Kings lure senators, industrialists
The Associated Press
KENAI--Missouri Sen. Kit Bond had just spent six cold, rainy hours in an open boat. As the first day of this year's Kenai River Classic king salmon tournament came to a close, the Missouri Republican had no fish.
"I didn't wear enough clothes," Bond, 64, muttered on the riverbank Tuesday, hunched in a yellow nylon jacket and damp jeans. He walked as though his recently replaced hip pained him, and he wondered how his wife, who was fishing the river in a separate boat, had fared.
"This is precisely the kind of day I promised her we wouldn't have," Bond told the Anchorage Daily News.
But the senator was back on the glacial blue river by 6 the next morning, casting for kings in another cold rain. So were fellow Republican Sens. Wayne Allard of Colorado, Conrad Burns of Montana and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Coleman claimed catching a big king the day before banished the chill.
"The glory of the moment creates a warm halo," he said.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., looked grim as he peered out from the hood of his red rain jacket and waited for his boat to launch. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wore a puffy coat and blue rain pants.
Seven senators and U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans were among the dignitaries who attended the two-day tournament this week.
The Kenai Classic, now in its 10th year, is about baiting and setting of all kinds of hooks. The VIPs were essentially the live bait for about 75 captains of industry, defense contractors, lobbyists and other players willing to pay $6,000 per couple for the privilege of fishing and mingling with the power elite at the invitation-only event. VIPs fish free.
The biggest lure for many participants is the tournament's host, Alaska's Ted Stevens, the Senate's most senior Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Stevens also heads the subcommittee that writes the military spending bills, so he's especially important to the defense industry.
"Frankly, he's the reason I think all of us are here," said Ralph Crosby, chairman of EADS North America, one of about a dozen defense contractors that underwrote parts of the tournament. "Everybody loves Senator Stevens and (loves) doing anything to support him."
Corporate names and logos were everywhere--Raytheon, United Defense, Honeywell, General Electric, Yamaha, Boeing. There was the Lockheed Martin auction during the AT&T Alascom Banquet. A platoon of volunteers wore jackets with Textron--the parent company of Cessna and Bell Helicopter--stitched on the sleeve.
Signs informed the visitors that Marathon Oil paid for their fishing licenses. The flightseeing tours were gratis, courtesy of the state's biggest Native corporations.
The tournament is expected to gross about $1 million to pay for riverbank restoration and other projects to preserve the health of the salmon runs on the famous river. Corporate sponsors will contribute about $400,000 of that, said Brett Huber, director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which puts on the classic as a fund-raiser.
Crosby said EADS, the parent company of Europe's Airbus and one of the largest aerospace firms in the world, is hoping to sell the Pentagon a laser-based system that will help helicopters avoid power lines. If it does, the company is thinking of having the systems manufactured in Kenai, he said, because the area has a good work force and the state is hungry for industry.
And, he acknowledged, bringing jobs to Alaska would probably please Ted Stevens.
"That benefit is not lost on us," Crosby said.
At the end of the second day, Sen. Bond stepped out of his boat, wearing a suit of heavy-duty orange rain gear and a grin.
He had reeled in two big kings plus four shorter ones.
"Much better today," he said.
All roads lead to New Haven, Duder be de MAN!