Apparently Republican corruption isn't limited to the Lower 48. Two long-time Alaska politicians, Senator Ted "Tubes" Stevens and At-Large Rep. Don "Bridge to Nowhere" Young, have suddenly become the cause celebre over at the New York Times. What motivated the writers over at the Gray Lady to awaken from their early summer slumber?
FBI investigations, whispers of oil money used as bribes and a ten million dollar earmark for an unwanted road in Florida merits inclusion in "all the news that's fit to print."
Are Alaska Dems positioned to defeat these champion porkers?
At 83-years old, you might expect Stevens, currently the longest serving GOP Senator, to be preparing for retirement, but you'd be wrong. Despite making threats (I'd call them promises) during temper tantrums on the Senate floor when his backdoor maneuver to allow oil drilling in ANWR was defeated, he's gearing up for another re-election campaign.
On Thursday, Timothy Egan wrote a Times Opinion piece titled "Where the Goods Are Odd" and spares no words for the corrupt champions of pork:
amid the lovely, longest days of the year, the political world — controlled and corrupted by age and oil — is unraveling. The farce in the far north involves two national politicians who are used to getting their way, and a lobby that treats legislators like houseboys.
-- snip --
Ted Stevens used to be a respected independent voice in the Senate. But his obsession with opening the Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, and his nearly 40 years in the Senate, have left him an embittered, tired old politician with a host of grudges.
On June 6, The Times ran an article about Coconut Road in Fort Myers, Florida. It doesn't seem Young got the message from last year's elections. Don, blatantly trading the tax-payers' money for campaign contributions does not please the voters of America. Newsflash for Don: Alaska voters are more likely to tolerate the pork when you direct it to your home state! Making sure your real estate buddies get money for a country club access road in the state 4,000 miles away may doesn't seem all that smart.
Egan says of Young:
Then there’s the Congressman for Life, Representative Don Young, 74. You know him from the Bridge to Nowhere, his effort to direct more than $200 million to build a span nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge from Ketchikan to an island with less than 100 people.
-- snip --
He said he was proud to be one of the biggest pigs at the trough — he used the word “oinker” — because the power to control $300 billion only comes around once in a lifetime. But as it turned out, the pipe dream really was a bridge to somewhere: the back door. Many Republicans say it cost them control of the House in the 2006 election.
On "The Stakeholder," the DCCC's blog, they've gathered additional editorials denouncing Young's latest outrage, including the home-state Anchorage Daily News, which remarked:
Only the clumsy and stupid -- and the exceptionally greedy -- engage in bribes when they know campaign contributions are a perfectly legal alternative.
Both Stevens and Young have been champions of pork for a generation and they're proving the old adage "You can't teach an old pig new tricks."
Despite the very clear message the American voters sent to Congress in the 2006 midterms, it appears they believe the "old rules" still apply in Alaska. But, if homestate sentiment is reflected in the ADN's editorial page, they may have finally crossed the line.
What does Young have to say about the latest revelations? This week, Young defended himself on the house floor (again, from the DCCC):
"I was always proud of my earmarks. I believe in earmarks, always have, as long as they are exposed. But don't you ever call that a scandal." [Congressional Record, 06-12-07]
Apparently, Rep. Young did not get this week's GOP Talking Points. He's proudly defending earmarks ON THE VERY SAME DAY Minority Whiner John Boehner is declaring war on the Democrats over the controversial practice that bleeds the federal budget.
The challenge for Democrats is the lack of an existing bench in the state, which has long been dominated by Republicans. With corruption seeping through the state GOP, the 2008 election presents a real opportunity for Dems to make serious gains in "The Last Frontier."
To date, Young has drawn one declared Democratic challenger, Alaska native Diane Benson, a mother of an injured Iraq War vet and community organizer. Currently, that's the entire roster of Dems who have said they're interested in ending the unethical - and perhaps illegal -practices of GOP, Stevens & Young, Limited Liability Corruption.
This is despite the Anchorage Daily News reports declaring Stevens potentially vulnerable. The ADN speculates on a wide roster of possible candidates, including Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, and former State Reps Eric Croft and Ethan Berkowitz, who both came up short in their bids for the 2006 Dem gubernatorial nomination, among others.
With both Stevens and Young vulnerable, the Democratic Party needs to make sure the Fifty State Strategy includes State #49 in 2008. Failing to recruit a top-tier challenger for BOTH offices would be a missed opportunity.
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Senate Race wiki: AK-Sen
House race wiki: AK-AL