A spate of news stories about Alaska's senior senator show the potential value to a state, when one of its Senators chairs the Appropriations Committee. Ted Stevens has been senator from Alaska since 1968, and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee since 1997. The stories come in two types: some point to Stevens' success in bringing federal dollars to Alaska, others point to Stevens' personal relationships with Alaska business figures. Money for Alaska Mike Doogan's column in the Anchorage Daily News on December 9 illustrates the first type of story: "Cash cow not likely to run dry".
- "...Stevens, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, brings in so much money that the economic effect of his own efforts, beyond what Alaska might get in the normal course of events, have been given a name by economists: Stevens money.
A new report by the University of Alaska's Institute for Social and Economic Research suggests that when Stevens is forced to give up his chairmanship at the end of next year, the amount of Stevens money could drop dramatically.
There is plenty of reason to worry. Federal spending is the single most important element of Alaska's economy. The new study says that federal spending is high -- more than $11,700 per person -- and that it supports about one-third of all jobs in Alaska.
According to a spending watchdog called the Tax Foundation, in the federal government's 2002 fiscal year, the average Alaskan received $1.91 in federal spending for every $1 in income taxes paid.
"This 'bang-per-buck'," the university study says, "is nearly twice the national average..." "
- "...Before Senator Stevens became chair in 1997, per capita federal spending going to Alaska was between 20% to 50% higher than the national average...Starting in 1999 (two years after Senator Stevens became chair) federal funding per capita going to Alaska increased from about 30% above the national average to over 70%
above the per capita national average in 2002
...From 1997 to 2002 (when Senator Stevens was chair), project grants per capita going to Alaska increased from about 225% to over 500% above the national average... Much of this increase in funding to Alaska is for the Indian Health Services Management Development Program. When we excluded the funding for this particular project from the calculations, the per capita project grant funding to Alaska increased from about 225% above the national average in 1997 to over 300% above the national average in 2002..."
- "He wielded extraordinary power in Washington for more than three decades, eventually holding sway over nearly $800 billion a year in federal spending.
But outside the halls of the U.S. Senate, which is a world of personal wealth so rarified some call it "the Millionaires' Club," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had struggled financially.
Then, in 1997, he got serious about making money. And in almost no time, he too was a millionaire - thanks to investments with businessmen who received government contracts or other benefits with his help.
Added together, Stevens' new partnerships and investments provide a step-by-step guide to building a personal fortune - if you happen to be one of the country's most influential senators..."
- "WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday published a front-page story showing that Ted Stevens and family members have gained financially from business interests that Stevens has helped through his position as a powerful member of the U.S. Senate.
The story, the Times reported, was the result of a six-month investigation into the Alaska Republican and illustrates "how lax ethics rules allow members of Congress and their families to profit from personal business dealings with special interests."
As the Anchorage Daily News reported in August, Stevens struggled financially for years, but became rich by investing with Anchorage real estate developer John Rubini, who turned Stevens' $50,000 investment in 1997 into an asset worth at least $750,000.
Both newspapers reported that while Rubini was multiplying Stevens' wealth, Stevens was helping Rubini secure a $450 million Defense Department contract to build and own housing on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
But the Times story provided new details about the Stevens family finances:..."
- " "Stevens said it would be difficult for him to invest in Alaska businesses without intersecting with his own legislation. "If I want to invest at home, with the things I've done in 35 years, I'd have a conflict in anything that could be reportable," he said.
"When (West Virginia Sen.) Jay Rockefeller votes on the floor of the Senate, he can't help but have some conflict with anything he votes on ... because he has such an enormous fortune. But that doesn't mean it's a conflict that violates the Senate ethics rules, or should even be something that we would worry about, in my opinion. And I didn't worry about my investment with John Rubini."
Stevens scoffed at some of the Times' assertions, such as supporting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a favor for the tenant of the building he owns a small portion of. He supports ANWR drilling because it's right for Alaska, he said, not because it was right for ASRC.
"How can you get a person to represent this state who has no interest in the state for the future?" he asked. "They draw too thin a line on conflict of interest. That's why we have the disclosure, so people can see it and we can have stories like this and you can examine it yourself." "