The Veco Corruption Scandal. Who’s Next?

31 10 2008

New information and new names have surfaced in the Veco corruption scandal, that has been rocking Alaska’s political world for the past two years.  Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp. made a deal to trade all the dirt in exchange for immunity for his son Mark, and others relatives involved in the scandal.  He had lots to tell.  Former lawmakers are in prison, and more are on the way.  The biggest fish ensnared in the net so far, of course, has been Senior Senator Ted Stevens, now convicted on seven felony counts.  But the FBI isn’t finished yet.

Newly filed court documents outline the extent of Allen’s initial revelations to the FBI, including his interactions with public figures that haven’t previously been reported — and who haven’t been charged.

In his first interview, the same day he learned of the investigation, Allen told the FBI about financial favors sought by and given to politicians.

Land deals were made, lawyers were hired, gas tanks were filled, floors were refinished, cash exchanged hands, pigs were roasted.

The new documents — summaries of Allen’s initial interview with the FBI and a subsequent interview — were filed earlier this month during the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in Washington, D.C. The summaries were attached to motions filed by Stevens’ lawyers. The summaries recount what Allen told investigators, and make no attempt to verify his assertions.

The first interview occurred on Aug. 30, 2006, after agents brought Allen into FBI headquarters in downtown Anchorage and he agreed to cooperate. The broad, multi-faceted investigation into Alaska corruption wouldn’t become public knowledge until the next day, when federal agents swarmed legislative offices with search warrants. The FBI had been monitoring Allen’s phone calls for months.

Allen pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in May 2007.

One of the conclusions reached by Allen, was that Rep. Don Young, who is currently running for re-election against Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz, “couldn’t be bought.”  Interesting, considering that after the investigation of Allen began, Young tried to reimburse Allen for more than $37,000 in pig roast expenses for Youn’s annual fundraiser.  Yes, folks, the King of Pork had an annual pig roast fundraiser, paid for by an oil service company.  Perhaps they should have hired a skywriter to surmount the event with the words “INVESTIGATE ME!”   When Allen didn’t cash this belated reimbursement check, Young sent it directly to the U.S. Treasury.  Then he got out a “wet wipe” and tried to get all that pig money off his hands.

Don Young has spent well over a million dollars in campaign money on legal fees….and he hasn’t even been indicted yet.

The other notable name mentioned in the new paperwork is Ben Stevens, son of Ted Stevens.  I remember breaking the news to a couple people when Ted Stevens was indicted.  The response from each person was, “Wait….TED Stevens or BEN Stevens??”  Everybody was expecting Ben would be first.  There’s a lot to cover with Ben, but these documents talk about the fact that Ben was getting paid for a lucrative “consulting” position, even when he wasn’t “consulting.”

Bill Allen told Ben Stevens (president of the State Senate at the time), when he needed money, to bill Veco $10,000 a month.  Stevens stopped sending invoices after his Senate offices were raided.  Go figure.

Think of all this as “scenes from next week” in the never-ending saga of Alaska political corruption.

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And Now for Something Completely Different.

6 09 2008

Yes, there is life beyond Palin. It may seem hard to believe, especially here in Alaska, where the media is swarming on the small town of Wasilla like ravens on a dumpster full of french fries. (Trust me, it’s a good metaphor)

As everyone in the Lower 48 + Hawaii is finding out, the cast of characters in Alaskan politics is full of…well…characters:

Walt Monegan, the noble Police commissioner who said, “I’d gladly die for the governor, but I would never lie for the governor”

Chuck Kopp his non-vetted replacement who famously proclaimed, “I am not a sex harasser!”

Mike Wooten, the trooper in Troopergate who has a list of offensive deeds, but was axed by whom Palin wanted to axe for what many feel is personal revenge.

Stephen Branchflower, the rock solid non-partisan investigator, and Thomas Van Flein, his nemesis and the private attorney now representing Palin. Palin’s new private attorney.

And the whole supporting cast of children, children’s boyfriends, extended family, ex-coworkers, the almost fired librarian saved by the outraged masses at the last minute*, the fired police chief, and of course, Palin herself – the lip-sticked pit bull moose-skinning gun-toting mother of 5 (or 4 say some), who either rose like a star, or flimflammed her way to the top…depending who you ask.

