Jack Ferguson was interviewed on June 9, 2009 by Charles Fedullo and Paul McCarthy in his office in Washington, D.C. In this interview, Jack Ferguson talks about working for Senator Stevens and his job responsibilities, which included working on issues, helping the senator whip up votes, and entertaining other senators. He also talks about Stevens’ effort to be elected as Majority Leader, the airplane crash that killed his wife, Ann, and his relationship with then Senator Mike Gravel. Finally, Jack discusses what it means to be a lobbyist.
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Working for Congressman Don Young and meeting Senator Stevens
Going to work for Senator Stevens
Duties as a staff member in the Leadership Office
Becoming a lobbyist
Exciting times on the Senate floor - Abourezk-Metzenbaum filibuster
Entertaining senators in Stevens' office
Passing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline legislation
Fun parts of the job - security clearance, caucus lunch
Coordinating with Senate and House leadership
Joining Senator Stevens in meetings
Interacting with Senator John Hightower
Meeting Elizabeth Taylor
Senator Stevens' relationships with other senators
Senator Stevens as Minority Whip
Senator Stevens' loss to Bob Dole for Majority Leader
Stevens' reaction to the loss of leadership position
The airplane crash that killed Ann Stevens
Stevens' reaction to the crash and death of his wife
Counting the votes for Majority Leader election
Senator Stevens' relationship with Senator Mike Gravel
Senator Stevens' legacy and key issues
Appropriations and use of earmarks
Former staff members becoming lobbyists
What it takes to be a lobbyist
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CHARLES FEDULLO: Narrator is Jack Ferguson, former Chief of Staff, former Staffer for Senator Stevens. Name of the interviewers are Paul McCarthy and Charles Fedullo.
Date of the interview is June 9th. We are in Washington, D.C., in the offices of Jack Ferguson, Side A, Part 1, Senator Stevens oral history.
And the first thing we ask folks, Jack, is to talk just a little bit about what was your relationship with the Senator? How did you meet him?
JACK FERGUSON: Well, I had -- when Don Young came to Congress March 14th, 1973, he had been elected in a special election following the death of Nick Begich and Hale Boggs, actually, which occurred prior to the November election, it occurred October 16, 1973. So
Don had lost to the deceased in the general election.
You can't really call him deceased, though, 30 days after the event, so the election took place.
And so obviously, a special election had to occur.
March 14th, 1973, Don Young won that special election, and he was sworn into office and he hired me the very next day.
I had hired -- I had worked on the Hill for two years prior for Congressman Floyd Hicks from Washington State.
And I was fascinated by the prospect of the oil pipeline, TAPS.
The issue came to Congress because the Supreme Court had denied the writ of certiorari.
The issue was whether or not the Department of Interior had the authority to issue special land use permits known as SLURPs.
What that did was it gave you a right of way larger than 28 feet.
That was the right of way that was embedded in law way back in 1920 that governed the width of a right of way for pipelines across federal lands.
That was a response to way back when we gave huge right of ways to railroads, and of course, then they made more money off the land than they did off the railroad, or they created the wealth,
the worth of that land because of the railroad. But the pipeline was very narrow, so
it was wide enough just so a horse-drawn carriage could turn around. Twenty-eight feet is what they figured, lay the pipe out.
Well, obviously, a D9 Cat and modern pipelines can't do that, so the Interior for years had issued special land use permits.
That was challenged, went to the Ninth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit ruled, and it came to that the environmental impact statement was not adequate in terms of its addressing this issue,
and -- but they actually ruled on the narrow issue of SLURPs.
I'm sorry, they ruled on the narrow issue of SLURPs.
It -- it was then brought to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court says the law is very clear, Congress has to address it.
So Congress then took up the issue of addressing legislating TAPS. They had several critical issues they had to ponder, one of which was that the NEPA statement, the environmental -- National Environmental Policy Act,
had been complied with, and that the SLURP was broadened and such like that.
Anyway, so Don Young was on the House Interior Committee and this was, of course, his most important issue.
And he hired me as his legislative aide, and I worked for him from that time up until 1976,
and when we actually passed, by the way, we passed that Pipeline Act.
