This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
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It's a sad time in Alaska's history with the revelation of government corruption.
Two oil company executives pleaded guilty this week to bribing Alaska lawmakers with cash, the promise of jobs, contracts and favors in exchange for supporting legislation beneficial to the firm.
The pleas come just a few days after the arrest of one current and two former legislators on bribery and extortion charges. The charges stem from negotiations for a new oil and gas tax and a proposed natural gas pipeline. All of the legislators pleaded not guilty.
The legislators will be considered innocent unless they change their plea or a court finds them guilty. But the executives bribed lawmakers, whether it's any of this trio or others who haven't been arrested or charged yet.
All of this is alleged to have occurred a year ago when the Legislature debated oil and gas bills. Lawmakers never consummated a gas line bill then, but anyone who still harbored longings as recently as last week to look again at the contract proposal associated with them might as well forget about it. That contract is tainted just by association with bribery.
Alaskans voted for a fresh start in November when they elected Gov. Sarah Palin. She has her own proposal. The Alaska Gasline Inducement Act lays the foundation to proceed toward a new gas line contract proposal.
It doesn't place Alaska as far along as the previous administration's proposal, but it isn't tainted.
Lawmakers should evaluate it on its own merits. If it is the right plan to lead to a gas line, then adopt it. If it isn't, then Alaska can wait for a third proposal.
As difficult as that might be, it is better to move ahead with a proposal that not only will get a gas pipeline built, but one that hasn't been tainted by a suspect process or lineup of lawmakers whose honesty is under scrutiny.
As lifelong Alaskans, we've watched this state grow from a territory. We've taken pride in the independent and hard-working spirit here that believes in doing it right. We know that the end doesn't justify the means. We want an honestly and fairly crafted gas line proposal - one that will make Alaska proud and garner not only the oil industry's, but the world's, respect.
It is at that point that the disappointment of this past week's court events will be replaced by the thrill of a job well done.
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