Larry Craig is a gift for late night comedians, and he's a gift for Democrats. While press attention is focused on every excruciating detail of the Craig saga -- even though it's clear his Senate career is over -- they ignore stories like this one:
Sen. Ted Stevens has quietly steered millions of federal dollars to a sportfishing industry group founded by Bob Penney, a longtime friend who helped the Alaska Republican profit from a lucrative land deal, according to public records and officials from the state.
Critics say those earmarked federal dollars could be the first example of how Stevens rewarded Penney for a land deal in Utah that reportedly earned the senator more than $125,000. Penney’s group, for its part, rewarded Stevens with several expensive gifts at the time it was receiving the earmarked dollars.
Stevens and his aides would not comment this week, but supporters of the earmarks strongly defend the nature of the funding and dispute accusations that the money was used to reward Penney’s group. Supporters say the funding is desperately needed to help preserve and protect the salmon population along the pristine and popular Kenai River...
Penney told the Anchorage Daily News in 2004 that he invited Stevens in on the Utah land deal in “appreciation for all he’s done for Alaska and the country.” Stevens invested $15,000 initially in 1998, but sold his share of the property for $150,000 in 2004, according to press reports and his financial disclosure records.
That occurred around the same time that Stevens, as a senior member on the powerful Appropriations Committee, helped the Kenai River Sportfishing Association through the federal treasury. The group, which was founded by Penney, who now sits on the board of directors, secured more than $4.5 million between fiscal 2004 and 2006 to conduct and oversee research efforts on salmon populations in the Kenai River and a major tributary.
One can't help but notice once again how much Senator Stevens has been hurt by his power to earmark. If Congress was prevented by rule from earmarking money -- or if there was a more elaborate system to shine light on every earmark and subject them to scrutiny and debate -- Stevens would not be answering charges of an appearance of impropriety.
But if there were no Larry Craig story, people might be paying more attention to reports like this one about Ted Stevens, and insisting that he explain his actions or step aside. As I've written before, the GOP will get beaten badly in 2008 if Members like Ted Stevens are seeking re-election while under ethical clouds.
Larry Craig's political career is over; the only question is whether he is a dead man, or a dead man walking. Can we move on to others whose questionable activities might actually affect the party's electoral prospects in 2008?