In the course of time when I was his legislative aide, we actually passed the House of Representatives August 4th, 1973. It went on to pass the Senate November 16th, 1973, and --
and the permits were issued by Secretary Rogers C. B. Morton January 28th of 1974.
So we had a -- we had a really good, interesting period of time, Don and I.
We worked very closely with Ted Stevens.
And Mike Gravel was the other Senator at the time.
And it was a wonderful relationship we had with Ted.
Very strange, of course, between Mike Gravel, and I can go into that in a minute, but --
and it was through the course of this consideration that Ted came to know me and -- and understood, I guess, how -- my work with the delegation.
And so when he was elected to a leadership post in the Republican Caucus.
He was the Assistant Minority Leader under Howard Baker.
He then asked -- called me up and asked me if I'd be his -- in those days what we called administrative aide to that posting.
He had another administrative aide in the State Office, so he had a leadership office and the state office.
Prior to the call, George Nethercutt, his then Chief of Staff, who, as I mentioned, later went on to become Congressman Nethercutt,
you might recall, he defeated Tom Foley.
He -- he was actually from Seattle, and he defeated Tom Foley.
Just an aside, for all historians, there's -- PAUL MCCARTHY: Do you have coasters? JACK FERGUSON: Yeah, just use these.
Tom Foley was then the Speaker of the House. Very -- very prominent Democrat.
And there's one statistic that always still amazes me to this day -- and now I'm digressing --
is that after George Nethercutt defeated Tom Foley, won the seat to Congress,
30 percent of those polled in his district thought he would be the next Speaker of the House.
You know, just -- just, you know, just to let you know how unaware some of the constituency is.
But anyway, so George Nethercutt called me up and said, "You're going to get a call from the Senator in 10 minutes.
And he's going to ask you if you'd like to take my place, at least to take a posting over in the leadership office.
So think about that."
So I got the call. It was on a Friday. And I was very content. By that time I had been promoted to administrative aide, aka Chief of Staff of Don Young after the pipeline passed, and
I was the -- a young guy, and I was, you know, very young Chief of Staff in the House, and we had passed a major piece of legislation,
and I was feeling good about things. So
anyway, I got this call and I said, "Hey, I'd like to think about it."
And typical of Ted Stevens, that sort of just went right over his head. He says,
"Come to my house for breakfast Sunday morning."
It wasn't as if I was going to get any -- any say in this matter.
He made his choice and that was it.
You know, I went in and talked to Don about it. He'd --
you know, Ted had called Don and so on, and he said, "Of course, you've got to go up. This is a great opportunity."
And I went down and talked to a congressman who we all know who went on to become the director of OMB under the Reagan years.
Oh, shoot. Very famous guy, come on. Uh.
Anyway, he said, "What do you think about this?" CHARLES FEDULLO: Stockton.
JACK FERGUSON: David Stockton. That's right.
And David and I had cut our teeth as chief of staffs, he had worked for John Anderson of Illinois, so we had gotten very close.
And -- and I know, in fact, in that TAPS fight, John Anderson wanted to go across Canada to Illinois,
and we, of course, wanted to go straight down to tidewater, so we prevailed in that particular routing.
Anyway, so David and I had a respect for each other because we had to -- we had to defeat that amendment on the Floor.
But anyhow, David looks and me and he says, "Are you nuts?
You know, go over there and work in the Senate." And, of course, it was the best decision I had made in a long while.
And in that leadership post, you -- you were the Floor walker, you -- you know.
Our duties were to set up the agenda for the -- for the week, and also we had to close.
Closing means when the Senate -- when the Senate ends its business for the day,
it goes into what they call morning business,
and it talks about what they're going to do the next day, when they're going to come in, etcetera.
Now, when you close the Senate down, the majority leader does that, and the minority leader has to sit there and listen and protect the interests of the minority.
And this particular interest, the majority leader in time, excuse me, was Bob Byrd.
Now, Bob Byrd, the great historian of the Senate, absolutely loved being the Majority Leader.
He would relish the time to speak and close down the Senate, and it might take him an hour to close it down.
