GOP Leader Threatens Sexual Assault Council
Speaker of the House Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) is throwing rape victims under the train to get the governor’s out-of-state buddy on an Alaska gasline board. You’ve got to hand it to him; the lengths to which he will go to demonstrate his lack of common decency are not half-assed. In a state where 37 percent of women report having experienced sexual violence, and where rape statistics are three times the national average, Mike Chenault proves that for those like himself, there are more important things. Like getting the governor’s Texas buddy on the gasline board.
The premise of Chenault’s latest legislative effort is controversial in itself – he wants to specifically change the law to allow Outsiders from the Lower 48 to serve on Alaskan boards. Of particular interest to Chenault is the board governing Alaska’s proposed natural gas pipeline. It falls right in line with former Conoco lobbyist and current Gov. Sean Parnell’s illegal appointment of Dennis Mandell, who currently lives in Salinas, California, to the Trans Alaska Pipeline Services Assessment Board. That board is made up of folks that decide exactly how much the pipeline is worth, and how much the oil companies will pay in taxes. After public outcry, Mr. Mandell withdrew his own name from consideration.
But the governor, and the Speaker of the House are not easily dissuaded from welcoming invasive species into the halls of power.
So, if you’re Mike Chenault, and you want to get such a bill past the sentries at the gates of the State Senate, what might you do? You might stuff it inside something else that everyone else likes – like putting a distasteful pill inside a meatball, or a bomb inside a stroller, or the ever-popular “they never saw it coming” shit taco.
In this particular case, Speaker Chenault decided to put an addition, allowing out-of-state residents to fill Alaska board positions onto another bill – like a parasite on a healthy host. The host bill in question passed the Senate unanimously back in February, before it was Chenaulted. As a matter of fact, every single Senator signed on as either a sponsor, or a co-sponsor. Eight members of the State House also signed on as co-sponsors.
Senate Bill 124 (SB124) is universally popular, simply because it changes the date that the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault would sunset, from this coming June 30, 2014 – to June 30, 2022. Clearly, Alaska has a problem, and these are the people in the trenches trying to fix it. A yes vote on the bill extends the Council’s life another eight years. But, if the bill doesn’t pass, the Council will go poof – in less than three months. And now that bill just got a whole lot more complicated, thanks to Mike Chenault.
“This is like tossing a bomb on a moving train,” Peggy Brown, executive director of the separate Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said of Chenault’s strategy.
“I’m appalled and a lot of us are,” said Brown, whose nonprofit network represents shelters, crisis hotlines and other programs that provide services funded through the council. “And here’s the reason. When a board goes into sunset they have to absolutely start winding down and stop what they are doing.”
You can imagine Chenault, if you will, with a twirly mustache, tying SB124 to the tracks. “Now you listen to me. You allow Tex on the gasline board, or the sexual assault victim gets it!”
The Texan for which Parnell and Chenault are leveraging the wellbeing of Alaska sexual assault victims is a man named Richard Rabinow. Rabinow is a pipeline consultant who worked for ExxonMobil for more than three decades (including March of 1989 if you do the math), and was the president of its pipeline company. He was appointed to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board by Gov. Sean Parnell back in September. All the other appointments to the board had their Alaskan towns of residence listed next to their names, but Rabinow had nothing. Perhaps its because he lives in Houston. No, not Houston, Alaska; Houston, Texas.
Rabinow, who requires legislative confirmation, said he would step down unless the state law was changed to specifically allow Outsiders on Alaska boards. Right now, it’s required that to hold these positions of influence, you actually need to be a registered voter in Alaska. Rabinow, apparently, would prefer not to break the law, nor move to Alaska, so our Speaker of the House is just going to change the law for him. Isn’t that nice?
As you might imagine, there are plenty of miffed people, including the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault itself, which now has no idea whether they need to get started shutting down the operations of rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and programs implemented to prevent abuse; lay off their staff of eight; and forego their $17 million budget which goes to facilitate these programs.
Republican State Sen. Kevin Meyer is the prime sponsor of the bill, and he’s not happy with his fellow Republican’s shenanigans either. Meyer opposes the addition, and says Chenault “hijacked” the bill because he knew it was popular. Meyer believes Chenault’s proposal should have to stand on its own, independent of Meyer’s bill.
Senate Democrats, and the State Democratic Party have also criticized the hijacking. And of course Chenault has not only doubled down, singing the praises of Rainbow, but blaming all of the kerfuffle on Democrats. He ignores the barbs coming from his own team, and blames Dems calling the outrage, “Chicago-style partisan bickering.”
“What’s really appalling, to me, is that the Alaska Democratic Party would try and disrupt this critical Board’s ability to provide Alaskans with the best and brightest when we have to negotiate against three of the most complex, savvy and well-run energy companies in the entire world,” Chenault said in a written statement.
Holding victims of sexual assault hostage, and bullying the bipartisan Senate is fine. What’s “really appalling” is anyone who dares question what a hand-picked gubernatorial Texan from Exxon might be doing on an Alaskan board. How daaaare they?
And what about this governor’s supposed commitment to the “Choose Respect” campaign? I guess that’s fine and all unless it interferes with oil and gas. Then – sorry ladies! You’re on your own.
Chenault will attempt to insert the addition Thursday in the House Rules Committee hearing scheduled for 5:00pm.