In the last 24 hours, I’ve talked to several sources and had several wild, speculative conversations about who might be the subject of a rumored FBI investigation into an apparent pay-for-play scheme involving an unnamed state senator or perhaps senators.
If you’re not up on the rumor, check out the Alaska Landmine’s write up, but the basics are that “the scheme seems to involve promises of campaign contributions in exchange for votes on the amount of the Permanent Fund Dividend, and potentially other issues.”
It’s a juicy rumor and a corruption scandal would be the cherry on top of a wild, miserable and wildly miserable year. But like all things 2020, it’s shaping up to be more disappointing than wild.
Before I get too much further, I should preface this with no one outside the FBI investigators and the senators interviewed them really know what’s going on. We can connect a lot of dots but it’s all speculation—albeit fun speculation—and potentially damaging speculation—albeit fun potentially damaging speculation.
(Also, we really don’t want to finish off the year fending off libel claims. Unless, of course, you can skirt libel laws by just saying made-up names that rhyme with real people’s names. We’ll have to check and get back to you.)
This is typically the sort of in-the-ether gossip that I’d reserve for the weekly column but, hey, Anchorage is back to the hunker down and I don’t have a “Party Like It’s New Year’s Eve” hangover to nurse so it’s not like I have anything better to do at the moment.
Here’s what I’ve heard: There is substance to the rumors that the FBI has interviewed several Republican senators as part of its investigation but the topic of that investigation seems like it is less exciting than some senator trading his or her votes for… what… a couple max-limit donations to their campaign?
(Or perhaps it was some kind of promise for independent expenditure backing?)
At least for now, the going rumor is that the FBI caught wind of some out-of-context hyperventilating over the binding caucus, the long-running practice of legislators binding together to form majorities and pass budgets, and “Sold legislators.” That’d probably put the FBI efforts more into the realm of due diligence unlikely to result in VECO-style busts.
Others say that’s not the case and that perhaps promises were made to settle the size of the PFD.
It’s possible that we’re all seeing the same stuff from different perspectives. Specifically, different perspectives on whether the binding caucus bruhaha is warranted or not.
So, what do we know?
That there’s an investigation of some kind and no one—other than those involved—really knows what’s going on. There are some informed guesses to be made and plenty of wild speculation to fill what will otherwise be a largely quiet few weeks in Alaska politics.
The reality is that if there is any substance to the rumors, it will take considerable time for the FBI to conduct its investigation.
On a more practical level, it all comes at a time when the Senate Republicans have yet to agree on a majority organization. Despite their solid majority, Republicans are far from united with the issue of the binding caucus and the size of the PFD drawing the dividing lines.
The emergence of this rumor isn’t likely to speed that process up any, particularly as senators chafe that it ever made the light of day in the first place. One Republican senator went so far as to tell Landfield, “We are going to find the motherfucker who is talking to you.”
So, who, you might ask, is most likely to be involved in a pay-for-play scheme?
Depends on the scheme.
(Also, to be honest, whatever list of legislators most likely to participate in a pay-to-play scheme I would generate would probably look quite a bit like your list of legislators. The list was in your heart all along.)