Commentary: Allen ran roughshod over Alaska politics

The Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 3, 2009 

Bill Allen said what you expect from a man standing before a judge at sentencing. I made mistakes, I'm sorry, I know I will be punished. Remember the good I did.

But Allen, 72, also said something extraordinary. After the FBI arrested him, he told Judge John Sedwick, they "gave me a tape that really embarrassed me. I can't talk anyway and when they were taping it, hell I can tell I was half drunk and didn't like what I looked like to myself."

The phrase "what I looked like to myself" is riveting. Does it really take FBI video tape to make a man recognize himself for who he is? Sadly the answer is yes. And some men, by their own admission, have found their real selves in solitary confinement, on the steps of the gallows or on their death bed.

I followed Allen's public career for more than 20 years. He was driven by his appetite for money and power and played by his own rules, indifferent to public opinion. Hypocrisy was foreign to him; he was a man who never learned pretense.

His former lobbyist, the late Ed Dankworth, said of Bill Allen "Hell Mike, he's just an old welder. An old welder from New Mexico. That's all he is."

In the halls of the Capitol, in the legislative galleries, and on the few occasions when I saw him in the Juneau bars, the old welder behaved as if he were invisible to anyone not of immediate interest to him. Sure, he engaged legislators he expected to influence but the rest of us didn't exist.

I clearly remember sitting in the Baranof Hotel bar while Allen, a legislator and a legislative staffer took a table a few feet away. They began laughing at what transpired at a hearing on the state ethics law. They felt no need to hide or disguise their views in the presence of a stranger who could hear their every word.

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