Outside media eyes AK scandals

PBS show airs tonight on big oil's influence on state politics

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2007

Alaska's Legislature is again making national news, courtesy of the bribery scandal that's been ongoing for more than a year.

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Tonight the PBS show "NOW" will air a story about the influence of the oil industry on Alaska politics.

Last week, the Washington Post visited Alaska for a story on a similar topic, and reporter Karl Vick discussed it during an online chat on the Washingtonpost.com Web site.

"NOW" is advertising its program with the tagline "How far will big oil companies go to get the politics they want?"

So far the investigations have only revealed corrupt practices by oil field services VECO Corp.'s executives, not by the state's big oil producers. VECO no longer exists as an independent company.

The program's producers didn't respond to an Empire request for more information about what reporter Maria Hinojosa found in Juneau, but some of her sources talked about what they were asked.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, was among those interviewed.

The freshman senator said Hinojosa asked if the Petroleum Profits Tax, passed with much controversy last year and since revealed to have been influenced by bribery, was what motivated him to run for office.

Wielechowski said it was.

"I didn't think we got our fair share last year. I didn't think we were doing right by Alaska," he said. "That was a compelling reason."


Washington Post Chat:



NOW Web site for oil program:


On the air: KTOO-TVs Alaska One, Channel 10 in Juneau, 9 p.m. today.

Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula said she was interviewed briefly by Hinojosa and questioned about how she felt as a woman about Gov. Sarah Palin.

"She asked me the 'girl' questions," Kerttula said.

Kerttula, a Democrat, said she said nice things about the Republican governor, whom she has sided with on ethics and petroleum issues.

The Washington Post Los Angeles bureau chief, who covers the western United States for the paper, looked at what he called "Busting Alaska's 'Corrupt Bastards Club,'" and mentioned Juneau several times.

Vick's story looked at many of the highlights of the corruption scandal that has so far led to the convictions of three former lawmakers, guilty pleas by three former lobbyists, and continuing FBI investigations of others.

Some of the items in Vick's story weren't directly related to the scandal. One involved the Juneau Police Department getting called after a domestic disturbance between one of the convicted legislators, former Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.

Online, Vick apologized to Juneau for a mistake in his original story about the location of the Petroleum Club, a fixture in Anchorage power circles.

Vick said he regretted "putting the Petroleum Club in Juneau where the locals don't seem to want it at all."

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

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