Briefs: Playground concert, oil tax credit, WikiLeaks

Capitol Band played sets to raise funds to replace the torched Twin Lakes playground. (Screen shot from James Brooks photo)

CONCERT INCLUDED BAGPIPES ON ACDC COVER

About 200 people showed up at Centennial Hall on a rare sunny Juneau evening on May 15 as the Capitol Band played set after set to raise money to rebuild the Twin Lakes Playground. The iconic playground had been burned to the ground last month by a couple of teenagers.

The band, featuring Senate President Pete Kelly, Rep. Dave Talerico, Rep. Dan Saddler, lobbyists Paul Fuhs and John Bitney, also featured a string of strong local vocalists recruited for the occasion. Even Doug Gardner, head of Legislative Legal, piped in on his bagpipes on one cover of an ACDC tune, It’s a Long Way to the Top, (from the album “High Voltage.”)

Organized by Sen. Kelly, the event came close to meeting its $100,000 goal for the playground rebuild; that is the amount of the insurance deductible.

Ironic perhaps for Juneau, it was the oil industry and the cruise line industry that brought the biggest checks of the night, with BP chipping in $25,000 and the Alaska Cruise Association (CLIA)  bringing another $25K to the party.

Alaska Airlines donated $10,000 plus four tickets for the auction, and Exxon and ConocoPhillips also were major donors, with ConocoPhillips pledging $5,000.

That is a remarkable outpouring of business support for a community fundraising event, coming just hours after the Alaska Senate voted to increase effective tax rates on Alaska’s oil producers.

“We want to thank Juneau for being such great partners with the industry and are pleased to contribute to the reconstruction of the playground,” said John Binkley, CLIA president. “Juneau is a great destination and we hope with this donation, Juneau will be able to rebuild a fun, family-orientated destination for itself.”

Sen. Kelly spoke about how much the Legislature appreciates Juneau and that although lawmakers are lingering longer than they would like, they wanted to put the time to good use for the community that embraces them each year.

Sources say turnout was especially good since it was also opening night for a Juneau first, the Amalga Distillery.

OIL TAX CREDIT ‘EXPERIMENT’ OVER

The Alaska Senate passed its version of House Bill 111, which ends what’s known as oil tax “cashable credits.” It closes out the era that allows companies to use deductible credits to push their taxes under what is a 4 percent minimum.

The difference between the Senate and House versions of the bill mean the final version has yet to be hammered out, and then it must be signed by the governor, who wants higher taxes on barrels of oil.

The Senate vote, 14-5, went along caucus lines, with Democrats voting against HB 111 because it is a smaller tax increase than what was passed by their colleagues in the Democrat-led House.

The Democrats’ version was widely understood as a rewrite of Senate Bill 21, which passed in 2013. Although the bill was challenged by a Democrat-led voter initiative in 2014, it survived the vote and remained in place.

Democrats say the tax is not high enough on barrels of oil that are in the $50-80 range, which is likely to be the case for years to come.

Oil representatives expressed disappointment: “Today, the Alaska Senate passed the seventh change to Alaska’s oil tax structure in 12 years. It eliminates cash payments to companies and adds $1.2 billion to the State of Alaska’s treasury over the next 10 years,” said Alaska Oil and Gas Association CEO Kara Moriarty, in a written statement.

“As the Department of Revenue Sources Book indicates, the State already takes more revenue than industry at every oil price−at high and low oil prices. Alaska’s oil and gas industry has played a large part in contributing to the state’s fiscal solution for more than 40 years,” she said. “With this bill, the industry will contribute even more to the state’s fiscal solution.”

RNC RAISING CASH

Donald Trump was unpopular with the media before the election. And he mystified pollsters right up to Election Day. But one measure of popularity — fundraising — shows he may have more support than reporters or pollsters comprehend.

In the first quarter of 2017, the Republican National Committee and Trump’s re-election campaign raised more than $53 million.

The RNC  alone raised $41.3 million in the first quarter, more than double what the Democratic National Committee raised in 2008 during the first quarter after Barack Obama was elected president.

Trump continues to have appeal to small donors, many who give online. Those contributing $200 or less to his campaign made up 65 percent of his donations in 2016.

THEORY: DNC STAFFER KILLED OVER WIKILEAKS?

A staff member of Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot in the back last July 10 in Washington, D.C. had been leaking tens of thousands of DNC internal communications to WikiLeaks, Fox News is reporting this morning.

Seth Rich

Seth Rich sent reporter and WikiLeaks director Gavin MacFayden over 44,000 internal DNC emails before he was shot at close range in the early hours of the morning as he returned to his home from a bar.

U.S. intelligence agencies have leaked information that the DNC emails were hacked as part of a Russian effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Those emails involved former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and others in the party as they steered the Democratic nomination away from Bernie Sanders and toward Hillary Clinton. The leaks led to Schultz’s resignation during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Alaska Democrats show up  in WikiLeaks documents as DNC staffers coordinated with the Alaska Democratic Party to squelch protests against Clinton’s nomination. Alaska Democrats voted for Sanders by an 81 percent margin during their caucus process.

Fox News isn’t exactly saying Rich was assassinated, but those who have watched the entire House of Cards series on Netflix are intrigued by this alternative narrative to the Russian hacking story. (Season 5 of House of Cards will be released May 30.)

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