But, yes, there is a whole political landscape outside the governor’s little world. There is big news developing with two of those characters who haven’t been discussed much lately – Don Young, and Sean Parnell.

Don Young. That’s him up there standing in front of the giant portrait of himself, wearing an Alaska state flag bolo tie. When people who don’t know about Don Young ask about Don Young, they are met with one of three reactions: the eye roll, the head shake/chuckle combination, or an expletive. It never fails. He is absolutely indescribable, but I’ll try. He is a cocky, loud mouthed, angst-ridden, bloviating, jaw-dropping bully. He looooves pork, and people that love pork, love him. He’s a porketarian of the highest order. His annual fundraiser is even a pig roast and he’s proud of it. The grill at the event is usually a $30,000 barbeque donated for the event by Veco corp, the now defunct oil services company whose president and vp have plead guilty to felony counts of bribery and agreed to dish the dirt on what feels like half the Republican politicians in Alaska…and one Democrat just for the heck of it. Many are either on their way, or already in prison.

Don Young himself is currently under investigation by the FBI, and has spent more than a million dollars from his campaign fund on lawyers and hasn’t even been indicted yet. All of this does not keep Alaskans from voting for him. He’s been holding Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives since 1973, and most Alaskans just look upon him as an inevitability, like snow. He just keeps coming back, no matter what you do. And besides, we’ll overlook a lot, as long as we get our pork.

The last time Don Young was up for reelection, the Democratic challenger (a woman, and Alaska native) Diane Benson got 40% of the vote. While this may not sound like much in other elections, 40% against Don Young with a progressive female candidate on the ballot was huge. This proved that Young was vulnerable. Smelling blood in the water, hoards of lower level politicians began circling the wounded bloviator.

This time around, he may go down. State legislator Ethan Berkowitz, a rising Democratic star, stand a very good chance of unseating him in the upcoming election. Progressive Alaskans are doing the happy dance all over the state. For them, it is a dream come true. But…there’s one more hurdle to overcome. The hurdle is named Sean Parnell. Sean Parnell is what many like to call a ‘Palin-bot’. He shares Palin’s idealogy, and is “supportive” of her administration. Translated, this means whatever she says goes, and he doesn’t argue. Critics say he’s an empty suit and an empty head. He also doesn’t like to show up at debates, or give interviews…too uncomfortable (sound familiar?). BUT, he has Sarah Palin’s ‘full support’, which is enough for many in the state.

Berkowitz doesn’t fare as well against Parnell in the polling, and it might be a tight race if that was the match-up in November. Parnell might very well swoop into office exactly like Palin, by getting the anyone-but-the-incumbent-as-long-as-I-can-still-vote-Republican vote. That’s a big slice of the pie up here.

I went down to Convention Central at the Egan Center in Anchorage on primary night, just to watch the returns. And, as many predicted, the race of the night turned out to be Young vs. Parnell. We all bit our nails, drank $8 beers at the bar in the corner, chomped peanuts and watched the big board. At times there were only four votes separating the two candidates. Progressives stopped doing the happy dance and started worrying. Many Democrats and independents I know voted for Young, simply to assure that he would stay in the race long enough to be taken down by Berkowitz. (The Alaskan version of Rush Limbaugh’s operation Chaos, urging Republicans to cross over and vote for Hillary). They will be happy they did. At the end of the night, only about 150 votes separated the two candidates, with Young holding a razor thin lead over Parnell, and hanging on by his fingernails.

Then the absentee voting began. There were 25,000 votes to be counted. The result? After more nail-biting ups and downs and the Division of Elections working into the night, Young maintains his lead by a scant 239 votes. With still more absentee ballots to be counted from overseas, this is about as close as it gets. The last of the absentee ballots will be rounded up by Wednesday, and it’s anyone’s guess. There will likely be a recount.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Division of Elections is under the purvue of none other than…the Lt. Governor, Sean Parnell? Oh, it’s true. Who said life beyond Palin would be boring?

