News & Election Videos

August 07, 2008

Sununu's Real-Life Fishing Expedition

In 2006, a number of Republican members of Congress lost their seats because of associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. This year's version of Abramoff may be Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and his close relationships to a few fellow senators is causing fits, none more so than for New Hampshire's John Sununu.

While many senators have donated contributions from Stevens to charity, Sununu was already having trouble with a 2004 fishing trip he took to Alaska with the state's senior senator. The trip to the Kenai River Classic was paid for by a joint campaign account including Stevens' and Senator Lisa Murkowski's campaigns and Stevens' leadership PAC. Also at the event was VECO Corp. president Bill Allen, whose company is at the center of the controversy surrounding Stevens and who was convicted in the probe.

Now, New Hampshire Union Leader columnist John DiStaso writes today, Sununu is facing questions about a second trip to the same fishing tournament he took in 2006, paid for by Stevens' campaign committee.

Sununu wasn't the only senator who hit the events -- five others made the trip in 2004 -- but he's the only one facing a tough re-election fight this year. (Update: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman went too, a fact opponent Al Franken has pointed out in a radio advertisement.) His opponent, former Governor Jeanne Shaheen, has hammered Sununu for his ties to Stevens, and while Stevens has refunded contributions from the Alaskan's various campaign and PAC accounts, Shaheen's campaign now wants the full costs of both trips reimbursed.

Already, most Republicans running for re-election this year have given thousands in Stevens- and VECO-linked donations to charity. Senators Elizabeth Dole, Gordon Smith, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts have joined Sununu in contributing a total of about $75,000 to charity.

Stevens isn't a lobbyist with a penchant for black trench coats and fedoras, but he is the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate and any voter can understand the seven felony counts he faces. Abramoff was a symbol for all that was wrong with Washington in 2006, and if Shaheen is lucky, her campaign can help make Stevens that symbol this year.