Les Gara’s Differing Standards

In an Anchorage Daily News’ Compass piece today, Les Gara charges that some have “engaged in the politics of deception and personal attack” on him and Sen. Hollis French.  He says “[p]eople are entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to make up their own facts.”

Funny, “deception, personal attack and making up his own facts” was exactly the approach Les himself was taking just the other day in responding to a piece that I wrote for these pages, which later was reprinted by the Alaska Dispatch (“North Slope employment study:  Useful, but not determinative“).

There, in the comments section after the article Les claimed that “Mr. [K]eithley is an attorney and British [P]etroleum has been one of his clients.  He has a legal duty to advocate their interests.  And in the few years since he’s moved up here he’s been an active donor to candidates favorable to BP’s position.  It seems the  [D]ispatch should reveal at least his client if not his active donation history.(Points of deception, personal attack and “making up his own facts” hi-lited  in italics.)

First, as a lawyer himself — well, at least he has a law degree — Les knows that he engages in deception when he argues that “Keithley .. has a legal duty to advocate [BP’s] interests.”  As I patiently explained to Les (but which he already knew), an attorney has a “legal duty” to advocate a client’s interest only if the attorney is representing the client on the matter at hand. Attorneys do not otherwise give up their First Amendment rights to speak publicly on matters.

To be clear, I do not represent BP — or any other of my many clients, which include the University of Alaska — on legislative oil tax policy issues. Instead, I have retained my right to speak publicly on that issue as I believe appropriate. My comments are my own, based on my 35+ years experience dealing with oil legal and policy issues.

Second, Les knows that he is “making up his own facts” about my contribution record.  As I explain in my response in the Dispatch — and as Les knew from evidently checking my past contributions — “by far the bulk of my campaign contributions in 2010 ($5000)  went to the Alaska Democratic Party Governor’s fund in support of Ethan Berkowitz’s campaign for Governor.”

In addition to that contribution, I also contributed $500 to Ethan’s primary campaign, another $500 to the combined ticket in the general election and even cut a video for Ethan. Maybe he was not Les’ favored candidate, but Ethan was hardly a candidate favored by BP.

In his Compass piece, Les then continues to argue for his own approach to oil taxes.  He did the same in his comments on my piece.  As I explain there, however, his “proposed system of tax ‘credits,’ vastly overtaxes one set of oil assets — the so-called ‘legacy’ fields like Prudhoe, Kuparuk and Milne — in order to provide ‘credits’ (in other words, give money to) ‘new and marginal’ fields. … The problem with that? A large part of the oil remaining on state lands — and the oil that can be developed and brought into production the soonest — is the viscous and heavy oil sitting at various depths in the legacy fields, the very fields that Les’ proposed system continues to overtax.”

“So, Les’ proposed solution does exactly the reverse of what is needed. It significantly depresses investment by overtaxing the very locations where we know oil is, in order to give money … to drill in places where we either don’t know if oil exists (“exploration” areas) or where production is so “marginal” it can’t be produced without a subsidy.”  (For more on the merits of that issue, see Alaska Oil| Misreading the Signals“).

Certainly, Les and I disagree on the best policy for Alaska on oil.  But apparently sensing that he is losing the debate on the merits, Les then also engages in “deception, personal attacks and making up his own facts.”

Les closes his Compass piece by saying, “[l]et’s debate. But please don’t mislead Alaskans to get your way.”  Take your own advice, Les.

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