Now that you’ve welcomed a new Alaskan eccentric into your political world, please sit back and enjoy this little homage to Don Young from TPM Muckraker who refers to Young as a “one man mud wrestling match”. Enjoy.

*correction from previous post





Alaska Primary Day

26 08 2008

Don’t forget to vote today!

If you only fill in one of those little ovals, let it be Yes on 3. Regardless of your political affiliation, this should matter to you.

If you still need convincing, check out the videos on the Clean Elections website. They include famous Alaskans such as Walter Hickel, Vic Fischer and Arlis Sturgulewski, first time voters, political candidates and ordinary voters who understand that a Yes vote on Ballot Measure 3 is the most important vote they will cast in the next 20 years.





More Preemptive Sleuthing – This Time By Stevens.

17 08 2008

The latest news nugget released by the FBI in the Ted Stevens case is rather interesting…

Apparently they’ve got a phone call recorded between Senator S and “Person A” that sounds a little suspicious. The court document reads:

By mid-May 2007, Stevens learned that Person A had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in D.C. On May 17, 2007, Stevens sent Person A two emails that discussed Person A’s upcoming grand jury testimony. In the first email, Stevens told Person A that “I hope we can work something out to make sure you aren’t led astray on this occasion.” 

In the second, Stevens was more explicit: “don’t answer questions you don’t KNOW the answers to.”

“Work something out?”  Hmmmm….  Maybe he’s just ‘pulling a Palin’, you know, a little pre-emptive sleuthing and groundwork, just to get the lay of the land before the trial.  That’s OK, right?  Because if you know what they’re going to find, you can prepare.  It’s only fair…

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if more stuff like this doesn’t come to light.  You can fit a LOT in 67,000 pieces of paper, plus audio and video.  And judges tend not to like that sort of thing.

Stevens’ attorneys after requesting a speedy trial, are already singing the blues because now they don’t have time to review all the evidence and prepare and adequate defense in time for the speedy trial they requested.  What’s that old saying?  Be careful what you wish for.





Stevens Trial “Fast But Fair”…Must Mean It’s Going to D.C.

7 08 2008

                        Today U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan, who is overseeing the Ted Stevens case said “It’s going to be fair. Let me emphasize that. Iit’s going to be fast, but it’s going to be fair.”  My take on that?  OK, Ted…you’ll get your special fast-track September 24th trial date, but ain’t no way it’s moving to Alaska.

Despite the fact that there is really no possibility of a fair trial in Alaska, I feel a little pang.  What a crazy circus THAT would be!  Popcorn worthy for sure.  But I think we’ll have to settle for observing from afar.

And here’s the Stevens quote of the week from the Ketchikan Daily News:

“This is an indictment for failure to disclose gifts that are controversial in terms of whether they were or were not gifts. It’s not bribery; it’s not some corruption; it’s not some extreme felony.”

“Not some extreme felony”?  So…it’s just a little teensy-weensy felony?  An itty-bitty felony.  No biggie.  We can just overlook it because after all, look what he’s done for the state, he’s a World War II vet, he’s dedicated his life to serving the people, he’s really old, he’s given us the airport…we’ve heard it all before.

And besides, just because someone gives you something for free that’s worth $250,000 that you really want, doesn’t necessarily make it a ‘gift’.  It could be….er….a coincidence, or a present  ummm….spontaneous good deed?

Watching the thought pattern of the parade of indicted Alaskan Republicans is really amazing.  Who knew there were so many different brands of denial?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, federal prosecutors turned over to Stevens’ attorneys a big fat pile of materials including both video footage, and audio recordings from someone who agreed to wear a wire.  This oughta get really interesting really soon.





Stevens Shoots Self in Foot. ‘Keep it Up,’ Think Dems.

5 08 2008

There’s some major faulty logic going on in the Stevens campaign. Now back in the state, Ted Stevens did the whole dog & pony show at his campaign headquarters holding a rally, where he was reported by ADN to have been in the presence of a “large, supportive crowd”. He also had quite a spectacle when he was  he was escorted by a parade of bikers. At least Ted didn’t volunteer his wife Catherine to participate in a topless biker beauty contest like McCain did with Cindy.  (There are no words.)

