Thursday, February 22, 2007

Alaska Congressman Don Young Set To Endorse Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee For President

Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins reports today that Rep. Don Young (pictured at left courtesy of his official website) is endorsing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for President, according to a member of Young's Congressional staff. Because neither Young's staff nor the Huckabee campaign has officially released the information yet, Hopkins has merely posted this story on his Alaska Politics blog, operated under the official auspices of the ADN, rather than on the front page.

Huckabee hasn't formally announced he's running, but has formed an "exploratory committee." As for the endorsement, “We have a release, we haven’t put it out yet," said Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for the committee.

According to an April 18th, 2005 Associated Press story, Young and Huckabee have gone duck hunting together in the past, and a chunk of Young's campaign donations that year came from Arkansas. Here's a snippet from AP reporter James Jefferson's story:

With hopes for better highways, contributors in traditionally Democratic southeastern Arkansas topped the list of givers to a key Republican's congressional campaign during the first quarter of the year, campaign finance records showed Monday.

Arkansans gave $113,826 to U.S. Rep. Don Young's campaign, about one third of the $391,204 the Alaska congressman raised through March and nearly five times the $24,350 in contributions Young received from his home state ...

According to Wikipedia, Mike Huckabee (pictured at left courtesy of served as governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007, giving him the third longest tenure of any governor in the state's history. According to the MikeHuckabeePresident2008 blog, which has NO official connection with the Huckabee campaign, Huckabee is socially and fiscally conservative, is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and supports the "castle doctrine". However, his administration was not without controversy. His use of official state aircraft as well as "donated" private aircraft earned him critical media scrutiny during his last administration. Here's a typical account posted on the Arkansas Times website in June 2006 (the fourth largest newspaper in the state), a "hippie" newspaper after the manner of the Anchorage Press.

The Cessna Citation SII jet, which lost one of its two engines during the flight, and made an emergency landing in Chattanooga, is owned by Southeastern Asset Management, a corporation registered in New Hampshire whose manager of record is Ted Suhl. Suhl is director of the Lord’s Ranch. Suhl and others connected to the youth home have given thousands of dollars to past Huckabee campaigns; about six years ago, it got its first contract with the state Department of Health and Human Services to provide services to troubled young people. In 2000, the contract was for $140,460 for psychological services; currently, the Lord’s Ranch gets payments for services through Medicaid — about $8.5 million in fiscal 2006, according to DHHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell. State tax revenues provide about 25 percent of Medicaid’s budget in Arkansas.

Suhl did not return a phone call, and an e-mail to Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart requesting information about the trip — including whether Huckabee or one of his political action committees would reimburse Suhl for the cost of the flights — has not been answered. An Internet search of the cost of chartering a Citation SII turned up rates between $1,550 and $1,900 an hour.

Huckabee’s visit was a personal trip outside his official duties as governor. It attracted media attention because of the emergency landing, but Huckabee’s office refused to say who provided the plane. A report on the emergency landing filed at the Chattanooga airport included the name of the company as well as an address and phone number in Warm Springs. Calls to the phone number were not answered.

Under state ethics rules, unless Huckabee reimburses the plane’s owner for the trip, it is considered a gift because the travel was not for official business. And elected officials are prohibited from accepting gifts valued at over $100 unless the official has a relationship with the giver outside his capacity as a public servant and the gift is not a reward for the official doing his job. The fact that the Lord’s Ranch’s relationship with the state has blossomed since Huckabee took office 10 years ago makes it questionable whether Suhl could claim he wasn’t rewarding Huckabee. Even if use of the plane could be claimed as a permissible gift to Huckabee, the governor would have to report it on his annual financial disclosure statement, but that isn’t due until the first of next year (2007).

However, what is more troubling is his refusal to explain his conduct to the media. While an elected official is never accountable to the media, such a person is accountable to the people, and the media, despite its weaknesses and imperfections, is the interface between those who govern and those who are governed. Even if Huckabee's use of aircraft was legal, the uncertain ethics warranted an explanation. However, his suitability for the Presidency should not be judged by this one single issue alone.

While a social conservative, Huckabee is equivocal about comprehensive immigration reform. Even though he favors strong defensive measures like the "Wall" and more rigorously border patrolling, he favors allowing some illegals to buy their way to citizenship (by paying a fine). I call that "amnesty".

Mike Huckabee's candidacy is still in the incubation stage. The National Journal's race rankings, updated weekly and previously discussed HERE, show him number 5 in a field of 12, now expanded to include Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. The National Journal questions his ability to raise sufficient funds to wage a credible campaign. The "Big Three" of John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney have dominated the National Journal's ratings.

And Congressman Young himself has had a recent brush with controversy. In his recent House floor speech, Young's comment, "Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged" generated a flare-up of outrage, particularly on the left as expressed on the ThinkProgress blog, although Congressman Young later asserted that has we speaking metaphorically regarding the "penalties". The Alaska media reacted more phlegmatically, with both the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner more critical of his false attribution of the quote to Lincoln rather than the substance of the quote itself. We Alaskans are more accustomed to and more forgiving of Don Young's occasional hyperbolic eruptions.

We Alaskans should consider ourselves fortunate that Don Young chose to go hunting with Mike Huckabee instead of Dick Cheney.

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1 comment:

  1. Considering that Arkansas is home to 15% of Rep Young's contributors, this is no surprise.

    Arkansas ranks second behind Alaska as a source of political campaign funds for Young. Pine Bluff, AR in particular ranks fourth on the list of major metropolitan areas providing financial support to Young behind
    (1) Anchorage,
    (2) Seattle, and
    (3) Greater Washington D.C.

    The number one ZIP code that produces political funds for Alaska's only Member of the House of Representatives is 71603 (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)... Perhaps it's simply the confusion over which state owns the abbreviation "AK" -- Alaska? or Arkansas?

    The top five income yielding ZIP codes for Rep Young are:
    (1) 71603 Pine Bluff, AR
    (2) 99516 Anchorage, AK
    (3) 99517 Anchorage, AK
    (4) 71611 Pine Bluff, AR
    (5) 99508 Anchorage, AK

    In fact, four of the top ten ZIPS are in Arkansas and the other six are in the Anchorage Alaska area.

    The McGeorge family owners of Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel are among Young's top ten donors.

    The McGeorge's of Arkansas join the Ilitch's of Detroit, Michigan; and the Troha's of Kenosha, Wisconsin --two other family's that collectively have given their support to Young and rank among Rep Don Young's top ten donors overall.

    It's probably no coincidence that the McGeorge Family owns Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel and Rep Young serves on the House Transportation and Natural Resources Committees.