Things they probably shouldn't have been. We have two Senators and one Congressman. They're all in trouble:
Senator Lisa Murkowski:
Senator Murkowski bought a prime piece of real estate from Alaska businessman Bob Penny for a fraction of its cost - essentially a gift worth over $100,000. Joshua Micah Marshall reports from Talking Points Memo (draws heavily on the reporting of Laura McGann):
"This one did get away": On the 26th Murkowski announced that she would sell the property. Former Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game McKie Campbell came to the Senator's defense in the Juneau Empire on August 3: My Turn: Don't rush to judge Murkowski . Campbell served in a Republican administration, and is a friend of buyer and seller:
The heart of the issue has been the allegation that the senator and her husband, Verne Martell, purchased a lot on Kenai River for less than its value. Many years ago, I worked as an appraiser. I don't claim expertise, but was curious enough to make a few phone calls.
Murkowski and her family wanted to purchase land on the Kenai River to build a home. Bob Penney, who is a lifelong friend of the senator's and is not involved in any matters before Congress, owned a parcel of land next to his home. Penney is fortunate that he doesn't have to sell the land, but was interested in guaranteeing that he could pick his neighbors.
The sale imposed conditions through an memorandum of understanding signed by all parties on December 14. If Martell and Murkowski sold the property within five years, Penney would have both first right of refusal as well as 50 percent of any appreciation over the original sale price. When a sale carries restrictions such as first right of refusal or ceding a portion of profits from a future sale back to the seller, the full and true value can be significantly less.
The senator, Martell and Penney knew that because of the senator's position they would have to establish a fair selling price. They agreed upon the property's assessed value. Alaska statute requires that "the assessor shall assess property at its full and true value as of Jan. 1 of the assessment year" and "the full and true value is the estimated price that the property would bring in an open market and under the then-prevailing market conditions in a sale between a willing seller and a willing buyer both conversant with the property and with prevailing general price levels." The local government assessment is the only government-established, valuation of property in Alaska.
Unfortunately, based on allegations on a Web site calledTPMMuckracker and several generalized quotes from Realtors about asking prices, theAnchorage Daily News adopted the position that assessments represent artificially low values. It did so without any consideration of deed restrictions or analysis of comparable properties, and without talking to Shane Horan, the Kenai Borough property assessor. (I had no trouble reaching him), or any appraisers working in the area.
Other newspapers in the state picked up the story without questioning this. For the 2006 tax year, 311 Kenai property owners appealed their assessments; none because their assessment was too low. Full and true value for both appraisals and assessments is properly established through comparisons of actual sales, adjusted for differences, not by comparisons to asking prices...
This is the core of his op-ed. Campbell stops short of drawing on his research to make the case that in this instance the appraised price was actually about equal to the market price. That seems strange to me, because the rebuttal would have been much more forceful if he had.
Senator Ted Stevens:
TPMuckraker reporting on Stevens centers on the connection of oil services company VECO to work done on Stevens' house, and on the ways his son, former Alaska state legislator Ben Stevens, may have benefitted from his father's U.S. Senate service and/or his own position in the Alaska Legislature:
- Veco: A Mucky Force in Alaska Politics (Laura McGann, May 8, 2007)
- Ted Stevens' Son Identified In Corruption Case (TPMuckraker, May 8, 2007)
- Extreme Makeover: Veco Edition (Laura McGann, May 29, 2007)
- Stevens Not A Target, Investigation Still a Problem (Laura McGann, May 30, 2007)
- Veco’s Adventures in Sub-Contracting (Laura McGann, May 31, 2007)
- Stevens' Contractor Hires a Lawyer, Opts To Keep Quiet (Laura McGann, June 4, 2007)
- Ted Stevens Admits Involvement In FBI Probe (Laura McGann, June 7)
- Ted Stevens Pushing Earmark For Son's Employer (Laura McGann, June 7)
- Stevens Asks For Extension To File Financial Disclosure Forms (Laura McGann, June 15)
- Paper: Grand Jury Examines Stevens Ties to Oil Co (Paul Kiel, June 18)
- Veco Gives, But What Does It Receive? (Laura McGann, June 19)
- Ted Stevens' Friend Testified Before Grand Jury (McGann, June 19)
- 2nd Strain of Probe Proceeds Far from Stevens' Sway (Paul Kiel, June 19)
- Stevens' Friend That Testified Is Also Business Partner (Laura McGann, June 21)
- Fisheries Netted In Federal Alaska Probe (Laura McGann, June 22)
- Retired Fisherman Spoke With FBI About Stevenses (Laura McGann, June 26)
- Kenai River Classic: Where Politicians And CEOs Go Fishing (Laura McGann, July 9)
- Stevens Secured Big Federal Money For Business Partners (Laura McGann, July 10)
- Stevens Needs Second Disclosure Extension (Laura McGann, July 17)
- Stevens' Artful Dodge (Laura McGann, July 18)
- Ted Stevens Foundation Late To Register, Pay Fees (Laura McGann, July 24)
Congressman Don Young:
Congressman Don Young is now under Federal criminal investigation: Don Young Under Federal Criminal Investigation (TMPmuckraker, Laura McGann, July 24, 2007). Here's some TPMuckraker coverage:
- Email Shows Don Young Requesting Use of Abramoff's Skybox (Paul Kiel, February 27, 2006)
- Alaska Rep.: $81 Million For Florida "Old News" (Laura McGann, June 8, 2007) (Young gets large appropriation for road construction that appears to benefit one of his large contributors from Florida)
- Young: Pork Is My Job (Laura McGann, July 9, 2007)
- Young On Illegal Contributions: You Caught Me Too Late! (Laura McGann, July 18, 2007)
- Young Threatens To Bite NJ Rep. Like An Alaskan Mink (Laura McGann, July 18, 2007) (He really does!)
- RSVP: Don Young's Pig Roast Still On (Laura McGann, July 25, 2007)
Modifed August 3 to incorporate Campbell's rebuttal on Murkowski's behalf.