Gov. Sean Parnell’s choice of Richard Rabinow drew criticism on two fronts: That he’s not Alaskan and that he spent a career at Exxon. Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, questioned his allegiances.
“Exxon already’s got 25 percent of the line. I don’t think they should get 20 percent of the public board positions on the Alaska gas Line Development Corp.,” French argued. “Mr. Rabinow’s work history is nearly exclusively with Exxon. Indeed, 34 years with the company. Thirty-four years.”
Rabinow, a Texan, is a former president of Exxon’s pipeline subsidiary, and he now works as a consultant on pipeline projects. The AGDC board is positioned to oversee a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project, and service on the board is unpaid. Underlying the debate over the appointment is the larger question of how closely aligned the state should be to its dominant industry. Rep. Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican, says it’s time to get closer.
“They’re partners. We are partnering with Exxon in the pipeline,” she reminded legislators, gathered in a joint session for a series of confirmation votes. “The adversarial role that we have with them, we have to get rid of that. We have to stop that.”
Like other proponents, Millett says Rabinow’s expertise is invaluable to the board.
“It’s tough to feel we’re hiring an Outsider to come in and help us, but I want the best,” she said. “If I’m going to have brain surgery, I’m not going to go to the guy who maybe has done it once or twice. I’m going to go to the guy whose done it 120 times, 130 times.”
Lawmakers voted 43-17 to confirm him. Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka and Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole were among the few Republicans who voted no.
The Legislature also voted 45-15 to confirm former ConocoPhillips executive Bernie Washington to the board that sets the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for tax purposes.
The critics, mostly Democrats, said Washington’s previous work winning favorable tariffs for the oil company left him with divided loyalties. Washington is now the chief financial officer of APRN’s parent company, Alaska Public Media.
Journalists within Alaska Public Media objected to his service on the state board, too, due to concern it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest for the news organization.
Watch the full confirmation hearing on Gavel Alaska.