Obama considers former Palin aide for pipeline job

Persily now works for one of ex-governor's legislative rivals

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A former aide to Gov. Sarah Palin is being considered for a position in the Obama administration, likely as the federal pipeline coordinator position vacated Monday by former Alaska legislator Drue Pearce.

Larry Persily, a former managing editor of the Juneau Empire and currently a top aide to Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, confirmed Monday he's being vetted for a federal position.

Persily had worked for Palin as an associate director of the governor's Washington, D.C., office, as well as other prominent journalistic and governmental positions in the state. He remains president of the board of Juneau's Wildflower Court.

Gov. Sean Parnell said the state has not been consulted on the Persily appointment.

"We haven't been asked to provide input by the federal government, but we would like to see someone of the same caliber and expertise as Drue Pearce," he said in a quote provided by Press Secretary Sharon Leighow.

While Persily was a former Palin aide, he left the D.C. job prior to Palin's run for the vice-presidency and has worked for some of her legislative critics.

"Facts to her are like Silly Putty," Persily told writer Joe McGinniss, who authored an attack on Palin and her plans for the Alaska natural gas pipeline for Portfolio magazine earlier this year.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said there were concerns among pipeline advocates in the Legislature that Persily may not be a strong advocate for the state's pipeline efforts.

Alaska is trying to get a pipeline built under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, a hallmark of Palin's tumultuous 2 ½ year-tenure as Alaska's governor. Another pipeline effort backed by ConocoPhillips Co. and BP PLC is also developing a pipeline of its own.

Persily previously worked for a legislative committee chaired by former Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, the only legislator to vote against AGIA when it was first adopted. He is now on the staff of Hawker, who opposed the awarding of a state license under AGIA to TransCanada Corp.

Having worked in those positions would not prevent him from doing a fair job as the pipeline coordinator, he said.

"I worked for a lot of people I never voted for," Persily said.

The job of the pipeline coordinator is to assist in developing Alaska's huge North Slope natural gas reserves, and making them available to United States markets, but gives no preference for either the official state effort or the competing oil company plan.

Kerttula said she was confident Persily would do a good job as the federal pipeline coordinator.

"He and I in the past have had disagreements on some oil industry issues, just as I do with other friends," she said. "If Larry gets that position I think he'll take a good hard look at what it takes to get a gasline for Alaska."

Kerttula also praised Persily's work on Hawker's staff which led to the state receiving tens of millions in extra federal energy stimulus money, some over a Palin veto.

Some of Persily's other jobs included editor of the Anchorage Daily News' editorial pages, and city editor and managing editor of the Empire from 1990 to 1995. He served in several positions in the Department of Revenue, including as a deputy commissioner, under Govs. Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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