Red County - May 5th, 2011
Conflict of Interest - Union Friendly Chugach Electric Candidates
By Alex Gimarc (Scribe) - Links:  Original URL (now dark)  Web Archive

Last week’s article on the Chugach Reliability Group demonstrated the union money flowing into elections for the Chugach Board of Directors. This article will discuss some of their candidates. Before we do, I would like to consider a few important questions:

What does the IBEW want?
What do the rest of the unions want?
What does CIRI want?

The IBEW wants favorable treatment when their contracts come up for renewal. Negotiations will be underway by this time next year. A Board majority that has been elected via IBEW money will view those contracts much differently than a majority without IBEW support. The last time this happened was in 2007, and we saw outrageous increases in pay and benefits. That did not happen in 2010 due to a consumer-friendly majority. Sadly, that majority no longer exists.

The rest of the unions are interested in a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Southcentral Power Plant, the new generation facility being constructed near Minnesota and International Airport roads. A PLA is an agreement between the unions and the owners that they will only use unionized firms for plant construction. In practice, this would increase the construction cost significantly, removing options from the owner. As the Southcentral Power Plant is the single largest construction project in this part of the state in years, a PLA between Chugach Electric and the local unions is very high on the union wish list. Should that happen, we Chugach members will pay through the nose. A union-friendly Board majority will allow (force?) this to happen.

Finally, CIRI wants favorable treatment for the Fire Island wind farm. To date, that project has not been economic for any of the Railbelt utilities, which is why CIRI has been negotiating in local media. Board members who have taken campaign money from CIRI will logically be more supportive of this project regardless of its cost to Chugach Ratepayers.

Of the four candidates up this time around, we have two democrat candidates who ran and lost in the last election cycle – Janet Reiser, who lost to Cathy Giessel for State Senate District P and former legislator Harry Crawford, who lost to Don Young for US Congress. We can take a look at their APOC reports for their last state election and see who has supported them.

For her election campaign in 2009-2010, Janet Reiser took money from current Chugach Board members PJ Hill and Susan Reeves. She took campaign donations from Chugach Board Chairman and Chugach Reliability Group Registered Agent Jim Nordlund. She also took campaign donations from Reliability Group current and former members including Frank Gwartney, Mark Wiggin, Peg Tileston and Jeff Lipscomb. This is the same Reliability Group that is funding her reelection campaign for the Chugach Board. Reiser also took donations from CIRI’s Senior Director of Energy Development (Fire Island Wind Farm) Susanne Gibson. Her union donations include but are not limited to Vince Beltrami, Alaska AFL/CIO, IBEW, Laborers, and the Operating Engineers. You can find the actual dollar amounts and the rest of her campaign donations via a search at the APOC web site.

Reiser has been a reliable vote for Reliability Group Registered Agent Jim Nordlund for the three years on the Board. She also took a year off to run for State Senate as a democrat. I would suggest that she has a significant conflict of interest by virtue of the checks she took from organized labor, the IBEW, the Reliability Group and CIRI; one that she will neither acknowledge nor recuse herself in future votes on the Chugach Board if reelected. If this is the sort of back-scratching, palm greasing action you want on the Board, you have your candidate.

Former democrat legislator Harry Crawford’s last state election campaign was in 2008. In it, he took union money from the IBEW, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Carpenters, Teamsters and Ironworkers. He will be a reliable pro-labor vote on the Chugach Board, just as he was in the Alaska Legislature. No conflict of interest here.

The other two Reliability Group Candidates can be dismissed simply because the Reliability Group is funding their campaign, and they can be expected to support the pro-labor, anti-consumer agenda of the Reliability Group as led by Jim Nordlund.

I plan on voting for Steve Pratt and Uwe Kalenka. I have known both for years and know that they will keep the best interests of Chugach ratepayers in mind as they act. I suggest the reader consider supporting these fine gentlemen also.

We have seen most recently in Wisconsin how public employee unions have been turned into funding mechanisms for democrat campaigns. It is an incestuous duty cycle: democrat politicians support union contracts and benefits that they can’t pay for; union members “donate” to a variety of campaigns and PACs for the sole purpose of electing more democrats who in turn vote for ever more exorbitant contracts.

In a non-right to work state like Alaska, we see the same thing at all levels of government and all levels of campaigns, even down to local utility Board elections. It is a shame that the unions and democrats have managed to turn you Chugach Board of Directors and your electric utility into simply another slush fund for electing more democrats to public office. The only way to stop this is to refuse to vote for anyone connected with the Chugach Reliability Group.