And…Stevens wants his trial to be moved from D.C. to Alaska because sure…we’re impartial here, right? Don’t pay any attention to the screaming crowd at the airport named for him, Justice Department. Nothing to see here…

It’s not like he’s got anything to worry about in the primary. The most recent post-indictment poll indicated there’s really no competition. So why the effort to gather the troops and get that front page story and photos on the Anchorage Daily News? Seems to me like the more balloons and confetti, the less the chances of Stevens getting his way with the trial relocation.

Not that I’m complaining. Just felt a need to state the obvious.





Ted Stevens Guilty? Not Guilty? We Don’t Care.

31 07 2008

 

Most people who commit a crime in Alaska plead to have the trial moved out of state because they know that the local jury will be biased.  After all, jurors live here, and they have felt the crime firsthand through the media, by knowing people who were affected, by water cooler gossip,…by osmosis.  It’s simply impossible, they claim,  for potential jurors to be impartial and give the suspect a fair trial.

And yet Stevens wants his case moved TO Alaska. He wants it close to home. Why?  Because in this case, not having fairness works to his advantage. Because he knows that Alaskans have been bought. If you’ve been elected to office, the majority of Alaskans don’t care what you do as long as you bring home the pork. We will throw the law, the constitution, our integrity and anything else under the bus if we feel like we’ve gotten free money out of it. Money we deserve, money we don’t deserve….whatever. If it’s green, our integrity is up for sale.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  For a state that claims so many ‘conservatives’, how is it that they are so eager to take Federal money, take the permanent fund check, take all the pork that can be heaped on a plate and ask for seconds.  Isn’t that what conservatives say about liberals?  That all they want is free stuff from the government?  Someone explain this to me. 

If we give Ted Stevens a pass on 7 felony counts, and re-elect him we advertise loud and clear the fact that we prostitute ourselves for pork.  We don’t care if Stevens got bought by Veco, because we’ve been bought by Stevens. We walk through the shiny granite-covered Ted Stevens International Airport and we feel so darned important. Probably just like Ted feels when he hangs out on the wraparound deck, and fires up that Viking barbeque grill he got from Veco.  Here we stand with our collective hand out like Vic Kohring sniveling and groveling to the Federal Government.  We’re all so busy scratching each others backs, we simply don’t care about ethics….which is exactly why this state is in the condition it’s in, and why we need the FBI to shovel us out of our own dung heap.

Stevens knows he’s got a winning strategy if he can move the trial to Alaska. If you doubt me, check out some of the responses on today’s ADN blog:

“Guilty or not, Uncle Ted has done too much for us to be dragged through the mud. Alaska wouldn’t be what it is without him!”

“Go Stevens! Three votes in my household will be for the senior Senator. He’s going to fight this just like he’s fought for Alaskans for the past 40 years in the Senate.”

“Without his dedication to serve Alaskans and help protect a lot of bill of rights, Our state would not be in the position its in receiving a record high dividend we all love getting so much.”

There are dozens more but I don’t have the stomach to go on…

It has been said that in life, any situation, whatever form it takes, exists only because the circumstances were perfect for bringing that situation about. What does that say about the political system in Alaska? That it is structured perfectly to bring about corruption, so it has. That is why voting for Clean Elections (Ballot Measure 3, now renamed Bill Providing for Public Funding in Campaigns) is a vote equal to or greater in importance than a vote for any one candidate. The system needs to be voted out, or we are doomed to repeat this cycle until we learn the lesson.

We have no right to be disgusted or disappointed when we see the string of felons streaming out of our state government and into federal prison, because we have gotten exactly the government we deserve.  We have been bought off to look the other way.  Sound familiar?

We’ll find out whether the trial moves to Alaska on August 19th.  I maintain enough faith in the system to think that there’s no way it will be allowed to happen.  I hope I’m right.





Stevens Speaks. I am Irritated.

29 07 2008

We knew it would happen eventually, but it was still a shock.  I refer to the 7 felony counts of making false statements for which Ted Stevens was indicted today.  Stevens has now released a statement in response to the allegations:

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator.
 
