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Homeland Security Pays Dividends for Alaska

Posted on Oct 31, 2008
AP photo / Al Grillo

A crowd at a restaurant in Wasilla cheers during the September telecast of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepting the Republican nomination for vice president.

(Page 4)

That wasn’t the end of national security appropriations in Alaska. What began as a $100-million port overhaul in Anchorage before 9/11 has morphed into a $700-million expansion project presided over by a former governor, Bill Sheffield, who’s well connected to Young and Stevens. Port officials say that more than half of the project’s costs will be covered by federal funds, and at least $150 million has already been steered by Young and Stevens toward the project through defense, transportation and homeland security appropriations, according to the Daily News and the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, which tracks earmarks.

Environmentalists complain that the project’s large, new design could threaten beluga whale and salmon habitats in the area because it calls for 135 acres of wetlands to be filled in. Proponents, however, argue the port’s size is needed to better serve cruise ships and to stage the swift deployment of troops based in Alaska if needed.

“The port’s important, we recognize that,” said Bob Shavelson, executive director of the Anchorage environmental nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper. “But there’s no demonstrated need for an expansion this size. … They’ve wrapped this project in a shroud of homeland security to legitimize it when in fact the project can’t stand scrutiny.”

When 2,000 competitors gathered in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula for the Arctic Winter Games two years ago, organizers realized they were facing a large budget deficit. Stevens saved the day again with a $500,000 earmark folded into a defense-spending bill that his office said included a fund for ensuring security at international sporting events like the Olympics. The federal government had already spent $5.2 million to help build out the peninsula’s rural arctic infrastructure for the games and prepare its tiny regional airport for suddenly becoming a major point of entry by international travelers into the United States.


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Tim Dillon, general manager of the games, said the $500,000 was used for “all homeland-security-related things” and explained that event coordinators had to brace for potential landslides and activity from the nearby Augustine Volcano, which began steaming during the competition.

“No only did we do a background check on every single volunteer but we needed to make sure that everything was secure,” Dillon said. “You had 350 athletes being housed at Kenai High School—we had to make sure that there was no way an outsider could just go walking into that school and wind up in the sleeping quarters or bedroom or bathroom of the participants.”

The group Taxpayers for Common Sense nonetheless designated the earmark as pork, as did one member of Congress in particular: Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

“The cumulative effect of these earmarks is the erosion of the integrity of the appropriations process, and by extension, our responsibility to the taxpayer,” McCain said on the Senate floor in December of 2005 after listing each of the earmarks slipped into the bill by Stevens and other lawmakers.

Stevens has even found cash that allowed the U.S. Coast Guard to test pilotless Predator aircraft over Alaska’s vast, minimally active airspace.

As for Don Young, an aide to the Alaska representative pleaded guilty to charges made by federal prosecutors last year that he formed an illegal relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Prosecutors alleged that the aide, Mark Zachares, handed Abramoff privileged information about the 2002 creation of the Homeland Security Department, the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II. Zachares hoped to eventually win a high-level position at DHS, according to the charging papers, and special knowledge of its inner workings could have benefited Abramoff’s contractor clients.

Young remains under investigation today by the FBI for possible corruption, but it’s not clear where that probe might go, though documents have already surfaced publicly showing a relationship between Abramoff and Young. 

Anchorage resident Diane Benson launched two attempts as a Democrat to defeat Young in the last four years, arguing that Alaska should expand social services and reach out to military families and veterans with the same zeal it displays in obtaining military contracts and financing for homeland security projects. 

She surprised observers in 2006 race by coming relatively close, winning 40 percent of the vote after she pounded on Young’s associations with Abramoff clients. Benson lost a primary race this year but still managed to do the unthinkable for a former Green Party member—attract a sizable number of military votes. 

“The oil boom brought in an influx of people and from that emerged a new politics,” Benson, a former truck driver on the Alaska Pipeline, said of her home state. “This is what we’ve come to be—a state that is in some ways obsessed with money. The irony is you hear these strong individualistic notions in this state that we’re fiercely proud of, and at the same time we’re just sucking on the tit of the federal government.”

