Guest column from Daniel Hamm, President, Alaska Republican Assemly

Publisher’s Note:  In a 2010 editorial the Wall St. Journal had this to say looking back at the 2006 loss by Republicans of the U.S. House of Representatives:  “It isn’t easy to spend so much money so egregiously that even Nancy Pelosi could campaign as a relative fiscal conservative, but the Tom DeLay Republicans managed the feat in 2006.”  Daniel Hamm writes below about seeing the same in this year’s Alaska legislative races.

Campaign Role Reversal

by Daniel Hamm

President, Alaska Republican Assembly

Daniel HammI see a huge irony with the role reversals in this political campaign for state office. Many Democrats and Independents have snatched the fiscal conservatism flag away from their Republican challengers and are racing up the November election hill to plant it in front of the ballot box. Will Republicans continue to show themselves innocent of nearly all cognitive financial ability and restraint?

This year’s staggering $1.6 Billion worth of red ink has stained virtually every legislator’s hands- and not a single red cent was vetoed. This legislature continued to grow Juneau’s massive state bureaucracy and welfare entitlement programs despite all campaign promises to do just the opposite. I feel it’s the job of grassroots Republican voters to remind them that we are paying attention to their cross dressing with their ideological opposites on the left.

After speaking to a number of legislators, I am convinced that they have forgotten one off the cornerstones our party is built on. Unrestrained government growth is the number one threat to our personal freedoms. Unrestrained bureaucracy growth- like what we have in Juneau- destroys freedom, privacy, and personal initiative by smothering private enterprise and making Alaskans dependent on the welfare state and government jobs. Per capita, Alaska has more state government load than any other state which is crushing our economy under a mountain of red tape and keeping our poorest perpetually caught in the welfare net.

As a corollary to the first point, unrestrained government growth is also the number one threat to our financial solvency as a state. With our declining oil revenues coupled with our annual state bureaucracy growth of 6-9% per year, Alaska is going to run out of savings relatively quickly and have to either establish a broad based tax or raid the PFD or both. Also, a broke, multi-billion dollar state bureaucracy is very politically unstable in its tax and regulatory policies making new companies very wary of investing. A state fiscal reckoning is on the near horizon- perhaps as early as 2018 or sooner as oil prices continue to plummet with widespread hydraulic fracking in use in freer oil producing states that don’t have to penetrate Alaska’s gigantic bureaucracies such- as our 1200 person, $160 million DNR.

Less state government is the key to our state’s economic salvation not more of it. One legislator related to me the thought process in Juneau where you had to vote a certain way to avoid losing your seat to a Democrat in your district. It’s that sloppy thinking that has covered all their hands in red ink.

This will be campaign season of cross dressing candidates. Nearly every R up for reelection voted to grow the size and scope of Juneau but will try distance themselves from that fact by replacing their big-government lace with more traditional conservative campaign clothes. Many D’s now have sported the fiscal conservative look on the campaign trail and are making R’s very nervous on the constituent dance floor.

I’m not happy with this role reversal. Nor should voters be.The unstated goal of the GOP for some time now is to continually move to the ever drifting political center to keep in power. The problem is that over time you lose your political soul and identity in the process. It’s time to revive the spirit in the Republican Party which is really the spirit of America based on the dream of growth and enlightenment through individual freedom as opposed to the supremacy of the state. The GOP platform is a great one and the Alaska Republican Assembly mission is to hold that torch high both on and off the campaign trail.

Damn market economics …

Please god ...While it has happened occasionally since prices recovered from their 2008 crash lows, Monday was the first time in awhile that ANS oil prices have fallen below $100/barrel. The occasion seemed an appropriate time to check in on where price forecasts are headed generally in the current market environment.

