Friday, March 12, 2010

Newsweek, Here's My Short Story on Alaska Corruption


The online version of Newsweek magazine published a collection of pieces about the candidacy of various states for the title of most corrupt, unethical, and dysfunctional. Staff members took turns promoting their own home states for the title, and brief essays appear on Illinois, New Jersey, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Ohio. The magazine laments that it has no staff member from Alaska, and linked to this blog as evidence that recent events should give the Last Frontier "honorable mention" in the contest of sleaze. Here's what I put in the comments section:

As the author of the blog that you linked to, I would offer these comments on my own state:

Alaska has had a pretty clean reputation for most of its half-century as a state. The long-running federal investigation into public corruption on the Last Frontier, however, has pushed the 49th State up in the rankings of the most corrupt states, particularly on a per capita basis.

There are only about 700,000 people in the state’s 586,000 square miles. Yet five state legislators have gotten convicted of felonies related to public corruption—that’s one-twelfth of the 60 lawmakers who were in office six years ago. The Chief of Staff to ex-Gov. Frank Murkowski has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. And a jury returned guilty verdicts on seven counts against Alaska’s most powerful politician—iconic U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens—although prosecutorial misconduct led the trial judge to overturn the verdicts and dismiss the case before sentencing.

The federal probe on the Last Frontier has also caught some big fish among Alaska powerbrokers who have never served in office. The biggest among the private citizens is Bill Allen, the multimillionaire tycoon who built VECO--a $1 billion construction and oil-services company—and became the de facto controller of campaign funds for Republicans in the state. In one of the most colorful moments exposed in the investigation, Allen was caught on an FBI tape telling a state legislator—and former Speaker of the House—“I own your ass.”

(The Newsweek essays on various states can be accessed at on the Internet.)

1 comment:

Diane said...

The Ballinger-Pinchot of 1910 scandal set the tone and reach of corruption in Alaska.