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PUBLISHED: 7:00 PM on Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Alaskans must learn to live without Uncle Ted's pull
The following editorial first appeared in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Alaskans are facing a new way of life: one without the help and handouts from our favorite Uncle Ted.

With the conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaskans will be poorer - and not just financially.

Few could argue that Stevens has done more for the state than anyone. During his four decades in office, Stevens - the longest serving Republican in the history of the Senate - helped bring about $3.4 billion in federal spending to the state, according to reports.

Now the senator's ability to bring home the money and to bring Alaska's needs to light has been crippled by his felony conviction.

What worthwhile, Stevens-promoted programs are in danger? The Denali Commission is a big one. This is a federal/state commission that spends about $100 million a year to improve infrastructure, mostly in rural Alaska. The state doesn't help to fund the commission. Without Uncle Ted, it will likely die.

On a larger scale, there's the 8(a) certification for the Alaska Native regional corporations, a special status Stevens managed that allows Native-owned companies to get billions of dollars a year in federal contracts. With it, these corporations and their subsidiaries have grown to become multi-million dollar companies. Two have revenues that top $1 billion.

It's a program overseen by the Small Business Administration, which has come under fire from Democrats in Congress. Without Stevens to fight to keep the distinction, it's questionable if it will continue.

He brings home millions of dollars a year for the military bases, Arctic research, fisheries, roads, bypass mail and virtually everything else one could imagine.

Alaska is still a young state. It's needs are great, and are greatly misunderstood by those Outside. Hundreds live in Third World-like conditions, with no running water or flushing toilets.

Now, Stevens holds no positions of power and has lost the respect of his peers, many of who are calling for him to resign. Even if Alaskans overlook the conviction, the Senate can throw him out.

Stevens' actions, and subsequent conviction, has put into greater question the outcome of a balance in Congress. He has given Democrats more ammunition to tip the scales toward the so-called "magic 60," the number that a party needs to kill a filibuster in the Senate.

The verdict may well push Alaskans to vote Democrat in the contentious House race, too. Rep. Don Young is under investigation, and indications are that the longtime congressman may lose to competitor Ethan Berkowitz.

It's no surprise Young would find himself under a cloud of suspicion. His erratic behavior over the years showed he was begging for a smack down. The "bridge to nowhere" money was merely his throwing down the gauntlet.

This is all in light of Alaska's elected members of the so-called "corrupt bastard's club," a half-dozen of who are either in jail or awaiting official indictment.

But Stevens is smarter than that, or so everyone thought. For $230,000, Stevens sold off his career, his reputation, his state and a piece of his nation.

The actions of Stevens, Young and the half-dozen other convicted state lawmakers have set the state back decades in the eyes of the nation. The state has lost its respect and its good standing. And for what?

Alaskans must send a message to our elected officials that if they don't toe the line in a manner that is morally and ethically sound, they don't keep their posts.


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