Alaska Blog Coverage of Vic Kohring GOP Corruption Trial

Up in Alaska, three sites have been blogging about the corruption trial of GOP ex-state Representative Vic Kohring.  He is the third ex-member of the state House to go on trial here.  The earlier two trials ended in convictions.  Legislator-lobbyist Tim Anderson has been sentenced to five years.  Ex-Representative Pete Kott is awaiting sentencing.

The top two executives of ex-oil company service organization Veco (now part of CH2M Hill) pled guilty to corrupting these legislators and several other key GOP figures, mostly on the state level, but, apparently at least three on the Federal level.

Several more indictments are expected.  Ex-state Senator Ben Stevens, son of US Senator Ted Stevens has been fingered by the Veco executives as having received almost a quarter million dollars in bribes, and his father's Girdwood, Alaska chalet has been searched by the FBI.  Ex-state Representative Bruce Weyrauch has been indicted and current state Representative John Cowdery has been named as one of the people the Veco executives pled guilty of bribing.  The former executives stated in testimony on Thursday and Friday that they wore a wire for the FBI while making calls to members of Alaska's US Congressional delegation.

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Calling all Alaskans

Hey everyone,

I have not posted here before, there may be a better forum than posting a diary.  Looking for posters in the Fairbanks area, for a couple of reasons.  One, to live blog the State Central Committee meeting, the Dinner and auction.  This will reach out to house parties around the state.  It is experimental, not a big crowd on the other end, but it's a start.  It would also be great to gather bloggers around the state together, go out for a drink, dinner...or whaterver.  So to all Alaskan bloggers, contact me, if you know of someone in AK, give them my contact info...we have a great shot here, lets get the ball rolling before the year turns.  You can reach me at akangelee at gmail dot com  

Looking forward to hearing from you!

nadeane

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Alaska-AL: Rising Star Berkowitz Jumps in Race

Chalk up another recruiting success for House Democrats. Former state Democratic House leader and 2006 Lt. Gov. nominee Ethan Berkowitz is jumping in the race to challenge Don Young.

Former Alaska state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz (D) announced his candidacy for the seat of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) on Wednesday, giving Democrats what they hope will be either a strong challenge or enough of a threat to force Young to retire.

Berkowitz was a part of a losing gubernatorial ticket last year, running as former Gov. Tony Knowles's (D) lieutenant governor nominee. But despite his 10 years in the state House and eight years as a leader, he is only 45 years old and considered a top hope for Democrats in the state.

Berkowitz isn't the only candidate looking to go up against Young this year. Former state party chairman Jake Metcalf and 2006 nominee Diane Benson are both also running for the Democratic nomination this cycle.

It's little wonder why folks are looking at the race. Young's actions have been thoroughly scrutinized in recent months, with an ongoing federal investigation looking into his alleged improprieties. As a result of this ongoing scandal, Young's numbers have plummeted in redcent months, his favorable rating going from a respectable 51 percent in April to just 33 percent in September (with 46 percent rating him unfavorably). Suffice it to say that he's beatable. And unless he loses in the primary, this is a very winnable seat for the Democrats (though even if he does lose in a primary, the seat isn't necessarily a lock for the GOP, either).

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Both Don Young and Ted Stevens Look Shaky in Alaska

The times, they are a-changin' in Alaska. It was not long ago that the state boasted two of the most powerful members of Congress: Representative Don Young, once chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; and Senator Ted Stevens, once chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Now both are in the minority, both are under scrutiny from federal investigators and both are becoming less and less popular. Check out the latest survey from Hays Research, to which I have added previous surveys from August, June and April to grab a trendline. All polls have margins of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent and include Alaska adults.

Don Young
9/176/154/5
Very Positive111820
Somewhat Positive222231
Neutral18157
Somewhat Negative201816
Very Negative262322
DK/Refused233

Ted Stevens
9/178/16/15
Very Positive172226
Somewhat Positive232220
Neutral181515
Somewhat Negative212123
Very Negative1719*13
DK/Refused312

Over the last five months, Young has seen his favorability spread fall from 51 positive/38 percent negative in April to 33 percent positive/46 percent negative in September. Both the new spread and the trend bode extremely poorly for Young. Stevens' fall has been slightly less pronounced, going from 46 percent positive/36 percent negative in June to 40 percent positive/38 percent negative in September, though that could be, at least in part, due to the fact that the trend line started a bit later (i.e. his numbers back in April may have been worse, but Hays didn't poll him at that time). Going back a bit to SurveyUSA's last poll of the state back in last November, Stevens' approval rating was 62 percent, with 34 percent disapproving (though I should note that approval rating is not favorability rating, and that, what's more, SurveyUSA is a different pollster than Hays and uses both a different methodology and a different interview style).

Looking at these numbers, it's hard not to come away with the impression that both Young and Stevens are very weak, even considering they have represented the state in Congress for nearly a combined three quarters of a century. Let's just hope the Democrats can find the right candidates to capitalize on this situation...

AK-Sen: The Heat is On

Pop quiz time, folks. If you're a United States Senator do you (a) accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in free remodeling from a supporter you've steered federal contracts; or (b) not do that? If your answer was (a), you might be the longest serving Republican Senator in the history of this country, Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Ex-Veco Corp. CEO Bill Allen admitted in court Friday that he had company employees work several months on a remodeling project at the Girdwood home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

[...]

The remodeling work in summer and fall 2000 more than doubled the size of the house, a four-bedroom structure that is Stevens' official residence in Alaska.

[...]

Allen said he also gave Stevens some old, used furniture.

[...]

Prosecutors asked Allen whether he was aware that other contractors, non-Veco employees, worked on Stevens' house and were being paid by Veco.

Allen said he knew of at least two, a plumber and a carpenter.

The situation in Alaska is quickly turning into a real problem for the Republicans. Naturally, a lot of these problems could go away (or at least be mitigated to an extent) for the Republicans if Stevens were to retire. In a similar situation last year, encumbered incumbent Republican Governor Frank Murkowski, Stevens' former longtime Republican colleague representing Alaska in the Senate, faced reelection with an approval rating clocking in south of 20 percent. However, after he was defeated in his bid for renomination, the Republican nominee, Sarah Palin, was able to quite handily defeat former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles.

But Stevens, who we already know to be fairly surly, isn't likely to give up his position without a fight. And despite his ethical woes, it's not clear that there is a Republican willing to stand up to him in the GOP primary as there was with Murkowski last cycle. As such, the Republicans may find themselves stuck with Stevens as their Senate nominee next year going up against popular Anchorage mayor Mark Begitch, a Democrat rumored to be looking at this race. In this case, the GOP would undoubtedly have to spend big money to try to protect Stevens -- and even then an ongoing federal investigation may trump any investment from Beltway Republicans.

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