05 OCT 1976
Eben Hopson’s Address
to the Members of the
Western Alaska Building and Construction Trades Council
We all know what is happening in our State, and few of us like it. It is not that we don’t appreciate the work that oil and gas development has brought to us, and what it has meant for us and our families. I am not anti-development. I worked hard to demilitarize NPR-4 so that we could keep Arctic oil and gas development underway, and avoid the boom and bust cycle so often seen in oil states. It is just that I hate to see the oil corporations foul things up as badly as they seem to be doing. You understand, I am not expert, I just see what I see, and hear what I hear, and from the information that I receive, I wouldn’t like to work on the pipeline. I know how frustrating and even downright degrading it is to have to work on a poorly-managed job. I feel that many here agree with me that nothing can justify the waste of good men and good materials that has caused the pipeline construction project to become a national scandal.
I feel that our State is being taken over by the politics of oil. As a result, Alaskans are being frightened into getting along by going along with oil politics. I feel that the oil corporations are treating Alaska just as if it were just another corrupt Banana republic. Oil politics are harsh. We have seen the oil corporations have their wrists slapped for bribing Richard Nixon, and now in Alaska we have seen the oil corporations suck three Federally-chartered banks into making apparently illegal contributions to an oil-front organization know as “Common Sense”, an organization that hired a well-known political campaign consultant to mount a slick television media campaign to prevent the Alaska Legislature from imposing fair taxes upon the oil corporations in Alaska.
This isn’t the first time that the oil corporations have used political manipulation to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in Alaska. The oil corporations have been trying to destroy our North Slope borough’s taxing authority at Prudhoe Bay from the first day we organized our Borough government, but they failed in the courts. So they tried in the Legislature, and they did succeed in damaging our local government’s revenue authority over oil property at Prudhoe Bay and along the pipeline. This happened in the special oil session of the legislature in 1973. In fact, I am in the process of preparing a statement in which I will demonstrate that the political takeover of Alaska began surfacing in 1973, and has become blatantly open by now.
Like all of you, I waited in vain for some well-financed Democratic political leader to take on Don Young. Don is a good man, but he appears to be too weak to withstand the pressures of the oil industry, and he has become a well-lubricated part of the politics of oil in Alaska. I got a first-hard look at his political weakness when I had to send my own team to lobbyists to Washington D.C. to demilitarize Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4.
But nobody had the guts to take on Don Young. He had everybody convinced that he couldn’t be beaten. The word was put out that Young had put together a large amount of campaign cash, and that the oil industry would discourage the support of any Democratic opponent.
Well, I have always wanted to be a U.S. Congressman. So, after I waited until the very last minute, I filed. I felt that somebody had to carry the colors of the Democratic Party against Don Young, and I feel that our party should have a candidate this year to bear witness to what is happening to our State through the politics of oil. So, as you can see, my candidacy was not the result of some long-laid plans.
I suppose, in retrospect, it was my own fault that I lost the endorsement of the AFL-CIO last month. The politics of oil means that Democratic candidates don’t get very much money, and I didn’t have enough for a real campaign. COPE funds are low. In looking back, I can understand Carlson’s decision to try to keep from having COPE funds contributed to my campaign.
I wish now that I had insured that I had a representative to present my case at the AFL-CIO meeting. I have a good labor record. I deserved the endorsement on my good record, I felt. When I wasn’t endorsed, I felt hurt and embarrassed.
Money has become a bigger problem than I thought it would, and the lack of it is restricting my ability to campaign as hard as I feel I should campaign against a man with a labor voting record like Don Young’s. I’d surely appreciate any help you can give me with this problem.
I would like to leave you with this thought: I have said that I feel that the pipeline is becoming the Watergate of the North. My fear is that the government will join with management to put the blame on whatever goes wrong with the pipeline on labor — the working men and women who are building the line. I have detected this tendency in the press. We don’t read about the inept and short-sighted decisions of Alyeska’s managers that have caused the delays and cost-explosion on the pipeline. Rather, we read about labor problems, and newspapers win prizes for writing exposes of the unions. Alyeska is spending millions of dollars each year to blame labor for the problems of the pipeline. I feel that Labor should counter-attack. I feel that Labor in Alaska had better worry about the slander it is suffering at the hands of the oil corporations’ public relations people. As a working man who has been worked over good by the oil corporations, I like to regard my campaign as part of this counter-attack.
Thank you for asking me over to talk to you today about my candidacy. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.