Monday, May 15, 2006

Lobbyists make fisheries laws in the U.S.

This business of lobbyists sitting on federal law making bodies, not to mention being the chairman of them, is just insane.

Some Capitals need "brain thaw" more than others.

Think about it a minute and you'll see what I mean. It's not a big paradigm shift. In a couple of days, the one billion people that have Google will see it if they search for Alaska News, or Alaska Fisheries News, etc.

This subject keeps coming up when you get down to basics of what's wrong with federal fisheries management. Forget all the biological stuff, socio-economic impacts and rules of order, the whole system has to come to a halt until this cancer can be removed from the Magnuson-Stevens Act, or one Council at a time. Listen to this letter from a reader.

"John, it is time for the people of Alaska to contact the Governor and strongly urge him to put a stop to any lobbyist holding a seat on the North Pacific Council. This council rules over 2 billion dollars of commerce every year, and it has been hijacked. We have only until June 6th, the date of the next public hearing on GOA in Kodiak.

The fact that a Processor's lobbyist is the North Pacific Council's Chair is beyond any illusion of ethical standards of fair play. Everyone in Alaska can see the absolute conflict of interest this creates in the very fabric of the regulatory system, which is meant to be a system of and for all industry peers. Ms. Madsen does not recuse herself, in fact she does just the opposite, using her occupation as a lobbyist sitting on countless other boards to jury-rig the outcome, which is the systematic suppression of the free enterprise system, a system that is now so distorted as to make it a crime to buy fish from a fisherman. (See Federal Register: Jan 5th 2000-volume 65-#3 page 380-390.)

Please take a second and think about that. You would go to jail if you had the audacity to try to buy pollock from a legal fisherman in the Bering Sea. Sadly, it's now the same if you set up a buying station to bring fresh king crab [like the crab currently being flown daily to Japan from Norway] to market - you would be a felon. Why, in America, should it be criminal to pay more, directly to a fisherman? Is it because it would upset a cartel so powerful that they can make all free enterprise a crime?

Stephanie is only the visible spearhead of this small group of billionaires flying around in their private jets. Even if the playing field was leveled today, they would still be billionaires, with all the toys, the fishing boats [worth hundreds of millions] that supply their own plants [worth hundreds of millions] and 100% of the shore-based pollock Quota, under the American Fisheries Act, which only allocated pollock to "existing shore-based plants" based on what they processed during 1996-1997. No company or person can set up a buying/processing plant now because they would not be given a permit to buy fish under AFA. How can this be good for Alaska?

This is the most interesting point that many people have missed, and this is core to the smelly-fish business in Adak with Ben Stevens: fish caught under Sen. Ted Stevens' 1998 Community Development Quota System (CDQ), is exempt from this law - CDQ fish can be sold to anyone. Ted got approval on shutting down the Adak Navy base in 1995, and in 1997 transferred ownership to Adak/Aleut Corporation (Ted's son, Ben, is deeply involved with both). Ted then allocated the fish from the general pool of AFA fish to Adak/Aleut Corporation under the CDQ, allowing it to be purchased at this new plant built on the ex-Navy base. This is the loophole that Ted and Trevor McCabe (Ben's longtime business partner) hid in the fine print of their own AFA law. Only Ted has blank check approval over CDQ transfer.

It was the prefect crime (on Sept 18th 2005, Ted told Anchorage Daily News "if he [Ted] created a pollock allocation to benefet his son it would be a crime." ) Remember, Ted is a Harvard trained laywer, he understands the intent of a law... Recent headlines in the case against Enron's Ken Lay note that the Federal prosecutors have determined that Lay's "deliberate ignorance" is not a defense. Ted's statement that he hasn't commited a crime, because he did not know his son was to get this windfall through an Act of Congress, simply defies common jurisprudence.

Take this to its logical conclusion and consider; Ted using his influence to bestow $30,000,000 worth of fish(annually), to a company that he and his staff knew nothing about? And didn't even check out the degree of his own son's connection? That makes far less sense.