In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges.
 
The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly.
 
I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.
I keep reading this statement over and over…trying to really identify what I find so distasteful about it.  The simple facts are that the FBI has been investigating Senator Stevens for years.  They have determined that he lied about gifts he received from oil service company Veco.  The extent of these alleged lies has resulted in 7 felony indictments and unreported gifts of over $250,000.  And now what does Stevens have to say to the people of Alaska?
  • He has proudly served his nation and Alaska for 50 years.  He’s a World War II vet.

Yes, he’s been our senator for a long long time.  Yes, he’s proud of that.  And I respect his WWII service.  My father was a WWII vet, POW, and recipient of the purple heart.  I get it.  But that has squat to do with the fact that you lied on your financial disclosure forms.  WWII vets, or any other vets do not get special dispensation to break the law without consequences.  Neither do public officials.  Even ones who have been around a long time.  Longevity does not entitle you to break the law.

  • It saddens him that charges were brought.

I’m sure it does.  It does not sadden me.  It saddens me that our state government has been behaving so badly, and so contrary to the interest of Alaskans, that the investigations were warranted in the first place.  It saddens me that Alaska has been mired in this cesspool of political corruption for as long as it has.  It saddens me that the corruption was so extensive, and the influence so pervasive that we couldn’t do anything about this ourselves and had to rely on the FBI to intervene.  It saddens me that someone sent to DC to represent Alaska, who had the trust of the people,  succumbed to the temptations of power, and material comfort and forgot his higher purpose.  It does NOT sadden me that the boil of corruption is finally being lanced and that we actually may get another chance to start clean.

  • He never ‘knowingly’ submitted false statements.

Ignorance of the law?  Last time I checked, that didn’t wash.  And really….do we believe he forgot that Veco raised up his entire house and put a first floor under it?  You’ve got to do better than THAT.

  • The impact of the charges on his family disturbs him greatly.

Yes, I should think so.  But these are the things you’re supposed to think about beFORE you break the law.  This is the same thing I keep hearing over and over in reference to the Sarah Palin scandal.   Think of Chuck Kopp!  Think of his wife and kids!  Think of Mike Wooten!  Think of the children!  It’s really starting to hack me off because THEY are the ones who should have been thinking about their spouses and children.  Not the media.  This is Kindergarten stuff – If you do bad things, there will be consequences.  Throw in all the others who have whined about their families and what this is doing to them – Tom Anderson, Vic Kohring, Pete Kott…and on and on and on.  Yes!  It’s horrible that all the people that didn’t have anything to do with your behavior are suffering.  Perhaps…just perhaps..YOU should be apologizing to them, and not saying in effect, “If it weren’t for you damn people TELLING everyone I was doing something wrong, none of this would have happened!”  I feel tremendous compassion for the innocent victims in all this.  But zero guilt over placing the blame squarely where it is deserved.

And last but not least:

  • I am innocent!

And prisons are full of innocent men.

I keep hearing everyone trying to be politically correct, saying “This is a sad day for Alaska”.  Truth is, this is NOT a sad day.  The sad day happened when our politicians made the choice to betray the people they serve.





Stevens Indicted! No…the other one!

29 07 2008

Speculation was running rampant about who the next to fall would be in the ongoing corruption investigations by the FBI here in Alaska. The general consensus was that it would be Ben Stevens, son of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and former State Senate President.

I almost ran off the road when I heard the announcement on CNN. Ted Stevens has been indicted. This is HUGE.

The Justice Department will shortly be announcing the 7 count indictment all dealing with statements that were not deemed truthful to investigators. The announcement will come at 1:20pm EST….that’s in just a few minutes. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE 1: The Anchorage Daily News has posted a pdf copy of the 28-page indictment is available HERE. Stevens was charged with 7 felony counts of making false statements. Stevens apparently didn’t admit on his senate financial disclosure forms to receiving gifts totaling upwards of $250,000 (including a new Land Rover, a Viking barbecue grill, and extensive renovations to his home) from Veco. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the raid of his Girdwood residence, referred to in the indictment as ‘the chalet’.

