by Jonathan Singer, Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 03:38:18 PM EDT
Alaska's at-large Congressman, Republican Don Young, isn't the only one catching flak for possible ethics violations. Check out the front page of today's Washington Post, where Paul Kane writes about the equally powerful Ted Stevens, Alaska's curmudgeonly Republican Senator, and his troubles with the law.
Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, disclosed in an interview that the FBI asked him to preserve records as part of a widening investigation into Alaskan political corruption that has touched his son and ensnared one of his closest political confidants and financial backers.
Stevens, who is famous for bringing home federal earmarks for Alaska when he was Appropriations Committee chairman, was not previously known to be linked to the Justice Department's probe, which has uncovered evidence that more than $400,000 worth of bribes were given to state lawmakers in exchange for favorable energy legislation.
Investigators have used secret recording equipment, seized documents and cooperating witnesses to secure the indictments of four current and former state lawmakers, including the former state House speaker, shaking the core of Alaska's Republican Party.
Two executives of a prominent energy company have pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion charges and are cooperating with the inquiry, which is being run by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and includes two federal prosecutors and FBI agents based in Anchorage.
"They put me on notice to preserve some records," Stevens said in a brief interview about his legal team's discussions with the FBI. He declined to say what kinds of records were involved but confirmed that he had hired lawyers and that his son, former state Senate president Ben Stevens, "is also under investigation."
Alaska is a stalwartly Republican state. Only once in its history has it given its electoral votes to a Democrat -- and that only happened in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater by close to 23 points nationally. While Alaska did twice elect a Democrat, Tony Knowles, as its Governor in recent year, Knowles won his first election with just 41 percent of the vote and secured reelection only when there were two Republicans in the race, splitting the party's vote. And on the federal level, no Democrat has won a Senate contest in the state since 1974, when Mike Gravel was reelected amid a Democratic landslide, and no Democrat has won a Congressional race in the state since 1972, when Nick Begich won, only to die in a plane crash before his first term has been completed.
That said, the culmination of Republican corruption scandals could make it difficult for GOP candidates in 2008 -- particularly Stevens and Young, who are both up for reelection next fall. And according to a piece Kane wrote today for The Post's website, the Democrats think they may have found the right candidate to take on one of these two potentially endangered incumbents: the late Nick Begich's son Mark.
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.
Alaska might not be as much of a swing state as New Mexico, where the GOP is also roiling as incumbent members of the House and the Senate face additional scrutiny, or even as much as Kentucky, where the taint of Governor Ernie Fletcher continues to dog his party. But realistically that might not stop the Democrats from being able to capitalize on this unique situation.