR drilling, Herrera said.

Herrera said a 30-second ad on national radio or television would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a chance for Alaskans to be on the show and take live questions.

"We'll be getting three hours a day; you can't ask for more than that," he said.

Arctic Power, a private, nonprofit organization, has been the state's lobbyist to open the refuge to drilling since 1992.

The Alaska Legislature approved $250,000 this month for Arctic Power to spend in the fiscal year starting July 1. The budget faces review by Gov. Sarah Palin.

Herrera twice has been a guest on Liddy's show. The two came up with the idea for Liddy to broadcast from Alaska. Herrera said some might object to Liddy "but you can't pick and choose" volunteers.

"How many radio stations or television stations for that matter are going to donate this sort of access? I don't think any. None," he said.

Kristen Miller, legislative director for the Alaska Wilderness League, said the measures pushing drilling in ANWR sound pointless. Arctic Refuge drilling is dead on arrival in Congress, she said.

Herrera said potential remains for a push to open ANWR before a new president takes office. All three presidential front-runners oppose drilling in the refuge.

There's also a need to battle efforts to make the ANWR coastal plain into a designated wilderness area with a permanent ban on oil drilling, he said.

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