One place that I go often when I want a reality check on oil prices is the futures market. While it — like any other long range price forecast — has its flaws, the one advantage the futures market has over other sources is that it reflects price levels at which at least some buyers and sellers actually have committed to sell and buy oil at given points in the future. While it may not reflect all hedge transactions, at least in my experience it comes close enough to provide a valuable insight into what those with money in the game think about the future direction of prices.

And the current view is sobering, to say the least. Below is a plot of the settle price for transactions on the indicated dates as of the close of the market yesterday. To be clear, there is no publicly posted futures price for ANS, so the following reflects prices for the two oils — Brent and WTI (West Texas Intermediate) — which are traded publicly in such a manner. Generally speaking, for a long time ANS has traded somewhere between the two, but a number of commentators increasingly are predicting that ANS will start settling closer and closer over time to WTI as Canadian and and other Northern Tier (North Dakota, Montana) supplies, which largely follow WTI price levels, increasingly find access to West Coast US markets. The futures prices for Brent are reported here; those for WTI are here. Continue reading

The revised candidate questionnaire …

QuestionnaireYesterday morning I received a call from Amanda Coyne asking for a response to concerns she was hearing from incumbent legislators that one of the questions on the questionnaire I had forward to all candidates last week put them in a difficult position.  The reason for and a link to the initial questionnaire is here.

As initially written, the question (Question 9) on the questionnaire asked candidates to respond to the following:  

Will you publicly commit prior to the election not to join any legislative caucus that conditions your membership upon your support of and vote for whatever budget is sent to the floor by the Finance Committee?  YES/NO If no, please explain how you intend otherwise to fulfill your commitment to your constituents to vote only for fiscally responsible budgets.

The concern she was hearing from incumbents was that responding yes to the question could put them in violation of one of the provisions of the legislative ethics act which bars legislators from pledging to take positions if tied to a contribution.  Non-incumbents are not similarly restricted and as a result, incumbents felt that the question put them in an unfair position, where their challengers could make the commitment while the incumbents were restricted from doing so.  Amanda explains the concern further hereContinue reading

Keithley lays out Independent Expenditure effort …

Fiscal CliffMy appreciation to the Alaska Dispatch News (here) and Juneau Empire (here) for running the following op-ed piece. Each used different titles.  The title above is the one I used when I wrote and submitted it.  For background, the release announcing my Independent Expenditure effort is here; the candidate questionnaire I sent out this week is here.


Earlier this month I announced that I intend to spend up to $200,000 this coming fall in certain key legislative races.  The reason I am doing that is simple.

Two years ago the University of Alaska – Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), the state’s best economic think tank, said this about Alaska’s direction:  “Right now, the state is on a path it can’t sustain. … Reasonable assumptions … suggest we do not have enough cash in reserves to avoid a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash.”

ISER warned that if current trends continued, Alaskans would be faced in the near future with “broad based [income or sales] taxes” and the diversion of a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund to help fund state government just to maintain a minimal level of services. Continue reading

The Keithley Survey – Accountability in the State Legislature

APE-Government-Spending-610x406A column from Alaska Politics & Elections …

Earlier this month I announced that I intend to spend up to $200,000 of my own money in an independent expenditure effort this fall directed at 3 – 5 legislative races. A copy of the initial press statement outlining the effort is here.

The purpose of the effort is to help restore fiscal responsibility to state government. Last year, before the start of the 2013 legislative session, the University of Alaska-Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) said about state finances, “[r]ight now, the state is on a path it can’t sustain. … Reasonable assumptions .. suggest we do not have enough cash in reserves to avoid a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash.” Continue reading

Proposition 1| My closing argument …

A friend this morning asked for closing arguments from a few of his on Proposition 1.  This was mine:

My closing argument is simple. It’s our future. We need investment to turn our oil into cash, under ACES Alaska has lagged behind at a time when investment in oil development globally has rocketed and, along with excessive spending has put Alaska in a place where the University of Alaska – Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research has warned (using ACES revenue projections) that “[r]ight now, the state is on a path it can’t sustain. … Reasonable assumptions … suggest we do not have enough cash in reserves to avoid a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash.”