Instead, he creates a free base/plant, and an EPA permit which no one else could get. The compliant Native Corporation is not going to complain about Benny getting a healthy chunk of the benefit from his dad's gift of 60,000,000 lbs of free fish.* Note that Ted was also quoted in ADN as saying "Neither one of us is getting rich. That's for damn sure." An outright lie, unless his definition of rich is somewhat removed from that of the rest of us; the 'us' that he is paid to represent.

Trident Seafoods wouldn't say a word, because they were working on getting this pollock indirectly, with the son of one of the founders of Trident, Cary Swasand, who has many co-mingled fishing businesses with Chuck Bundrant, Trident's President. Ted has made Chuck a billionaire from over 30 years of rule-changes. Clearly, it is time for payback, i.e. to make Benny rich and have him step into Ted's Senate seat. How could Chuck not support that - it would continue the empire for both?

I have to wonder what Alaska would be like if all that time and energy Ted has put into bending and pushing things toward Chuck's agenda, had instead been applied to giving all Alaskans a fair shot in fish/seafood. Would the Alaska Peninsula be a hub? Would not most of the crab have been processed in Kodiak when the season became a short, one-shot operation?

Would it have hurt Alaska to have the jobs, keeping only 40% of the Kodiak work force nonresident, as opposed to Trident's 86% nonresident workforce? [State of Alaska report Jan 2006-nonresidents working in Alaska]. Would these smaller seafood companies have been able to work harder and smarter on crab marketing? Tanner crab prices only dropped 12% in Kodiak this year compared with what happened out west, where one boat went fishing with the belief they were fishing for $2.20 lb for Bairdi, and came back in with 100,000lbs - only to find they were paying a dollar - sorry. [Under Crab Ratz you have to fish without any price disclosure from processors.]

What could he have done? He can not sell to anyone else [that would be a crime,] the Fish & Game does not let you move from one harbor to another [another crime]. Why? Is this another case of a law whose only real purpose is to keep fishermen from voting with their feet? After all, if you can not legally move your boat from one area to another after checking in, you cannot begin to try and get a better value for you and your crew.

So why did the biggest crab guys, who also happen to be part of one the largest corporations in the world, [they can practically print money from the huge windfall of pollock they get under AFA] not have the most competitive pricing in favor of the fisherman? The overhead is covered by income from pollock, so why can the small fry processor from Kodiak do such a better job?

We cannot let this North Pacific Management Council continue to be corrupted from the top down. I wonder what marketing excuses Chuck uses when he flies almost regularly over to his very nice ocean-front estate in Hawaii? I mean, if you are flying a group of VIP's to Hawaii in a fancy private jet, you have to have a fancy house that looks the part, right? Does he claim that this is business so the IRS does not consider all these flights as income for the 'entertained'? Or does he claim it's part of Trident's cost of crab marketing, so he can expense this to what he has to pay fishermen for crab? Does he get such a big paycheck that he just pays the $50,000 plus that it costs to fly over there?

Remember how Joe Plesha usually starts his testimony: "Trident has never declared a dividend for its shareholders" - so just how does Chuck get his money?

Get a hold of the Gov and tell him No More Foxes Guarding The Hen House! Ted is the one that has been backing Chuck, Governor Murkowski has only followed Ted's lead, I really think he would listen if enough Alaskans stand up.

Remember you almost always get the government you deserve.

*Aleut Corp is like all the Native Corps, they get billions of dollars from all kinds of grants and special Federal programs that have been created and funded by Ted. These hard working people are not the problem, it is Ted's manipulating and scheming, in order to keep them beholden to him for the voting power they represent. Clearly, he is also trying to extend this reign of power to his son. Given, that Ted closed a major Navy base, the only place left in western Alaska that could get an EPA fish processing permit, with his son Ben on the board of the Aleut Corporation, which received both the base and the CDQ pollack allocation. How does all this benefitting son Ben not constitute a crime? Or that he "did not know," and therefore it was okay? You'd then have to assume he is an idiot and his son is the crook. Ben kept this option hidden only from the public. However you cut it, these aren't the kind of folks Alaskan's want representing them."

The old ways are done, and the Internet brings a new day. Contrast this cabal giving America's king crabs to a couple of big companies, to Russia allowing a thousand or so fishermen to harvest THEIR king crabs. I'd say someone better fix this fast, or our country doesn't have a leg to stand on.