The latest charges, against state Sen. John Cowderly, are as hilarious as all the rest. According to the indictment, Cowderly arranged for $25,000 worth of campaign donations from VECO — an oil and gas pipeline company — to be delivered to a mildly recalcitrant colleague; the recipient of the money (which was apparently never actually secured) was then supposed to vote in favor of an oil tax bill that VECO favored. Cowderly allegedly facilitated the bribery during a breakfast meeting at a popular diner in Anchorage; FBI agents were eating in the adjacent booth and recorded everything. Later, they recorded telephone conversations in which Rick Smith — one of several VECO executives who later pled guilty to extortion, bribery and fraud — recommended that the target of the bribe be told that it was “come to Jesus time.” Brilliant.
Other fun trivia from the Alaska corruption probe: Jim Clark, former chief of staff to our loathsome ex-Gov. Frank Murkowski, used some of his bribe money to run a poll to discover whether his boss was actually as widely despised as everyone seemed to believe at the time. Murkowski, of course, finished third in his own party primary two years ago. I’ve often thought Clark should be charged with additional crimes simply for pushing his bribe money down a rat hole like that.
…Correction/clarification: This original post was incorrect to suggest that Jim Clark received money personally; Clark has admitted to spending VECO money in violation of Alaska campaign law, but I was wrong to write that any of the money was “his” to spend….