Monday, August 14, 2006

Routine Corporate Deceit

We have some contentious election issues coming up during the primary elections in Alaska next week.

One ballot issue everyone is watching closely is a proposed cruise ship passenger fee on any large cruise ship entering Alaska’s waters. Local activists got the issue on the ballot thru initiative and the cruise ship industry has pulled out all the stops to defeat it.

These are all foreign owned ships who:

Pay no local taxes beyond port fees;

Employ crews from overseas at wages a fraction of any US worker’s rate - so no employment taxes;

Pay no Alaska or Federal income taxes;

Pay no sales taxes (all sales taxes in Alaska are local);

Purchase all their fuel elsewhere;

Purchase most of their provisions elsewhere;

Run onboard stores that compete directly with shore side stores (not open when the ships are docked) and often sell things at steep discounts. (passengers are often heard to remark (“Oh, I can get that on board much cheaper”);

Charge steep commissions for any shore side tours sold aboard ship - 35-40% is the norm;

Etc., etc., etc.

Typical of big multinational corporations they have created a deceptively misnamed group known as “Alaskans Protecting Our Economy”. They recruited a number of local shills - mostly from people involved in the tourism and travel industry in some fashion. Using the shills as spokespersons, they are bombarding the state with a blitz of TV ads and glossy, large format mail outs - I received two cards just today and several last week and each week in the several weeks before that.

But thankfully, Alaska has a reporting requirement for political action groups and it is fairly easy to determine who is behind such groups by going to the “Alaska Public Offices Commission” web site.

It turns out that the so-called “ALASKANS PROTECTING OUR ECONOMY” received $1,874,575.00 of their funding from the NORTH WEST CRUISE SHIP ASSOCIATION based in Vancouver, BC. That’s out of a total funding reported of $1,182,545.00! Don’t ask me how they received MORE from just one entity that the total they reported having received - they did their own reporting after all and you’d have to ask them. Perhaps APOC will.

The group then turned around a spent $1,172,879.00 with PAC WEST COMMUNICATIONS in Wilsonville, OR for their publicity campaign.

All that seems a mighty long ways from “ALASKANS” “Protecting our Economy” doesn’t it? In fact, the only Alaskan component of this entire scam is the wool they hope to pull over the eyes of Alaska’s citizens!

The sheer hypocrisy of this Alaskan effort is very offensive. But far more disturbing to me is that the top cats in all industries routinely and easily get away with many such deceptive & smarmy practices and no one calls them on it. Our own governments in fact, are often deeply complicit in such things! In Alaska for example, the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) which is 50% funded by the state, is waging an aggressive ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign to defeat the cruise ship fee issue. Though not a political action committee, and not supposed to be a lobby, ATIA’s director claims it is ‘using membership dues and not state marketing dollars” to do just that.

Yeah, Right

And Exxon Mobil routinely funds a number of groups with deliberately deceptive and ‘green’ names for example, whose main goal is to try to throw a smokescreen around the global warming issue.

Lying and deception must pay off for them, but there really ‘oughta be a law’.

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