G.W. Schulz has examined criminal justice, media mergers and municipal public policy for newspapers in California, Kansas and Oklahoma. He covers homeland security at the Center for Investigative Reporting and lives in San Francisco.

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By hippy pam, November 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

And I sure hope their “STAR” candidate gets to return to LOSER…........

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By Clash, November 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

It is really good to know that we have sent so much money to Alaska from the home land security fund, while armed mexican sodiers cross the border in military vehicles with mounted machine guns protecting drug traffickers and doing who knows what in john mcains home stae of Arizona. So much for the war on drugs and home land security.Just another good joke from the people who brought you the fall of America.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment


President Sarah Palin

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By Outraged, October 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

Since it is Halloween, I thought I say something REALLY scary…..


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By davidperi, October 31, 2008 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Michael Moore on said later in his 1 hr interview with Amy that if that ain´t socialism what is…commenting on how every Alaskan received money from tax revenues.  The Republicans really have a twisted view on socialism.

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By LoisO, October 31, 2008 at 11:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I guess Palin doesn’t consider it Socialism if HER constituents benefit from this re-distribution of wealth.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 31, 2008 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

Cichawoda, October 31 at 7:52 am #

I live in a donor state (puts in more dollars into the Fed than it gets out) and I think the beggar states suck. I am also surprised that this is not more of an issue with donor state voters. Alaskans, most of the Bible belt states live off of the larges of the states they hate. It’s time to ask for our money back.

Ask??  Heck, DEMAND our money back! Since Bush was a big practitioner of the “spoils system” I think we should take it back—let EVERY state get as much back from the feds as it puts in. And if there’s less, divide the burden equally.  So, nobody in Alabama or Alaska should be seeing $1.80 to $2.00 for every dollar they are taxed, and we in NJ should get back $1 for every $1 we send, not $0.65!

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By Hulk2008, October 31, 2008 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Since this is Halloween, it’s ironic that I recently found an article describing a study about attitudes among liberals and conservatives.  Turns out that liberals tend to be less “afraid” overall - more trusting, sometimes almost to the point of being too trusting.  Conservatives go to the other extreme - fearing all things real and imagined even when unwarranted.  Just look at the “base” that shows up at the campaign rallies:  the liberal Dems all want their rallies to be love-ins while the Repubs use all kinds of divisive hate-filled diatribes.  To our dismay, the last 8 years (and maybe beyond) have been a crescendo of increasing division.  The neo-cons have been able to play out, at taxpayer expense and at the expense of our personal freedoms, the building of overwhelming offensive military capability.  They are pleased to be able to swat a gnat with a megaton warhead.  And they seem to never be satisfied with mere “overwhelming”  - they strive to go beyond. 
    Let’s hope the pendulum will begin to swing the other way ..... and with luck, will not swing past the middle.  Could be the only “silver lining” in the economic storm clouds.

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By ThisIsNotADrill, October 31, 2008 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The biggest reason that idiots have been installed in Alaska is because of HAARP.  Soon-to-be-former Sen. Stevens and Gov. Palin.  (How low can they go.)  Anyone with an inkling of IQ would cause problems for HAARP. Also other similar facilities around the world. So of course money is getting pumped into Alaska. It’s got the single biggest WMD on the planet.

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By Cichawoda, October 31, 2008 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

I live in a donor state (puts in more dollars into the Fed than it gets out) and I think the beggar states suck. I am also surprised that this is not more of an issue with donor state voters. Alaskans, most of the Bible belt states live off of the larges of the states they hate. It’s time to ask for our money back.

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By Rodger lemonde, October 31, 2008 at 8:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You betcha! wink wink

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By Groovesmoothly, October 31, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

I’m pretty sure that is a small necessity to have a HAZ-MAT team/truck when you are the meth capital of the great white tundra. Several years ago in Dallas a neighbor got busted growing some weed. The DEA thought it was a meth lab they were busting and they had a full HAZ-MAT team brought in from Oklahoma in case it blew-up. In the end the only thing that blew-up was their case due to faulty warrants and the Feds bailing when they only found 8 plants in a closet.

