Saturday, May 28, 2016


Originally Published At In 2003

Natives, Senators and Oil
 - The Connection Between Drilling In The
 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge And The Akaka Bill.

By Anne Keala Kelly

 The Conclusion -

A request for an interview with Jade Danner yielded a phone call asking to have questions emailed to her. Question: Are you or have you ever been a paid lobbyist for Arctic Power or any Alaska corporation, specifically with interests in oil development? Answer: "I've never been a 'lobbyist,' paid or unpaid, for Arctic Power or any other Alaska corporation with an interest in oil development. Two years ago, I was contracted by Arctic Power for six weeks to assist the Inupiat people in their efforts to set the record straight and educate the Hawaii public about their position in the ANWR debate…." 

Less than two years ago, in March 2002, Jade Danner wrote a letter to the editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, in response to an op-ed written by Charles Burrows. Burrows, a retired Kamehameha Schools teacher and President of Ahahui Malama I ka Lokahi, a cultural/environmental group on Oahu, criticized Senator Akaka's support for drilling in the Refuge. Akaka has been asked repeatedly about his position on drilling since his visit to Alaska to meet with the Inupiat Eskimoes in 1995, a trip that he credits with changing his vote in favor of drilling. Burrows and others have publicly asked the senator why he hasn't taken the time to visit the Gwich'in to hear their side of the issue, a question that has consistently gone unanswered.

Jade Danner's criticism of Burrows' editorial invoked the kind of rhetoric that confuses native politics with oil politics, lauding Senator Akaka's support for the Inupiat as support for native "self-determination." Public records indicate, however, that she was being paid for writing such letters as part of a contractual agreement with Arctic Power.

State of Alaska public records include a copy of an Arctic Power contract signed by Jade Danner on 2/15/02, with no date of termination. It is an agreement to pay Danner and Associates "A flat monthly fee of $5000 for services." Included in the "Scope of Work" section of the contract is: "Development of a Strategic Plan in conjunction with Arctic Power for Hawaii; Monitor and respond to opposing editorials/stories in local news media; Provide periodic updates to Arctic Power about activities and progress in Hawaii; Communicate with Hawaii's Senators' staff to determine how to be most effective in assisting with educating the Hawaiian populace about the facts of ANWR; other projects as may be assigned by Arctic Power," and more.

Staff members from the offices of both Senators Inouye and Akaka say they have no knowledge of Jade Danner being paid to represent drilling in the Refuge. Paul Cardus, Senator Akaka's press secretary said, "No one was aware of her role as a lobbyist, no one met with her to discuss ANWR." He continued, "Jade Danner never met with or spoke to the Senator." 

Yet, payment from Arctic Power to Danner and Associates, for deflecting criticism from within the Hawaiian community about Senator Akaka's support for drilling, suggests that the senator's staff is aware of the business arrangement between Danner and Associates and the Alaska oil industry, via Arctic Power.

A Danner & Associates ANWR Activity Log lists eight activities undertaken on behalf of Arctic Power. Number seven reads: ". . .Worked to defeat local attempts to use Hawaiian forums as an avenue to pass resolutions opposing Senator Akaka's position on ANWR. Provide appropriate follow-up in communicating action to Senator Akaka's office." One such "Hawaiian forum" was the November 2002 Hawaiian Civic Club Convention, wherein Robin Danner successfully argued against a resolution to support the subsistence rights of the Gwich'in people. She also used the lexicon of native sovereignty struggle, telling the attendees that the matter of drilling in the Refuge is a matter of self-determination for the Inupiat. 

With regard to Robin Danner's connection to Arctic Power, when asked if she has ever been financially compensated for efforts done by her on behalf of drilling in the Refuge, through her position as CEO of the Council, she responded, "The answer is clearly no, I have not done any lobbying through CNHA." But in her position with the Council, she billed Arctic Power directly, using a Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement reimbursement request form, for her own travel expenses to attend a Teamster's Convention in Honolulu. Using such a form suggests Arctic Power is well aware of her position at the Council and apparently willing to accept a request for payment with the Council's letterhead on it.

If any of that money was reimbursed directly to the Council, that means Alaska oil lobbying money went into the Council's bank account. If the travel expenses were not reimbursed to the Council, then Robin Danner used Council money to represent Arctic Power at the Teamsters Convention. 

When asked about this, she explained the Council's reimbursement form as a matter of reverse invoicing for airline coupons, saying that they were "used to attend a regional conference of the Teamsters . . . I was invited to speak at their conference, accepted and did so. Jade did not attend, she did not accompany me, she was not invited." 

The Danner and Associates ANWR Activity Log contradicts this and her earlier comment about never having done work for Danner and Associates. Among the activities on the log are: "Prepare and deliver speech to the Teamsters with Presentation of Bowhead Ear Drum to Senator Daniel Akaka… Provide appropriate feedback to Senator Akaka's Office and Arctic Power." The activity log, along with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement request for travel reimbursement that was signed by Robin Danner on 2/27/02, became part of a $7500 Danner and Associates invoice submitted to Arctic Power in March of 2002, and eventually made its way into Alaska's public records. 

Beyond the uncertainties of Hawaiian political identity there remain questions about power and political process. If Alaska's oil industry can reach into the Hawaiian community and make its will known, what other influence does it have in determining the future of the Hawaiian people? 
As it stands, two politically powerful Hawaiians, with ties to Alaska oil money and two U.S. Senators, have garnered tremendous support for the Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill and inspired a dearth of support for the Gwich'in and their efforts to keep drilling out of the Refuge. Their economic dealings shine an embarrassing light on the political relationship between the Hawaiian people and Hawaii's Congressional delegation, and chilling similarities between Hawaiians and Alaska Natives. 

If Federal Recognition can lead to Hawaiians relinquishing claims to any part of Hawai'i, they could end up in a situation like that between the Inupiat and the Gwich'in: corporate natives versus cultural natives. Right now, the acreage of Hawaiian Homestead land, which is part of the nearly 2 million acres of "Crown and Government land" renamed "ceded lands" when the United States took control, is virtually the same amount of land the Alaska Natives ended up with after their settlement: just 10% of what was once all theirs.