Group forms to fight all-Alaska pipeline

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2005

A nonprofit group formed this month with the help of Republicans and an oil producer to counterattack efforts of those aiming to build an all-Alaska natural gas pipeline.

Alaska's Future's president, George Culpepper Jr., said the group is nonpartisan. It formed to speak for all Alaskans and promote a gas line built by the state and three oil producers to deliver gas to the Midwest, he said.

An e-mail obtained by the Juneau Empire shows Republican political consultant Art Hackney, also serving as an adviser to the group, saying Alaska's Future could be a "vehicle for groups to endorse a deal."

So far, Alaska's Future received a contribution from BP, one of the producers negotiating with the state for the gas line contract. Culpepper said the others, Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil, have not contributed.

House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, a gubernatorial candidate, said the involved Republicans and oil producers could be using the nonprofit to launder money for a specific goal.

"We're not a front for the oil companies," Culpepper said. The group has 55 members so far, consisting of Democrats and Republicans, and some contributions coming from small businesses in Alaska.

The nonprofit status means the group does not have to publicly identify its contributors. Culpepper did not say how much money BP contributed.

They are "microtargeting" Alaskans aged 18 to 40 for membership by hosting university meetings and embarking on door-to-door campaigns.

In his e-mail, Hackney wrote that he supports the group because it has no ties to politicians or oil companies.

"The problem is that all the existing groups are tied directly to the producers or to the governor, whose (poll) numbers make him a bad direct advocate," Hackney wrote.

Some outsiders are suspicious because Alaska's Future's leadership leans heavily on Republican veterans.

Culpepper was chairman of Republican Party groups at Metro State College of Colorado and El Paso County, Colo. Brandon Maitlen, on the board of directors, worked as an aide to Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramras and he campaigned for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

"Are any Democrats in the group guiding the process?" asked Ryan Colgan, executive administrator for the Alaska Port Gasline Authority, the group proposing to build the trans-Alaska route.

Part of Alaska's Future's mission is to counterattack a television commercial put out by the All-Alaska Alliance depicting Canadian pipeline workers drinking beer and celebrating their new jobs. It argues that a route through Canada will take jobs from Alaskans.

Culpepper said Alaska newspapers printed letters from Yukon residents expressing their disgust with the commercial and he called it "embarrassing."

Lori Backes, executive director of the All Alaska Alliance, said the point was not to insult Alaska's neighbors.

"I don't think it was negative to say jobs are at stake in Alaska," she said.

Hackney said the e-mail, sent to James Dodson, interim president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., was not intended for public viewing. He suspects a disgruntled FEDC employee hacked into Dodson's computer, and that criminal charges will be filed against the suspect.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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