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By Big Wes, October 31, 2008 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

In the beginning of the DHS grant process, the State Homeland Security Grant program allocated money to each state based upon a formula.  This money was administered by the states and passed along to local jurisdiction through various methods (formula or competitive grants).  There are also a number of “competitive” grant programs sponsored by DHS and FEMA.  I think these are where the rural states had an “unfair” advantage against their urban counterparts.

I’m a grant writer in a rural state and I’ve worked with many of the DHS-funded grant programs.  I see these programs as a way of “compensating” for years of underfunding of public safety agencies in rural areas.  Emergency services were never really a priority until 9/11 and then the federal and state governments realized most communities were woefully equipped and prepared.  Suddenly, these DHS grants open up and small communities in the middle of nowhere are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment because they were pitifully equipped and had no real means of remedying this disparity with local funds.  The communities I work with made wise investments in things like Enhanced 911, but the way the guidelines were written and the money was being distributed, there was a huge potential for money to be thrown awayon crap projects.

Of course politics plays a huge role in the process as well.  Politics influenced the writing of the guidelines that governed the distribution of funds.  If a rural state had influential federal representatives, it would get Homeland Security dollars.  As an insider into the process, I can say that in the area where I work, the money was used to make enhancements to public safety that most communities needed, but could not afford.  In 2006, the county where I live lacked enhanced 911, so if you called 911 and could not speak to dispatcher, you were screwed.  I feel safer know that if I dial 911, the dispatchers now have access to premises information via a computer display.  I think projects like this are worthy of the investments. Whether Podunkville needs four wheelers and mobile command centers with every bell and whistle is debatable.

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By Purple Girl, October 31, 2008 at 5:54 am Link to this comment

Reason this admin colluded with the Georgian Pres to spark a conflict? Why McCain has their Lobbyist on staff as a ‘campaign’ advisor?
Reason the Picked this obscure no name as VP who already has delusions of granduer?
Of course how many of US actually Knew who Cheney was until he slitered out from under his shadowy rock. I’d never noticed him, and I have been accutely aware of a trend towards WW3 since Reagan.
No wonder they are claiming ‘Foreign Policy’ experience they have been gearing her stae up for a launch for the Next big War.
No wonder she ‘KNOWS’ we are no on the count Down to Armegeddon, she’s been intrical in it’s build up.
I often say I am an atheist, one for convenience not to have to explain my philosophy, but also to make it clear I do NOT beleive in their dogma they equate to their ‘God’. But in a weird way I am almost wishful their so called ‘Judgement day’ is at hand, but Not by Their ‘God’. I relish the idea that it is What will deem them Unworthy and Damned. Or at least I know I will not be getting on the same ‘bus’ as them thus I will not have to spend eternity with them- a bonus even if I were Hell bound.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 31, 2008 at 4:24 am Link to this comment

More and more, I’m believing that if legislation is going to be passed to make it possible for municipalities and individuals to dip into the Federal treasury and people don’t take advantage of it, they have little justification in complaining about banks dipping into the Fed. treasury (our money) for a trillion buck lollipop or the DOD doing the same. 

That’s why I fully support earmarks and pork.  As long as it’s there, and our gov. wants to be altruistic, take advantage.  If you don’t like it that this state or that city got a 1/2 million for one project or another, call your rep and ask him/her “when the hell are you going to get us something?”  This is America, for god’s sake.  Or, if you’re a moral-type person, call him/her and give ‘em hell for being so free with your hard-earned tax money.  And then, grovel.

S.P. can help assure her re-election as Alaska Gov. by promising that it’s her goal to not only get more federal pork for Alaska, but to bring home the whole damn pig. 

Like the guy said, if we don’t take it, someone else will.  Spread the Wealth.  Yea, socialism.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 31, 2008 at 4:17 am Link to this comment

Red states love to talk about cutting out government programs but they are the first in line for EVERYTHING they can get.

Most red states are being subsidized by us blue staters: For every dollar we send the Feds in NJ, they spend about 65 cents in NJ.  For every dollar Alaska sends the Feds, THEY get $1.82.  In red state after red state this is true.

They are happy to be rugged independents and spit at coastal liberals as “lib’rals” and “socialists” but they’d be Third World without us!

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