UPDATE 2: Just listened to a live press conference held in DC by the Department of Justice.  Here’s the gist.

As a member of the Senate Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms with the Secretary of the Senate.  The purpose of these forms is to disclose conflicts of interest and maintain public confidence in the US senate.  Stevens is alleged to have received “substantial amounts of material and labor” used to renovate his residence in Girdwood from Veco Corp.  This included:  First floor multiple bedrooms & bathroom & full basement, architectural design, assistance in lifting the residence to add a first floor, electrical, plumbing and framing, the addition of a wrap around deck, a plastic roof, heat tape system on the roof, gutter repair,  and electrical work. In addition were household goods – furniture, a gas range, and a tool storage cabinet.  Also mentioned was exchanging an old vehicle for a new one worth much more. The total amount is $250,000+  These items were not disclosed on forms which he filed under penalty of purgery.  He didn’t reimburse or repay Veco or Bill Allen for any of these items.  This is only the beginning of the criminal process, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigation began in 2004 and covers the years 1999-2006. 7 convictions – Kott, Allen, Smith, Bobrick, Anderson, Kohring

From the Q&A with the press:

He has not been charged with bribery. Bribery requires specific evidence of quid pro quo.

A summons will be issued and he will be allowed to turn himself in, and will not be arrested.  Where and when this will happen is being negotiated.

Stevens was informed when his attorney received a call earlier today.

They wouldn’t talk about sentencing or how Stevens’ age might affect that, nor would they discuss a potential plea agreement.

The final question asked about the timing of the indictment, during an election year, and close to the primary.  The answer? “We bring cases based on our evaluations of the law and when they are ready.”  “Politics should play no part either in charges or the timing of indictments.  Policy has been followed to the letter.”





Alaska Candidates on the Couch

21 07 2008

Just got back from the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus Debate for House candidates, aka the “Couch Conference”. In attendance – Diane Benson, Ethan Berkowitz and Don Young. Glaringly absent – Gabrielle LeDoux and Sean Parnell.

I arrived a little late, but walked in just in time to hear Don Young’s position on the Iraq War. Fumbling for a pen, I managed to scribble down “Fully supported ‘invasion of Saddam’ or we would be having a nuclear war with Iran and genocide the likes of which we have never seen.” Yeah, we know. And the smoking gun would have been a mushroom cloud. FYI Don, we actually invaded Iraq, not Saddam.

Most of the questions and answers went as you’d expect, and many were softballs. KTUU’s Megan Baldino was underwhelming as moderator and looked bewildered and unsure of the protocol and the questions most of the time.

And I confess, I kept hoping for one of those Don Young head-exploding moments that would end up on YouTube, but no such luck. There was lots of sighing, and puffing out of cheeks, eyerolling and muttering. A couple times you could hear him say ‘nonsense’ under his breath, and he did this really odd leg lift thing, over and over, while looking completely engrossed in his shoe. And he definitely turned every shade of purple while the Democrats talked about ethics, but that was about it. When it came time for Don to talk about ethics, here’s part of what he had to say:

“I will set on this bench…this couch…and hold my character. [Mudflats – OMG close your eyes!] Yes, there’s been a lot of writing in the paper. 18 months of writing….18 months….. But my ethics and my wife’s ethics…my family’s ethics should never be in question. You may think they should be, but they should not be.”

Oh reeeeeaalllly. And exactly WHY should they not be in question? Maybe we should ask the FBI.

Ethan Berkowitz did well, but answered a few questions in vague terms, including, “What can you do in congress for the state of Alaska?” He responded by talking about moving forward, looking forward, looking to the future, needing a congressman for the NEXT 36 years, not the past 36 years. But I wanted, and thought he was capable of giving a more substantive answer. Other than that, he was polished, energetic, and engaged. He specifically mentioned his support for Clean Elections (eyeroll from Don Young), which I was happy about.

