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Stevens’ ‘El Capitan’ Fundraiser Set for This Weekend

Select Crowd, Great Fishing

Undeterred in the face of a federal corruption probe, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is hosting a small klatch of top lobbyists and others this weekend for a fishing and fundraising trip to his home state.

The getaway, billed as the “Ted Stevens El Capitan Fishing Event,” combines “three days of some of the best salt water fishing you will ever have,” according to the invite, with a fundraising reception expected to net at least $2,300 per person for the Senator’s re-election campaign.

The event is going ahead as Stevens weathers a federal investigation into whether he used an earmark to help an Alaska marine center buy land from Trevor McCabe, a one-time aide-turned-lobbyist in business with his son. Grand juries in Washington, D.C., and Alaska are also investigating his connection to VECO Corp., an energy services company at the center of a widening corruption scandal in the state.

Tim McKeever, treasurer of Stevens’ re-election campaign, said the upcoming event is just one of a number the Senator has scheduled in Alaska this month. He pointed to the warm welcome Stevens got from constituents this week as evidence that he “still enjoys a great deal of support from his friends at home.”

The fishing event kicks off Sunday at the El Capitan Lodge on Prince of Wales Island in the southeastern part of the state. Lobbyists making the trip have to fly to either Seattle or Anchorage, and then take a boat or float plane to the remote island.

But the fishing apparently justifies the travel. “Boats usually limit out on Silver Salmon, King Salmon and Halibut each day,” according to the invite. “Guests usually leave with 50 lbs of frozen fish. Relaxing stay at a luxurious Alaska fishing lodge. Gourmet meals specially prepared. Full bar available.”

Attendees are ponying up $2,500 each to cover the cost of the three-day stay at the lodge, including meals, fishing equipment, boats and guides, the invite says. On Tuesday night, guests are invited to a fundraiser for Stevens in the lodge’s King Fisher Lounge, which, according to the lodge’s Web site, is equipped with a pool table, big screen satellite television and Bose stereo system. The suggested donation from individuals is $2,300, and $5,000 for federal political action committees.

While Stevens has held fundraising events at the lodge in previous years, they have benefited a nonprofit entity. McKeever said this is the first year the trip has been staged as a political fundraiser.

“We do not expect a large crowd given the location,” McKeever said — the lodge considers 20 people to be a “full house,” the Web site says — “but I expect well over half those attending will be from Alaska. And in the last week a number of people have contacted the campaign and asked that they be added to the list of attendees.”

Stevens’ fundraising has remained strong this year as he transitioned from chairman of the Appropriations Committee to ranking member on the Commerce, Science and Transportation panel. In the first half of the year, he raised $858,205 for his re-election committee and $186,867 for his leadership PAC — a 67 percent jump from his take over the same period in the last election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records.

But his political future remains cloudy. Facing re-election in 2008, the Senator has seen his home-state approval ratings nose dive in recent weeks. An early July poll found 44 percent of Alaskans hold an unfavorable view of Stevens. That survey, which had a 3.6 point margin of error, was taken before federal agents raided Stevens’ home on July 30.

National and state Democrats are trying to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) to challenge Stevens, and Begich has said he is mulling a run.

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