Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Apparently Lying To The Alaska Legislature Is OK

[UPDATE April 12, 2014:  Follow up post here.]

I got a copy of a letter* that Sen. French sent to Sen. Giessel about this afternoon's Resource Committee hearing.  He asked her to swear in the witnesses from Repsol, BP, and ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, who, he expects:
". . . will be generally trying to establish that SB 21 is 'working' and that negative consequences would result if SB 21 were repealed by the voters in August. "
He goes on:
"There is no issue of greater importance to the economic future of the state than this one. Alaska has struggled since statehood to set a fair oil tax. Our obligation as elected representatives should be to elicit the most reliable and trustworthy information that exists on the topic and to make it available to our constituents. 
AS 24.25.060 gives you, as chair of the Resources Committee, the authority to administer an oath to witnesses appearing before your committee. While this power  is not normally invoked in the Legislature,  it is of course a matter of everyday routine  in the court system.  By this letter I am requesting that you use your authority under our laws to swear  in  the witnesses who appear before the committee at tomorrow’s hearing.

I believe that as citizens and as legislators we have an obligation to seek the truth and to promote it."

I didn't realize that witnesses before legislative committees weren't expected to tell the truth.  I called Sen. French's office and spoke with an aide, Alex, who said that if a witness does not testify under oath, they cannot be prosecuted for perjury.  And thus, if they aren't truthful, it has no legal consequences to the witness.

It seems Sen. Giessel's options are to say:
  • "Sure, why not?  They have nothing to hide."
  • "We don't swear in most people and swearing them in would be an insult to their integrity."
In Sen. French's press release, he notes:
"The investigation surrounding the grounding of Royal Dutch/Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, had a role in French’s decision to make the request.    Through a series of problems the Kulluk went aground.  Questions arose about whether Shell took the risky move of a mid-winter tow to avoid paying millions in state property taxes.  A Shell executive told the press that tax considerations had nothing to do with the move.  The same executive later admitted under oath that Alaska tax laws influenced the move."
I covered the Kulluk press releases last year and remember them denying that the tax issue played a role.

In a fair world, Sen. Giessel would  have no choice but to agree to swear them in.  Is there a choice between risking insulting a witness by asking him to take responsibility for telling the truth or making sure the people of Alaska are guaranteed that if the witness lies, he could be prosecuted for perjury? 

In my mind, not swearing them in would be an insult to the people of Alaska. 

You can watch the meeting which starts now (1pm Alaska Time) here.
[UPDATE:  This is the House Resource committee.
The Senate committee starts at 3:30pm. You should be able to get it here.] *No special scoop, it was in a press release emailed to me and zillions of others.


  1. This sort of reminds me of the Senate heaing, back in November of 2005
    when oil company executives appeared before a Senate hearing on energy prices and profits. The Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, Ted Stevens, refused to place them under oath. Senator Stevens said:“There is nothing in the standing rules to require that witnesses be sworn. These witnesses accepted the invitation to appear before the committee voluntarily. I shall not administer an oath today.” I had always felt that was a little curious, to say the least.

    1. Interesting. I'm assuming this was Juneau and you mean Ben Stevens. It would be interesting to see what they said and compare it to what came out later. But I'm guessing they weren't given hard questions.

  2. Wait, Ted was Senate Commerce Committee chair in the 109th Congress, why would you assume it was Ben and not Ted.

    It was in fact, Ted, and the particular hearings were a very clear example of corporate executives lying to the government, (and a clear instance of those execs lying to the people), and suffering no consequences whatsoever.

    And predictably, it was dear old Ted who stood with the oil execs after Cantwell requested the execs be sworn to an oath.

    Oh, and those execs were lobbed softball questions from their obsequious Republican bootlickers, only the Democrats asked hardball questions that were answered with lies. Lies later confirmed and in some cases admitted by the same execs.

    Here's a link if you want to start looking into Ted's brown nosing.

  3. In regards the Alaska Senate Resources committee hearing, Geissel played the oil exec brownnoser and refused French's request.

    Refused it in just the manner one might expect out of Geissel too.

    Hat's off to French for trying to get to the truth of the matter. Geissel and the Republicans, true to form, protected the ability of the oil execs to spout their lies without being held to any accountability.

  4. Sorry, I went on to bed after posting my comment, so thanks, Joe Blow, for following up on this. I really don't remember if this hearing actually got much "air time" on TV. Since Bush was President at the time, probably not. I give credit to Sen Cantwell, for her response to Sen Stevens "If the American people are to find this inquiry credible, it is essential that the oil executives testify under oath. Anything less would undermine the integrity of this Congress and these committees." Unfortunately, these words fell on deaf ears. It amazes me that these Oil execs, got a pass, but the baseball players testifying at the steroids hearings were sworn in.

  5. Well, I called both Senator's offices this a.m. Told Giessel's aide that No, Corporate representative are NOT AK citizens and this one would like to be sure that what they are telling us is the truth. Told Sen. French's aide for French to keep up the good work. Think about it, if it weren't for public representatives like French, how much more would have Alaskans be ripped off by this group of oil company sycophants?


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