SB 21 was built to attract increased investment in a way which, if it reduces the decline curve by as little as 1%, will produce greater long term revenue for Alaskans than under a continuation of ACES. Based on my 35+ years having been and working with oil and gas investors I firmly believe it will achieve that objective and will give Alaska a stronger future than where we were headed under ACES.

I am voting NO to give Alaska that future.

Things I feel strongly about …

Keithley Press Release (8.6.2014)Sometimes when you believe in what you say you need to back it up.  This is one of those times for me.

The following is the text of a press release that was distributed earlier today.  A copy of the release is available here or by clicking on the picture to the left.

Alaska budget hawk announces effort to hold State Legislative candidates accountable

Anchorage, AK, August 6, 2014– Today, Brad Keithley, an Anchorage based oil, gas and fiscal policy consultant, announced plans to spend up to $200,000 of his own money to target 3-5 legislative races this fall.

Mr. Keithley is a well-known expert on Alaska state budget and other fiscal issues and has regularly appeared as a guest on local talk shows, in local policy debates, and was an appointee last year to the state House of Representative’s Sustainable Education Task Force.   He has spoken repeatedly about what the non-partisan Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) terms the coming “fiscal crisis” Alaska faces as a result of continued overspending.

“In January 2013 ISER said ‘the state is on a path it can’t sustain. … Reasonable assumptions … suggest we do not have enough cash in reserves to avoid a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash,’” said Keithley.   “Instead of heeding these warnings, the legislature has gone backwards in the last two years by running up the two largest budget deficits in Alaska’s history and draining over a third of the state’s cash reserves.”

“The state’s legislators acted responsibly when it came to oil taxes and I’m confident voters will reward their work by voting no on Prop 1,” Keithley said.  “When it comes to spending, however, our leaders have lost their way.  Many go to Juneau claiming to be ‘fiscal conservatives,’ but stop paying attention to fiscal reality when they get there.  Sadly, they are spending the state directly into the ‘fiscal crisis’ that ISER has predicted, and they know it.”

“I was raised in a culture that taught one generation is responsible for passing on a bright future to the next.  I’m unwilling to see tomorrow’s kids go without a decent education, tomorrow’s Alaskans bear massive broad based taxes, and tomorrow’s Permanent Fund depleted, just because elected leaders today won’t do in Juneau what they claim they’ll do when on the campaign trail.”

“I’ve been successful in my life and it’s time to pay some of that success forward.  The best way I can do that is to hold legislators accountable for what they are doing to Alaska’s future generations,” Keithley said.  “I’ve accepted it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.”

Mr. Keithley said, “In the end, every voter has to ask themselves whether voting for a candidate just because they use the right sound bite every second or fourth year is good enough.  I will encourage voters to demand more.  As a people, it’s time we hold our legislators accountable. “

# # # #

I will be talking about my decision on various radio shows during the day, and I anticipate it will make the news along the way as well.   I will try to collect links to those as the day goes on so that readers will have the benefit of  those further discussions.

As always is the case, we will see how this goes.

Feel free to copy …

I have been playing with a new logo for this page and elsewhere and am beginning really to like this one.  Feel free to copy … or comment if you have other ideas.

Its Our Future (1)

Guest Column: J.R. Myers, The Alaska Constitution Party Candidate for Governor

Publisher’s Note:  From time to time as we approach the coming election I intend to offer various candidates who are focusing on the issues relevant to this blog — Alaska oil, gas and fiscal policy — the opportunity to post guest columns on these pages.

The first of those is below, from J.R. Myers, The Alaska Constitution Party candidate for Governor.  Surprisingly given the importance of each to Alaska’s future, Myers is one of only two candidates for Governor that is currently supporting both the retention of SB 21 and the adoption of sustainable budgets (the other is Libertarian Party candidate Carolyn “Care” Clift).

