Despite his indictment and earlier suspicions he was on the take, Alaska’s Ted Stevens, often called Washington’s third U.S. Senator, still has a nearly $3 million fundraising lead over his likely Democratic challenger in November, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. The Boeing Co. has been Stevens’ top campaign donor in this and the last several elections. In the 2003-2008 campaign cycle, the Lazy B, at $48,000, is just ahead of Stevens’ second-largest donor, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. ($46,600). Not far down the list is Seattle’s Trident Seafoods at $17,500.
In the current campaign, Seattle-based interests are second only to Anchorage donors ($99,150 to $337,831) among contributors to the long-tenured Republican senator, according to OpenSecrets.org. The biggest single chunk of Seattle’s money comes from the 98117 zip code—Greater Ballard—home to Trident and other seafood interests. Since the days of Warren Magnuson, Stevens has regularly worked with Washington senators to pass legislation benefiting the state’s fishing and aerospace industries in particular.
So far this election cycle, Microsoft has given Stevens $2,000 and the law firm K&L Gates (formerly Preston Gates Ellis) $3,500. Among other corporate and individual donors locally, Ward’s Cove Packing has contributed $3,000, Glacier Fish $4,000, and Alaska Structures $5,100. Former Senate candidate Mike McGavick has given $2,300, while telecom heir Bruce McCaw has donated $1,000.
But polls so far show they’re backing a loser. Begich, despite his fundraising lag, had the edge in polls even before last week’s federal indictment of Stevens for illegally concealing more than $250,000 in gifts and “chalet” remodeling services from VECO Corp., a once-powerful oil-contracting firm whose top two execs have pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers. As Alaska immigration lawyer Keith W. Bell told The New York Times last week: “This has just been a Republican world up here. They’ve had it their way with no counterbalances, so there was nothing to stop the corruption. Now they’ve been caught, and I’m so glad.”