AK-Sen: More Potential Ethics Troubles for Ted Stevens

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is already under the eye of federal investigators, seemingly as a result of his relationship with VECO, a company receiving large federal contract. Now perhaps they will have another reason to look into his actions. The Hill's Manu Raju has the story.

Sen. Ted Stevens has quietly steered millions of federal dollars to a sportfishing industry group founded by Bob Penney, a longtime friend who helped the Alaska Republican profit from a lucrative land deal, according to public records and officials from the state.

Critics say those earmarked federal dollars could be the first example of how Stevens rewarded Penney for a land deal in Utah that reportedly earned the senator more than $125,000. Penney's group, for its part, rewarded Stevens with several expensive gifts at the time it was receiving the earmarked dollars.

I'll admit that I'm not ethics expert, but I can't imagine that it's kosher for a Senator to receive "several expensive gifts" from a supporter receiving earmarks from said Senator. At the least, even if it is not the type of action that gets a Senator in legal trouble, which it may or may not, it is the type of action that raises questions in the minds of voters -- particularly when said Senator is up for reelection in about 14 months.

It's for stories like these why it is so important that the Democrats are able to recruit a strong candidate in this race, preferably Mark Begich, the popular mayor of Anchorage who's father represented Alaska in Congress more than three decades ago. In the case of a Begich-Stevens race, all bets would be off -- and given the overall environment in the country, I could not count out Begich becoming the first Democrat to win a federal election in the state since Mike Gravel all the way back in 1974.

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Another Day, Another Federal Investigation of a Republican

We've been watching this train wreck in the making for some time, but it looks like yet another Republican up on Capitol Hill has found himself embroiled in a federal corruption investigation. Today's culprit: Don Young of Alaska. Greg Gordon and Erika Bolstad have the story for McClatchy newspapers.

A Justice Department corruption task force is investigating whether Alaska Congressman Don Young took campaign cash in return for securing $10 million for construction of a proposed Florida highway ramp that would give a windfall to a local real estate developer, a source familiar with the inquiry said Friday.

[...]

Investigators' interest in the Florida earmark stems in part from its timing. In the two weeks before and after the earmark was inserted in the spending bill, Young's campaign and political-action committee collected contributions from Florida developer Daniel Aronoff, his lobbyist and several other Florida business executives. The donations, mainly from real-estate interests, totaled more than $40,000.

Meanwhile, transportation planners in Lee County, the Gulf Coast community where the interchange would be located, voted Friday to ask Congress to let them use the money instead to widen Interstate 75. They said they never had asked for the interchange money.

Alaska hasn't been terribly amenable to Democratic candidates on the federal level in recent years. In fact, Mike Gravel's successful Senate reelection bid in 1974 was the last federal election a Democrat has won in the state. That said, there's reason for Democrats to hope in 2008, with both congressional Republicans slated to be on the ballot in November -- Young and Senator Ted Stevens -- under serious scrutiny from federal investigators for improprieties. What's more, with the potential slate of popular Anchorage mayor Mark Begich and former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz near the top of the ballot for the Democrats (order yet to be determined), the Democrats actually have the talent to capitalize on the growing Republican problems in the state.

Young's woes portend poorly not only for the Alaska GOP but also House Republicans. The National Republican Congressional Committee already has serious money problems, trailing its Democratic counterpart by close to a 10-to-1 margin (I'll be posting an update later tonight with the latest numbers), and the fact that a whole hoard of House Republicans are retiring or may soon retire doesn't help out the matter. Adding one more seat into play, particularly one like Alaska's at-large district that should otherwise be a gimme, could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Republicans hoping to only lose a few seats in the House this cycle.

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More Evidence The 50 State Strategy Pays

This, folks, is where the 50 State Strategy pays off for us. The Pew Research Center's stateline.org ran a story by Louis Jacobson of CongressNow today, on the thesis that even in Red states -- even ones where the Democrats did not gain a majority of one or both state chambers -- the Democratic tide has floated new Blue legislation.

The story looked at six previously Red states that became more Blue in 2006: Idaho, Texas, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming.

More after the break.

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Young Threatens To Bite NJ Rep. Like An Alaskan Mink

This is far and away the best political headline I have ever seen, Onion articles aside.

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/003 723.php

Once I stopped laughing, I remembered how Alaskans don't pay state income taxes, relying instead on revenue from oil fields to fill state coffers. An interesting point is that those oil fields belong to the American people, not just the Alaskan people, and yet, Alaskans insist on pretending that this is not the case. So, in addition to not paying taxes, and in addition to the fact that some Alaskans in fact receive money from the state as opposed to paying it, they demand to continue receiving their disproportionate share of federal dollars...

It would be interesting to see Democrats put an end to these stupid subsidies of (mostly red) states that spout off all kinds of idiocy about lowering taxes while relying on federal dollars to stay afloat.

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AK-Sen: Run, Mark, Run!

I noted it yesterday over in Breaking Blue, but it looks like Ted Stevens, who is the longest serving Republican in the history of the Senate, is in a lot of trouble. The Alaska Anchorage Daily News' Richard Mauer and Erika Bolstad have the scoop.

Federal law enforcement agents raided U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' Alaska home in Girdwood on Monday, hauling off undisclosed items from inside and taking extensive pictures and video.

Officials wouldn't say what they were looking for or what they found.

"All I can say is that agents from the FBI and IRS are currently conducting a search at that residence," Dave Heller, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Anchorage office, said Monday.

With Stevens up for reelection in 2008 and reportedly under investigation for corruption, the Democrats are going to need to field a real candidate to jump in this race. And right now it looks like DC Dems (as well as those in Alaska) have been working overtime to try to recruit one such candidate: popular Anchorage mayor Mark Begich, son of onetime Alaska Congressman Nick Begich. The Washington Post's Paul Kane had the story on Begich last month.

With a trio of stories today involving ethical allegations against Alaska Republicans, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich's phone started ringing early with calls from Capitol Hill.

Begich, a popular mayor who won his second three-year term a year ago, is being courted to challenge one or the other of Alaska's longtime Republican incumbents, who have more than 73 years of combined congressional experience. He's the son of the late Rep. Nick Begich (D-Alaska), who died in a 1972 plane crash with the late Rep. Hale Boggs (D-La.), in a remote part of the Frontier State. Begich, now 44, was 10 at the time.

Facing a term limit in the spring of 2009, Begich is in a minor bidding war between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- which wants him to challenge Rep. Don Young (R), who took his father's seat after the crash -- and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- seeking a challenger to Sen. Ted Stevens (R), 83, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history.

I've been watching this race for a long time (I think my first post on the race was back in December of last year), and I have long believed that although Stevens is a long established incumbent his standing is a lot softer than folks might otherwise believe. The raid on his house yesterday only serves to underscore this fact.

And, frankly, it's not clear to me that a retirement by Stevens would do enough to save this seat for the Republicans in the case that this scandal continues to fester through election day -- particularly given that this is not the Alaska Republicans' only scandal. There is a theory that there are rare cases in which a party is best served by having an incumbent retire rather than run for reelection. Charlie Cook came on this site back in January 2006 and said as much, disagreeing with my theory that Bob Ney's corruption would be a problem for Ohio Republicans regardless of whether or not he was going to be on the ballot. (As it happens, Ney resigned and the very Republican-leaning seat still went to the Democrats by a 24-point margin.)

That's why, regardless of whether or not Stevens decides to run again, it's important that a strong candidate jump in this race for the Democrats. So the message from this humble blogger today is as follows: Mr. Begich -- Run!

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