Two political reporters comprehensively yet somewhat sensationally explore Alaska’s oil situation amid a heady scandal and the ever-evolving pageantry of Sarah Palin.
Alaska Dispatch co-founders Coyne and Hopfinger happily sink their teeth into their home turf’s oil and politics conundrum, whittling away at 40-plus years of corruption and obfuscation. They focus their intensive scrutiny on three “larger-than-life” figures “born out of oil” in the 2006 corruption scandal: former senator Ted Stevens, retired oil executive Bill Allen and resigned Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. With authoritative prose, the authors backtrack to the late ’50s, when Alaska was more concerned with its fishing and mineral trade. Alaska’s 1968 “marriage to Big Oil” would permanently change the state’s direction, and Stevens would play an integral part in that change. His involvement in the dissolution of environmental and social impediments to an oil pipeline paved the way for a legislative career mired in controversial alignments and governmental scandal. The authors write that Allen, armed with minimal education and welding experience, upheld a laundry list of felonious business dealings with oil barons and deceptive politicians as a founder of VECO Corporation, Alaska’s largest oil contractor. His actions earned him a stint in federal prison while, years earlier, a young, idealistic Palin ambitiously climbed the Wasilla political ladder, banked questionable campaign contributions from VECO and launched a much-lampooned series of foibles including an abruptly ended governorship that showed her “thin skin and hubristic ambitions.” Throughout, the authors paint Alaska as an environmentally blessed, aesthetically promising land, which makes the detailed corruption and its dark outcome that much more contemptible. None of the three subjects deserve any sympathy, and Coyne and Hopfinger keep them all (Palin especially) squirming under their journalistic thumbnail.
A probative, merciless examination from an Anchorage-based dynamic duo with an ax to grind.