They’re the secretive recordings that just keep giving.
Today, two new recordings were released as part of “Pebble Tapes,” a series of conversations with Pebble Mine executives secretly recorded by investigators Environmental Investigation Agency acting as potential investors in the controversial project.
The latest recordings appear to be from the same time period as the tapes released initially touch on several issues related to the mine, including the project’s business model, financing, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s support for the mine, the political impact of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the upcoming elections.
However, the line that’s gaining the most attention come from the head of Pebble’s parent company, Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen, who told the investors to ignore any potentially damaging statements made by politicians on the campaign trail.
We are in what I like to call the silly season, which is the final stages of a presidential election. And everything, people have something to say about comments, but it’s the kind of season that, once it’s over, everybody forgets what everybody promised to do. You aren’t held to your promises,
The comment hits home when it comes to the tight race between Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who executives said was “off in a corner being quiet” in an earlier tape, and Democrat-backed independent challenger Al Gross. Spurred by the revelations in the original conversations, Sullivan released a statement offering his first wholesale opposition to the project.
Gross seized on the comments in a tweet on Thursday, saying it is evidence Alaskans shouldn’t trust the Republican to keep his word on his opposition to Pebble Mine after the election.
“The only way to stop the Pebble Mine is to elect a new senator. As the executive himself states, it doesn’t matter what Dan Sullivan says. Sullivan plans to break his promise as soon as the election is over,” he wrote. “We just can’t trust Dan Sullivan to keep his word on this or anything.”
As of posting, Sullivan’s campaign had not yet responded to requests for comment from Alaska Public Media or Alaska’s News Source.
Thiessen’s statement from the latest tape is somewhat similar to an admission made by the mine executives in the original slate of tapes. In one tape, they said not to worry about any negative comments Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan may make against the mine because it’s part of politicians’ age-old practice of playing both sides: Telling constituents what they want to hear while quietly doing nothing about it.
“It’s an age-old practice where when you have constituents, you have important people who support you on two sides of an issue, alright, you try to find a way to satisfy them both. You don’t choose one or choose the other. You try to satisfy them both,” said now-former Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier. “The way that Senator Murkowski has done that is that when she’s asked a question she says things that don’t sound supportive of pebble – but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, Ok?”