State contract with Bob Penney's grandson should have been open to competitive bids
Someone in the Standing Tall administration should have had the sense to stop the no-bid consulting contract with Bob Penney’s grandson, Clark Penney.
But it appears that no one in the Dunleavy administration saw a problem with this political payoff. Clark is to get $8,000 a month, potentially up to $441,000 through June 2022, to promote new business in Alaska. Under the first phase, March through June this year, he is allowed $12,000 in travel expenses.
Clark Penney, one of many deputy treasurers of the Dunleavy campaign to get a job or a contract out of the administration, is to help develop new business in Alaska, which is No. 1 in every governor’s book of recycled campaign promises.
His contract was approved by Tom Boutin, another deputy treasurer of the Dunleavy campaign, who was named to lead the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in February. Boutin was a frequent critic of former Gov. Bill Walker and portrayed himself as an advocate of a smaller state government.
“Mike Dunleavy is an ordinary Alaskan stepping up to get us out of this entirely unnecessary recession, crime wave, and general malaise created by Democrats and their insistence on more spending and more taxes. VOTE DUNLEAVY!” Boutin wrote on the Republican Party blog last fall.
Other than Francis Dunleavy, the governor’s brother, no one put more money into the cause of getting Dunleavy elected than developer Bob Penney. Francis and Bob put up hundreds of thousands a year ago to help Dunleavy gain name recognition and become the leading GOP candidate.
They did it through the shadow campaign that was not limited by the contribution limits imposed on official campaigns. The so-called “independent expenditure” group was indistinguishable from the official Dunleavy campaign, which was burdened by the $500 per person contribution limit designed to keep rich people from gaining undue influence in Alaska elections.
Now the Dunleavy administration, through Boutin, makes the laughable claim that it didn’t need to bother with competitive bidding for a contract. Seeking competitive bids would mean a “delay in implementing the governor’s New Industry Development Team and delay in achieving tangible results to the governor’s 'Open for Business’ strategy,” according to an AIDEA document.
Boutin’s agency says the reason to ignore the normal procurement process was that Clark Penney’s “experience and extensive network will be invaluable in achieving the goals of the team and bringing new business and development opportunities to the state. This combination of experience, background and networks is difficult to find within Alaska.”
If true, Clark’s company would have had no problem winning a competitive contract. But the real story here is that Clark’s experience, background and network with the Dunleavy campaign prompted Boutin to act this way.
“The goal here was to get moving,” longtime AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik told reporter Nat Herz. “It was important that there not be any delay in the work of this new industry development team, or delay in achieving tangible results.”
Translated, it was important that there not be any delay in getting the contract to the right person.
If this contract was needed at all, it should have been open to competitive bids.
The Bradner’s Economic Digest said that Julie Anderson, commerce commissioner, wrote that the “New Industry Development Team” features “experts from a variety of industries including finance and banking, economic development, education, technology, and research, among others.”
“We have identified several sectors in Alaska outside of oil and gas which we think hold great opportunity for growth and diversification. These sectors include agriculture, mining, timber, fishing, tourism, infrastructure, and global logistics,” she said.