Alaska's IBEW Local 1547 commissioned the usually reliable Hayes Research Group to do a poll covering the period August 6 and August 7, of 400 likely Alaska voters. The results are surprising some:
Obama --- 45%
McCain --- 40%
Nader --- 2%
Other --- 2%
Undecided --- 10%
The Obama campaign offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Palmer and Juneau are entirely unprecedented. The Alaska Democratic Party even offered, a couple of weeks ago, to help John McCain's campaign find an Alaska office - they have none - but they haven't answered the queries. Even more startlingly, yesterday, the Republican Mayor of Fairbanks endorsed Barack Obama.
This is good news to the thousands of Alaskans who have been volunteering in the unprecedented efforts to mobilize our perennially GOP state to go Democrat in a presidential election for the first time since 1964.
As it now stands, our oh so senior Senator, Ted Stevens, will be standing trial in Washington DC, in late September, in a trial that may go over two weeks. He's expected to win the August 26 GOP primary, against two wan foes. At a rally last week in Anchorage, for the dodgy codger, Republican parents brought in dozens of little kids to hear Sen. Toobz state "I'm innocent!" I wrote an essay at my place about what it must be like for these kids' parents to explain Ted to the young ones.
Alaska reporters are praying that Sen. Stevens' request for a venue change in his trial from Washington DC to Anchorage will go through. Most reporters I've spoken with here are sure that Ted would at least get a hung jury on just about any charge in front of an Alaska jury.
A prominent developer in the privatized corrections industry has been ensnared in the ongoing GOP corruption stings by the Feds here. Bill Weimer, a 1970s Democratic Party organizer, who went over to the dark side with several of Alaska's most prominent DINO Democrats in the late 1980s, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and of committing honest services mail and wire fraud, as well as a charge of "structuring financial transactions." The charges against Weimar were bit of a surprise to most. He wasn't on any of the lists of any of my reporter friends. It didn't surprise me, though. I worked for Weimar for seven years, back when he was getting his start, and starting to turn away from "the force." I wrote about it monday morning.
More arrests are expected this week, perhaps several before election day. Although Weimar was a respected, activist Democrat over 20 years ago, since about 1994, he donated almost entirely to Republicans. There were a few exceptions, but it will be hard to pin this sole person swept up so far, as a "Democrat" in any GOP attack mailings before the elections.
In the Alaska at-large U.S. House race, a candidate forum was held today in Fairbanks, by the Chamber of Commerce. It featured the GOP threesome of state representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, and Rep. Don Young on one side; and civil rights and veterans activist Diane Benson and former state legislator Ethan Berkowitz on the Democratic Party side.
Both the GOP and Democratic Party races for this seat, occupied since the early 1970s by Young, are in flux. Recent polls show Young and Parnell quite close, and Berkowitz leading Benson by over 10 points.
With Bill Weimar's plea yesterday, though, more questions about Ethan Berkowitz's large-scale backing from neo-cons, lobbyists and Weimar himself may emerge before the August 26 primary.
Benson has created far larger donor base - over 4,200 individuals - than has Berkowitz, who has refused to release a number. Benson has refused donations from active lobbyists. But Berkowitz is raking in big donations. Rahm Emanuel's PAC is giving him more money than it has ever dispensed to a non-incumbent candidate running against another credible Democrat in a state primary. The DCCC's "Red to Blue" PAC is backing Berkowitz against Benson, and Steny Hoyer is planning a fundraiser for Berkowitz in the Seattle area on August 18.
Benson has garnered recent support from the 21st Century Democrats, the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Political Caucus (and their Alaska chapter), many Veterans groups, former Sen. Max Cleland, and several tribes. Benson is Tlingit. The Nation's editor and publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, wrote an in-depth portrait of Diane Benson last week.
Berkowitz's funding ties to the recently convicted Bill Weimer, to ex-VECO chief Bill Allen, and to numerous lobbyists and war profiteers (the top two executives of the Carlyle Group (!!!) gave personally to the Berkowitz campaign) don't seem to faze too many old school Democrats in this, the ultimate low information voter state. Here's more information on some of his recent lobbyist donors:
The Anchorage Daily News wrote a report on the 15 highest paid lobbyists in the state of Alaska in 2006. Ethan has received money from a 3rd of them between his 2006 and 2008 campaigns (2008 and 2006)
Berkowitz receives money from many of the same Lobbyists who have given money to Ted Stevens and Don Young. (2008 and 2006)
Berkowitz has received money from the president of a lobbyist group whose website claims they "have experience persuading Congressman to make their clients needs priority." (2008)
Berkowitz has received money from lawyers who work at the law firm which represented Exxon during the Exxon Valdez spill. ( Multiple Patton Boggs lawyers in 2008)
Berkowitz has been given money by lobbyists who represent Big Tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. ( Frank Bickford, Robert Evans, in 2006. Though one lobbyist Kim Hutchinson that currently gives money to Berkowitz worked for Reynolds in 1994 and 2004. Possibly in between)
Berkowitz has been given money by lobbyists who represent Wal-Mart (Frank Bickford 2006)
On the other hand, Berkowitz, for his part, has sought to assure me that he will be totally uninfluenced by any of these contributors once he takes his oath of office.
disclaimer - the author of this diary has supported and donated to the Diane Benson campaign since 2006, and has donated to the 2008 Ethan Berkowitz campaign.