Politics ain’t beanbag, and raised nails get hammered. Sen. Lisa Murkowski may be in the process of making the biggest political mistake in Alaskan history. She’s defying Trump, Interior Secretary Zinke, and the administration, and there’s a very good chance that defiance will result in the abandonment of the effort to open up the Arctic Oil Reserve (AOR).
It’s the most promising oil prospect in North America, and the AOR could give the economy of Alaska a new lease on life. It desperately needs it. Alaska’s economy is stalled, property values in decline, and a government living off its savings. The outlook in Alaska is bleak. Drilling in the AOR could turn everything around.
All the stars seemed to be aligned. A President and an Interior Secretary who are hell bent on drilling for oil. Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, and a clear way to around the filibuster. Next year the Interior Department review of the oil potential in the AOR will come out, and I predict it will be an eye popper.
It was all set up, perfectly, and then Murkowski blows the whole thing up. She’s the Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, and would have been able to take a lot of the credit for opening the AOR. For once, all Alaskans would have rallied to her side.
But she’s throwing it all away. For what?
If you’re a truly principled politician, and take on the powers that be, you will be punished. I served in the Alaska legislature between 1983 and 1991 — most of the bonanza, big spending years. There was so much money coming in from the oil industry they actually had trouble spending it fast enough.
I never procured one dime of that money for the people of my district. I passed one bill in eight years. I took on the Governor, the Senate Majority, and then the House Majority, and I wasn’t shy. My reward was to be completely shut out of spending all that money.
I was lucky that my colleague from South Anchorage, Jan Faiks, brought in enough money for both of us. We had the same district, and so when all this money came into the district people were happy with both of us.
Murkowski doesn’t have the kind of protection that I had. Alaska is a small, politically insignificant state. Trump will pay no price for dropping the AOR from his agenda.
But the people Lisa Murkowski represents will pay a very steep price indeed.