Diane Benson was at the top of her game. She was witty, poised, and unintimidated. My favorite Benson moment followed Don Young’s proclamation that he is-was-and-always-will-be pro-life. She answered that she is pro-life too, which is why she doesn’t support the death penalty, and doesn’t think we should “go to war at the drop of a hat”, but that matters of a woman’s body are private, and between her and her doctor. Zzzing! Her only cringe-inducing moment was when in response to a question about how best to promote women’s issues and fair pay, she said, “Stop electing men.” This was met by a heckle from the back of the room that came from a young uber-Republican guy in a suit, sporting a giant LaDoux bumper sticker on his lapel, who called out in his best frat-boy voice, “Yeah…Vote for Gabrielle!” Benson’s comment may have been true, to a degree, but Berkowitz scored by saying that people should vote for a candidate because of their values, not their gender.

The most moronic question of the night? If you could make up a catchy one-line slogan to bring tourists to Alaska, what would it be? All three candidates looked at Megan Baldino and each other like, “Are you kidding?” Don Young even said, “Who makes up these questions?” No one had a good answer, and no one in the audience was surprised they didn’t.

Second-most irrelevant question, but one that surprisingly perked up the audience nonetheless – “What car(s) do you drive, and do you fly commercially or by private jet?” Just because I know you’re curious:

Ethan Berkowitz – 1993 Yukon. Toyota Prius. Commercial airlines, front of the plane, aisle seat. He quoted Bill Egan who said, “You get more votes in coach.”

Don Young – 2003 Cadillac. Saturn. Evaded the airline question.

Diane Benson – “Nothing beats 50mpg on my Harley” (the crowd approved). Honda Element. Dodge Dakota work truck. Also didn’t answer the airline question, but probably not for the same reason as Don Young.

There was another interesting Don Young moment during the break. While being serenaded with great piano music (the event was held in the Steinway Piano shop) he danced down the aisle holding an invisible partner with a giant goofy smile almost long enough for me to get it on tape….that would have been my YouTube moment! Oh well. He did seem to be in quite a chipper mood….perhaps he’s watching Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, his biggest Republican threat, who hitched his wagon to Sarah Palin’s rising star. That star is starting to fizzle, big time, and it’s only good news for Don Young in the primary. More on that later.

But basically, Young’s strategy was to remind us all that he’s been in congress for a long long long time, and that he can drop lots of names. His other strategy was to be a puffed-up, condescending bully. It’s worked for him in the past, so he keeps doing it. He never missed an opportunity to mention that the other two Republicans weren’t there, which was ironic since, in May, Young blew off a promised teleconference at the Hispanic Affairs Council forum (attended by all four other candidates) with a flimsy excuse. The condescension continued with weird comments to Ethan Berkowitz, either under his breath about Diane Benson, or out loud with things like, “Well, Ethan, that was a very nice campaign speech” after every question he answered. (Note to Ethan – Try using a strategically placed throw pillow as a buffer zone to keep Don out of your ‘bubble’ if you have to sit next to him again)

After the first round of questions, each candidate was given a paper bag with questions on little slips of paper in it, that they drew out of the bag and asked their opponents. Ethan Berkowitz’s last piece of paper slipped under the flap at the bottom of the bag and he couldn’t find it. So Don Young booms out, “And Ethan wants to be a congressman….He can’t even find what’s in the bottom of the bag! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” This was met by crickets and uncomfortable shuffling from most of the room, uproarious laughter from the frat boy corner, and cascades of giggles from the Steinway piano lady, who spent the rest of the evening fawning over him like a lovesick schoolgirl.

The evening wrapped up with a 2 minute closing statement from each candidate. Don Young reminded us that even though some people think he’s done badly, he hasn’t done badly. He revealed the horrifying fact that he wants to die in office – “God’s going to replace me some day. I only hope it’s not the voters.” Voters…lightning bolt….either way, he needs to be gone.

If either Democratic candidate gets the seat, Ethan Berkowitz will get his wish to “elevate the quality and tone of politics in this state.”





Another One Bites the Dust – Cowdery Goes Down.

14 07 2008

Take a week off and see what happens?!  John Cowdery is the latest member of the Corrupt Bastards Club to taste the bitter pill of come-uppance from the FBI raid of Alaska legislators’ offices in 2006.  Has it been two years already?  Almost, according to the “Alaska Corruption Scandal Timeline.” The fallout from that legendary raid seems like one huge, glacially slow soccer game.  We get a goal once every six or eight months.

