Why does Sen. Akaka support Oil drilling in ANWR? Part I

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) consistently rates as one of the most "progressive" senators (see, for example, the National Journal's vote ratings ). But how to explain his vote for drilling in ANWR? (Look here for a sample of his voting record on ANWR.) The predictable "progressive" vote would be against drilling, but he has consistently favored drilling. Why? He sure isn't getting much from the Oil Industry for his votes. Last March, "TrueMajority.org" provided a link to a web service that tabulated how much each congressperson has received in the way of oil money. They may have taken the contributions off-line since then. But back in March, here's what they had for Sen. Akaka:The Honorable Daniel Akaka  [Contact info snipped] Oil Donations This representative has taken $26,200 from the oil and gas industry since 1990. For the 2006 election, they've already taken $0. In 2004 they received $0. In 2000, they received $2,500. In other words, Akaka is getting almost nothing for his support for oil drilling in ANWR. Akaka appears to be genuine when he says he supports drilling in ANWR because he thinks Alaska Natives want it. But do they?
The short answer is "yes," and "no." Unfortunately, the situation is complex enough to require a bit of background in order to understand.

The Alaskan situation is complicated because the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act  (43 USC 1601-1624) -- Public Law 92-203, approved December 18, 1971 (85 Stat. 688)  is very different from other Native American settlements. Rather than providing for "reservations" of natural landscapes, it provided for autonomous Village "Corporations." These can join together like a series of chain stores into a "regional corporation," like the Arctic Slope Regional Corp (ASRC) [http://www.asrc.com/], if they want to.  The members of such a Corporation are described not as "citizens" but as "shareholders," and their leaders are not called governors but "executives."  The whole deal was put together by government officials who thought that Alaska Natives should run themselves like small businesses rather than like communities, counties, or states.

By setting up Native corporations instead of Indian reservations, Congress sought to avoid the troubles associated with reservations and their attendant poverty, alcoholism and despair.
( Hunter/gatherers to capitalists, 1999 )

Of course, this is a false analysis: poverty, alcoholism and despair were not caused by reservations! The proof of this is that Native American communities without any land base are worse off in these respects than those that have reservations. But I digress.

This alien "capitalist" form of government was imposed on isolated Arctic hunting and fishing communities a mere 35 years ago. The Native population of Alaska was not enthusiastic about this idea ["Corporations are not tribes!" by Patricia Wade. Indian Country Today, Posted: April 22, 2003.] An assessment conducted in 1998 [http://www.alaskabyship.com/between/] found that urban Natives have done relatively well, but rural Natives have fared poorly - and the village where the drilling would take place certainly qualifies as rural!

[To be continued]

Tags: HI-Sen; ANWR oil (all tags)



Re: Why

because stevens and murkowski have promised to pass his legislation for native hawaiins.  i thought everyone knew the hawaiins and the alaskans had this deal.  

by illinois062006 2006-06-19 12:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Why

Yup.  Inter4esting to note that the wingnut branch of the Senate Republicans killed this by fillibuster.  These are the same guys that say it is wrong to fillibuster on a Supreme Court nomination.  Hypocrites!

by David Kowalski 2006-06-19 04:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Why does Sen. Akaka support Oil drilling in AN

illinois062006 is right, the Hawaiins vote with the Alaskans as a way to pool clout for those states, which otherwise would probably be ignored.

by JCarlFinn5 2006-06-19 10:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Why does Sen. Akaka support Oil drilling, Pt.

Yes, the Alaska-Hawaii deal is part of the historic backdrop. It is not, however, the rationale Akaka offers. He needs a rationale for credibility that the Alaska pact doesn't provide. That pact might have been needed a generation ago, when both states were new members if the U.S. Congress, but it has become a bit threadbare.

Stay tuned. And, BTW, Part II will be just as dense with embedded links and block quotes as Part I. Putting in the HTML coding has been laborious and time-consuming for me, but maybe I'm just doint it the hard way. If anyone can tip me off on an easier way to do it, please contact me directly at

by Bob Schacht 2006-06-19 02:35PM | 0 recs


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