by Jonathan Singer, Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 04:32:39 PM EDT
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.