Palin Goes 'Grizzly' on Big Oil-Industry Tax Breaks

Image: Palin Goes 'Grizzly' on Big Oil-Industry Tax Breaks (Matt Storshane/Stringer/Getty images)

Friday, 15 Aug 2014 12:41 PM

By David A. Patten

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Even on the rare occasions when they agree with her, it seems Democrats cannot refrain from taking shots at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The source of the latest friction between the left and the grass roots' favorite "Momma Grizzly" is a ballot measure that would end tax breaks the state of Alaska awards to big oil companies.

Palin, who as governor staunchly opposed energy deals seen as favoring big oil companies at the expense of Alaskan taxpayers, opposes the tax breaks. She supports Ballot Measure 1 on Tuesday's Alaska primary ballot, a veto referendum that would repeal an industry-friendly arrangement enacted last year.

The issue dates back to Palin's time as governor, when she reformed sweetheart energy deals and presented legislation, Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share or ACES, limiting the influence of Big Oil in the state legislature. That legislation passed by a large bipartisan margin.

But according to Palin, oil-industry lobbyists and their friends in Juneau were soon able to regain their influence following her departure from the statehouse.

The result, she said in a recent Facebook post, was "a one-way giveaway to the oil industry without any guarantees to develop, or concessions to protect the people's long-term interests.

"We've been down this road before," wrote the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, "and it didn't work."

Defenders of SB21, the generous tax structure Alaskan legislators passed last year, say it is needed to encourage Big Oil to spur oil production, which has been declining in Alaska since 1988.

Palin, however, supports the ballot measure, which would effectively restore the status quo ante under her administration.

Democrats like the tough tax deal then Gov. Palin imposed on oil companies. But that hasn't kept them from complaining that Palin hasn't joined them in a high-profile campaign to achieve their aims.

"It's really up to her to tell the public what she has in mind and what she will do," Vic Fischer, chairman of the Yes on One group campaigning to take away the energy-industry tax benefits told The Associated Press.

One longtime Palin opponent involved in the Yes on One crusade, state Sen. Bill Wielechowski, tells the AP he'd be happy to bury the hatchet if only Palin would take a more active role.

"There's no grudges," he said. "Alaska is a small state and you disagree with someone on one issue and you could be in total alignment with them on another."

That activists are eager to recruit Palin to speak on their behalf reflects her enduring influence both in Alaska and nationally. Since leaving public office, she has appeared frequently on Fox News and elsewhere. Her PAC has successfully backed many conservative candidates — especially women — who might otherwise have been overlooked by the political establishment. And Palin has penned several best-sellers, including "Going Rogue, An American Life" and "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag."

The Yes group has only raised about $500,000 for their campaign. Oil companies have amassed over $14 million in a bid to defeat the referendum on the primary ballot. Yet polls show Alaska voters appear evenly divided on the measure.

Wrote Palin: "We won't be suckered again by multimillion-dollar PR campaigns and crony capitalists wanting us to fall for scaremongering that the biggest industry players will just pack their bags and abandon our giant oil fields if they don't get absolutely everything they demand from Alaskans. As any Alaskan sourdough knows, this is Big Oil's M.O."

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