This also goes to prove that my semi-reliable friend of a friend of a coworker who heard a rumor that Ben Stevens was the next to drop, was wrong… grumble, grumble.  I’ve been on “Ben Watch” since June 1st, fueled by this rumor that his indictment would come in the next 30 days.  But other than the fact that it was 40 days, not 30…and John Cowdery, not Ben Stevens…my source nailed it!

This latest indictment hits close to Senate Leadership.  The crowd is thinning out, and Lyda Green with fewer and fewer buddies around her, is standing in the middle of the field looking reeealy conspicuous.  After the indictment came down, and after finding out that among other atrocities, Cowdery told corrupt Veco executive Bill Smith he thought it would be “easy and clean” to bribe Senator Donny Olson (owner of Olson Air Services)  with gasoline for his airplanes to win a vote on the Petroleum Profits Tax, Governor Sarah Palin asked Cowdery to step down.  (*Note to Mr. Cowdery – Nothing involving petroleum products in Alaska is EVER easy OR clean)

But Senate President Lyda Green would have none of that ‘stepping down’ talk.  She said that she didn’t think Cowdery should step down from his senate seat.  Why?  Take this little Mudflats Quiz.

Q:  Lyda Green thinks that indicted Corrupt Bastard John Cowdery should stay in the Alaska State Senate for the following reason(s). Check all that apply.

a) He is a friend of hers.

b) He’s held that position for a long time.

c) He’s in bad health and hasn’t been there much lately anyway.

d) Give him a break. He’s at the end of his career soon.

e) Sarah Palin wants him to step down so I DON’T! Humph.

Mind-numbing as it is, Lyda’s official rationale, according to her quote in the Daily News includes A through D, but I’m going with All of the Above.

Cowdery is scheduled to appear in District Court on August 11th. 

And “Ben Watch” begins again.  Check out this awesome post from TPMMuckraker.  What will they ever do when all our scoundrels are behind bars?





A-Team vs. Wolfpack – You Make the Call…

13 07 2008

Remember as a kid when you used to guess which superhero could take the other one in a fight?  Spiderman vs. Aquaman,  Batman vs. The Lone Ranger, Underdog vs. Quick Draw McGraw….  The possibilities were varied, and dominated much schoolyard conversation between 2nd and 6th grade.  The latest Don Young rediculousness makes me wonder…who would win if the  A-Team took on the Wolfpack in a superlobbyist fight?  But then I realized that the nine lobbyists on the ‘A-Team’ were actually also IN the  29-lobbyist ‘Wolf Pack’.  So if you are on the A-Team, you are also in the Wolfpack, but Wolfpack membership doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the A-Team.   So to have this hypothetical showdown,  the A-Team would have to defect FROM the Wolfpack, which could complicate things.  But still, it could be done.  After defection, the A-Team would still be outnumbered about 2 to 1, but they’re some heavy hitters with extra lobbyist superpowers…  I’m thinking it would be a close fight.

But of course, the greater issue here is that a 75-year old congressional representative, the one and only “Congressman for all Alaska” thinks it’s cool running around making up stupid names for his lobbyist buddies because….what….he’s frozen in time as a 12-year old?  What’s next, a handwritten sign on his office door that says “No Democrats Allowed”?  A secret Corrupt Bastards handshake?  A big Republican Treehouse in Washington?

Ooooo.  Maybe the Wolf Pack and the A-Team could reunite, and ambush John McCain’s “Truth Squad” on the “Straight Talk Express”!  They’d never see it coming.  A nickel says they could take ’em!  Are you in? (spits on palm)  Shake.

As we contemplate the new American “Bad Guy” (the lobbyist), in all its incarnations, enjoy this awesome offering from the satirical mastersite – The Onion.   You won’t know whether to laugh or cry, so do both.

And a note to Berkowitz, Benson, Begich and the rest of the Democratic lineup.  Please no ‘teams’, ‘packs’, or ‘squads’ – we’re all adults here.