Alaska Democrats Try to 'Retire' Ted Stevens
Alaska Democrats have turned up the volume in their attacks on the leading Republicans in their state, showing their intention to wage aggressive campaigns next fall against Sen. Ted Stevens (R) and Rep. Don Young (R).
Today the Alaska Democratic Party unveiled a new Web site, www.retireted.com, that chronicles the various corruption allegations surrounding Stevens, 83, who has served in the Senate since 1968 but now is under federal investigation for his ties to an energy services firm. The unveiling of retireted.com follows a similar site the state party created earlier this fall, www.dropdon.com, which details the various allegations against Young, who is under investigation for his ties to VECO, the oil and gas services company whose CEO pleaded guilty to bribery is a cooperating witness for the Justice Department.
The two lawmakers have denied any wrongdoing and claimed they will be cleared once all the details of the investigations are known. And to a large degree fancy political Web sites or Web advertisements are merely recruiting tools by national and state party committees, trying to demonstrate to challengers what sort of support they will be receiving if they run.
But there's no question the allegations are creating mounting political problems for the duo, who have cast huge shadows over the Frontier State's politics for decades now. The storyline has also moved beyond just investigative tactics -- such as a 10-hour raid on Stevens' home in July documenting possible gifts from the VECO executive -- and into the courtroom, where other revelations are now coming out in public.
Last month, at the trial of former state House Speaker Pete Kott (R), Bill Allen Jr. testified that as head of VECO he sent his own workers to Stevens' home outside Anchorage to perform a massive renovation that more than doubled the size of the house. And another VECO executive, who has also pleaded guilty to bribery, testified one of his jobs was to organize an annual fund-raiser for Young. Federal prosecutors played hours and hours of secretly recorded conversations, both on the phone and in a hotel suite regularly used by the energy executives, detailing the legislative deals Allen hoped to secure.
The Alaska Democrats have seized on those audiotapes and are now playing them in radio advertisements generically attacking the state's Republican Party for being too cozy with oil interests. But the radio ads themselves are another attack on Stevens, as they highlight the connections of Ben Stevens, Ted Stevens' son, to the scandal. In the ad, Allen is heard telling another oil executive about his efforts to kill a Democratic initiative on energy tax bills in the state legislature. "Pete Kott and Ben, they're gonna do it so they don't know who it came from," Allen said.
That's a reference to Ben Stevens, who was state Senate president at the time. Allen, on the witness stand in Kott's trial, accused Ben Stevens of taking $240,000 of no-work consulting payments from VECO while he was in the state Senate.
If these Web sites and ads merely are recruiting tools, the main target is Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who is national Democrats' most sought after challenger to Stevens. Ethan Berkowitz, the former state House minority leader, is the leading Democratic challenger to Young.
October 23, 2007; 12:28 PM ET
Categories: Ethics and Rules
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