Alaska is one of those extractive industry states I've been writing about. It's very similar to Montana in terms of its libertarian populism and resource-based economy. In 2006, Montana had a corrupt Republican Senator who brought home the bacon up for reelection - Conrad Burns - and in 2008, Alaska has a corrupt Senator Ted Stevens and a corrupt Congressman Don Young up who bring home the bacon up for reelection. While normally pork is quite important for these states, corruption has just gone over the top in Alaska (as Jonathan Singer astutely noted way back in December, 2006).
About 75 protesters, crying "Oink! Oink!" and "FBI! FBI!" gave Young, Alaska's two senators and their supporters a shockingly poor reception at last week's fundraiser. When Young held a public picnic on Monday, the protesters were back, wearing swine masks and waving angry signs...
Formerly a senior GOP aide in the Alaska legislature, Burke was in the thick of the rowdy hog-roast picket, whose turnout stunned even protest organizers. The bipartisan crowd, as Burke described it, amounted to "John Kerry and Newt Gingrich holding hands [to express] that corruption is wrong and change might happen."
Young is running against Democrat Jake Metcalfe, who I interviewed earlier this year (he's a really sweet man, and you can see a minute long clip here). Stevens is vulnerable, not just to a Democrat but to a primary challenge.
Polls released this week suggested that Democrats may have a leg up. The Hays Research Group in Anchorage found Stevens with a 44 percent positive rating in the state and showed Republican Gov. Sarah Palin trouncing Stevens by 23 percentage points in a hypothetical Senate primary next year.
Some amount of corruption is tolerable in Alaska, since oil is the lifeblood of the state and everyone knows oil, like coal, is dirty. But it seems like a line has been crossed, the same line Conrad Burns crossed last year.