Friday, July 27, 2007

Lisa Returns Property

The ADN headline today is "Murkowski returns disputed land." At least Lisa M. recognizes that some people could see this as a conflict. But apparently she still doesn't completely get it.

Murkowski said it was a heart-wrenching decision because she, her husband and their two sons -- all avid fishermen -- have long sought a place on the Kenai River.

And how is it that Bob Penney made the offer to her and not to me? Is it possible that one factor is that I'm not a US Senator who'd make a nice, useful neighbor? It's the same reason Tom Anderson got all those jobs where he didn't have to do too much.

Selling back the land was a good step. But it doesn't absolve her of any wrong doing. After all, if I rob a bank, and then when the cops appear to be closing in on me, I get remorseful and return the money, they aren't likely to dismiss the charges. It may affect the sentencing though.

On the other hand, I must say in Lisa's and other politicians' defense, people can get pretty ugly venting their anger. I'm sure much of the worst invective comes from people transferring their own self loathing. After all, if the ADN report is accurate, Lisa got bad advice from the Ethics Committee staff.

"Senate ethics says that if the properties are used for personal use, you don't disclose it," she said. She said she disclosed the mortgage for the property but not the transfer, based on advice from Ethics Committee staff.

Murkowski dismissed criticism that she used a Ketchikan bank with close family ties -- she once sat on the board, and her sister is a current shareholder and director. She and her husband received a two-year balloon mortgage known as an "equity lot loan" that can be rolled into a construction loan to build on raw property.

I think we all go to friends we know 'in the business' who we trust and think will give us a good deal. In the case of the bank, I suspect she would have gotten a special deal just because of her family connections to the bank, even if she weren't a prominent politician. Yet this form of 'privilege' where you get deals that aren't available to the average person, is the kind of thing that blinds the privileged to the realities of life of the rest of us who don't have that sort of connection. While I think it is relevant to investigate, I think the personal invective reflects more on those invecting than on Murkowski.

One danger is that people like Cheney and Bush who stonewall every step of the way, who attempt to destroy those who oppose them (ie outing Plame) get off through their bluffing, whereas people who step forward and try to make things right get punished. Though there is nothing in the ADN article that suggests Murkowski thinks she did anything improper. The only thing she seems to be concerned about is the public trust (translation: her electability).

"While Verne and I intended to make this our family home and we paid a fair price for this land, no property is worth compromising the trust of the Alaska people," Murkowski said in a written statement.

And she does fall into blaming her accusers:

"There are those who will do anything to bring down the strength of the Alaska delegation. I think that is a reality. I think what I do is to get up every morning and do the best job I can representing Alaskans. That's what I was elected to do."

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