While some might question the efficiency of focusing on third party candidates, I am continually reminded this election cycle of the role played by Ross Perot during his 1992 Presidential run against then-President George H.W. Bush (R) and then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (D).  As analyzed over a decade later in a piece on the PBS Newshour:

The most successful of the third parties in any one election was the Reform Party, which in 1992 nominated Texas billionaire Ross Perot as its candidate for president. Perot ran on a platform that advocated reducing the federal budget deficit, an issue previously ignored in elections but one that would become a major part of almost every presidential campaign since. …

“[H]e was the first candidate really in a big way to float the idea that the deficit was a bad thing,” said historian Michael Beschloss. “By the time Bill Clinton was elected that fall, if he had not done something about the deficit he would have been in big trouble and that was largely Ross Perot’s doing.”

The parallels to the current campaign for Alaska Governor are intriguing.  As with the two national parties in the run up to the 1992 election, Alaska’s two major political parties largely are either in denial (the R’s) or ignoring (the D’s) Alaska’s current fiscal situation. It will be interesting to see if third party challengers this fall, as well as other efforts, can put the issue in the public’s mind in a way such that the ultimate winner, even if not one of the challengers, will be in “big trouble” if something is not done about it when they take office.

Myers is going first in this series because, while not being challenged on the August ballot, he and his running mate for Lt. Governor, Maria Rensel, are in the midst of a petition drive to gather enough signatures to qualify to appear as a party on the November ballot.  (By virtue of its performance in past elections the Libertarian Party candidate is guaranteed to appear on the November ballot.)  Running this piece now will enable voters to evaluate whether they want to sign the petition.  As I reminded myself when I signed their petition last week outside my local Carr’s, doing so does not commit the voter to voting for the party in November; it merely is a way of supporting the effort to ensure that the candidate — and their issues — have a voice in the coming campaign.  (If you haven’t run into a petition gatherer yourself, you can nonetheless participate by going here.)


A Statement on Alaska’s Future

by J.R. Myers

Alaska Constitution Party Candidate for Governor

J.R. MyersAlaska needs new leadership as soon as possible. We are in a crisis of our own making. Our current leaders are rapidly leading us to economic ruin with deficit spending to the tune of $7,000,000 million dollars every single day! We cannot afford them and their failed economic policies anymore. Our progress since statehood could all be undone in short order if we don’t make a real economic course correction now. We must not allow this to happen! Alaskans have a real opportunity to replace our failed leaders and their disastrous policies this November 4.

My family ties precede Alaska statehood. My grandparents homesteaded near North Pole. My father ran a dog sled miles into town to get supplies during the long dark interior winters. Their refrigerator was a hand dug hole in the permafrost. Life was challenging and rewarding. They believed in hard work, taking care of the family and neighbors helping neighbors. They and their generation have left us a precious legacy. Continue reading

Why I am contributing to DeLena Johnson …

DeLena Johnson for State SenateSometimes I think I am in a unique position. I don’t have a state job or contract and don’t want one. I have never asked the Alaska state government to fund a pet project or cause because I believe those are private (not state) responsibilities, and so, contribute my own funds and if it is bigger than me, invest my time to raise the remaining funds privately from others.

I don’t really care if I am “banned” from a given set of offices or hearing rooms in Juneau, or even from the Capitol itself, because I don’t go there often and can live without ever going there again. And I don’t work — anymore — for clients that don’t want to “make waves,” or as happened a few years ago when I started this blog, clients who, when they make their annual visit to Juneau to meet with legislative leadership have to contend with leadership putting me on the list of “troublesome” things that leadership wants to talk about (now that was an interesting discussion at the time).

Instead, all I want out of Juneau and the legislators and other government officials that go there is smart government, a real (i.e., not fake) sense of long-term fiscal responsibility and an eye for what their actions today are doing to Alaskans of future generations.  

Continue reading