Tuesday, February 07, 2006

John Fund looks at the connections between Alaska's politicians, their own families, lobbyists, and the earmarks that are slipped into congressional bills to benefit both Alaska and their friends and family. It's a pretty sleazy story and makes Alaska look like the cold-weather version of Louisiana politics.
Before her father stepped in to ensure the bridge would be built, Sen. Murkowski lamented it was "very difficult to stand here as an Alaskan and not take this [criticism] personally." Indeed, the issue was personal in a sense. It turns out the senator's mother, Nancy, who is also the governor's wife, is co-owner with her three siblings of a 35-acre parcel of land on Gravina Island. Critics charge that the bridge will spur development, increasing the value of the Murkowski property, which is one of the few privately held plots on the island.

The Murkowski family has taken umbrage at any suggestion of impropriety. Sen. Murkowski called her family's undeveloped Gravina parcel "a worthless piece of property." Her mother wrote the Anchorage Daily News that "we have tried to sell it a number of times but found no willing buyers. . . . As far as access to the Ketchikan Airport, forget it. It's on the wrong end of the island." But in reality, her plot is valued by local officials at $245,000 and is within three-fourths of a mile of the proposed bridge's western end. A local realtor told me the land would substantially increase in value if the bridge was built.
And Representative Don Young is fully in on getting the loot, uh citizen-funded development.
Another beneficiary of Governor Murkowski's decision to plow the state's share of federal transportation dollars into bridges is a controversial $223 million span near Anchorage that would connect that city with a nearly deserted port. The bridge will be called Don Young's Way after Alaska's lone House member, who also serves as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
It could be Don Young's way in more senses than that. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Art Nelson, Mr. Young's son-in-law, is part owner of 60 acres of what he described as "beautiful property" on land that will be opened up to development by the bridge.