FRENCH COMES OUT OF PURGATORY
Former Senator Hollis French has had a couple of years to cool his heels, take trips in his Vanagon, hike the mountains, and throw his name in the hat for a judgeship.
After throwing out his political ambitions for the sake of his fellow Democrats, the reliable leftist standard-bearer disappeared from the public scene. He did not show up for the inaugural ball for Gov. Bill Walker. No, French needed time away.
French, who was forced to drop out of his 2014 race for lieutenant governor by the Alaska Democratic Party when the party decided to back the Republican-turned-independent Walker, was named by Walker today to the three-member Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees oil and gas development and production in Alaska, specifically on state land.
Today was French’s pay-day. He fills a vacancy that had been open so long it had begun to raise questions. David Mayberry occupied that seat, reserved for a citizen. Others who have recently held the seat in recent years include:
- Tuckerman Babcock 1993 – 1996
- Mary Marshburn 1997 – 1997
- Camille Oechsli Taylor 1997 – 2003
- Sarah Palin 2003 – 2004
- John K. Norman 2004 – 2014
- David J. Mayberry 2014 – 2015
- Mike Gallagher 2015 – 2015 – unconfirmed Walker choice, a union choice.
From Anchorage, French is an attorney and a former state senator, who also worked on Cook Inlet oil rigs and on the North Slope in his younger years.
Reactions from industry leaders were mixed. They ranged from “you could do worse,” to “there goes our state’s bond rating.”
AN ALLY OF ALL-THINGS ANTI-BUSINESS
French had shown interest in the seat several months ago and asked friends to write letters of recommendation for him. He was recommended by Malcolm Roberts, a Walker ally and old aide to Gov. Wally Hickel. Also sending letters were nonagenarian Vic Fischer and his wife Jane Angvik, avid Walker supporters.
Fischer, readers will recall, called for the impeachment of former Gov. Sean Parnell after Senate Bill 21 passed the Legislature. That bill passed to the chagrin of French, and was signed into law by Parnell.
Fischer was a leader in the drive to restore ACES, the former oil and gas tax structure. Not surprisingly, French was also big supporter of ACES when he was in the Legislature.
In fact, when French was in the Senate, he was a leader in the notorious Senate Bipartisan Working Group, along with Sen. Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage. That’s the group that was most responsible for running up the state spending.
Although he starts on Monday, his appointment to AOGCC is subject to legislative confirmation. As for money, French will earn about $140,000 a year, plus the state benefit package.
In his new role on the commission, French will play a part in the Walker’s $65 billion gasline project. Along with Andy Mack, the new Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, and other “team players,” French becomes part of the growing Walker team of Democrats, which he may hope will innoculate him during the next election.
Another position on AOGCC may open up in September. It is currently filled by geologist Dan Seamont, but prognosticators are betting he is heading for retirement.
At that point, two Walkerites will have the ability to roll the board chair, Cathy Foerster, who has been on the commission for over 10 years.