The Alaska bribery scandal makes the front page of the Washington Post today in a story that includes several colorful excerpts from the secret taping of VECO Chairman Bill Allen's conversations with Alaska legislators -- like this, uh, candid admission from convicted Rep. Pete Kott about working against a bill opposed by oil interests: "I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie. [...] Exxon's happy. BP's happy. I'll sell my soul to the devil."
Alaska hasn't been known in the past for particularly clean politics, but there's nothing like a hidden camera to liven up your run-of-the-mill bribery investigation:
You got any hundreds?" [Bill] Allen asks an associate before passing a wad to then-Rep. Vic Kohring, convicted early this month of bribery and extortion.
"I appreciate that, Bill. Thank you so much," Kohring says warmly. "What can I do at this point to help you guys? Anything? Just keep lobbying my colleagues for the governor's plan?"
The footage unspools like a Thomas Nast cartoon come to life, the grainy images punctuated by Allen's bray, the pop and squeak of a cork leaving a wine bottle and the sycophantic chortles of lawmakers vying for Veco's favor.
As the investigation rolls on with the extensive cooperation of Bill Allen, the man who kept hundred dollar bills in his pockets for quick bribing, we'll learn even more about how many legislators were on the take, and whether Alaska Rep. Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens will be on the hook as well.
In any event, the alluded-to "soul-searching" of Alaskans as to the character of their legislature means opportunities to consider proposals, like the Clean Elections initiative, that will give people in the state elected officials they won't be ashamed of.