I mean, he would talk about things in history and Caesar and who knows what.
I mean, he would -- he would go on and on every night.
You know. And -- and then the lights would get turned off.
Well, Howard Baker quickly got tired of that, so he assigned the job to Ted Stevens, which meant, of course, I had to --
I had to stand there, as well. And --
and, of course, in those days, and I've explained this to the fellows that work here,
when you work for a senator or congressman, you don't go home until he goes home. I mean, if you're a key staffer.
So, you know, when Ted Stevens walked out of that office and went home late at night,
I was the guy turning the lights off after him.
So -- but it was a great experience.
And we had a -- we had a wonderful time.
Now, mind you, I didn't serve all that long. I only served up through April 1st of 1978.
And the reason was, is that Jake Javits had --
was the first to try to put the brakes on the revolving door.
And that if you'd worked in the United States Senate, you weren't able to come up to it and lobby it for a year.
And he was the first to pass that law.
And it was unclear as to whether or not you could lobby the Senate or lobby your boss or whatever it may be, and so on.
And over the years, of course, this has become very --
you know, very much of an issue of revolving doors, people serving the public trust and then going out and serving the private interest and so on.
So there were a number of us that -- that looked at that. I looked at my future. Ted always thought there would be -- the Senator always thought that this posting that I held was an obvious launch pad to go down and serve in a commission,
whether it be the FCC, the FTC, the FAA, whatever it may be, you know any of those interest of things.
I mean, after all, he was on the Senate Commerce Committee and on the Appropriations Committee and in the leadership.
And, you know, mind you, you know, as things were wrapping up here, Ronald Reagan came in and, you know, for quite a robust period of Republican leadership.
And of course, that was hard to foretell at that time, but nonetheless,
it would have played out rather nicely had I remained, but I had no interest in doing that.
So I thought I would head out and start my office, which I did April 1st, 1978.
And a lot of great things have happened to me on April 1st.
And I'll get to them at some point, including a call from NBC at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, saying, "Can you confirm that Eric Holder dismissed all charges against Senator Stevens?" Which came in April 1st.
And, of course, one thinks about those things as to whether or not this is a real game or not on such a day. But
I've long moved beyond the tradition of April 1st tomfoolery and take it quite seriously.
Anyway, so back to my years with Ted, the Senator, we had a great time.
And there were many interesting times on the Senate Floor that occurred then.
One was the famous Abourezk-Metzenbaum filibuster.
Now, the filibuster rules have changed over the years,
have changed to there being two thirds of the Senate to 60 percent of those voting, or 60 -- I'm sorry, 60 of those voting, such like that.
But the filibuster was extremely difficult for a Senator to take the filibuster like they had done when --
in the '60's and the '70's where they just spoke endlessly.
You know, the -- the famous Russell Long filibuster. There's two or three others that were famous for the filibusters.
So this particular filibuster, the Abourezk-Metzenbaum filibuster was a dilatory one,
which is, under the rules, prior to filing cloture, any amendment filed at the desk is privileged and can be offered during the period of cloture.
So even though the cloture was invoked,
there were over 500 amendments that had been filed by Abourezk and Metzenbaum at the desk and privileged to be offered.
So what they would do is they would offer them, and then you'd have a roll call, and then you'd have --
you know, then you'd have a quorum call, and then you'd have a roll call, and then you'd vote. And this is the time where --
where they put cots in the -- in the lobby and such like that,
the members' lobby because they had a lot of old members there.
I mean, you had McClellan and you had Young, a different Young, Senator (indiscernible) Young, Milt Young,
these guys were all up in their eighties, and they -- you know, leadership was concerned that,
you know, the stress of staying up 24 hours for endless times was going to harm one's health so, yeah, they provided for that and so on.
My job, because everyone's just more or less standing around twiddling their thumbs,
was to entertain these people in the private quarters that Senator Stevens had. We had a bar, we had a chess board.
And I ended up playing chess with -- with Senator Hines.
And we became quite good friends, actually, through that period of time.
We played chess, you know, endless hours.
And he usually beat me, but one time he called me down to the --
to the cloak room, which is right off the Senate Floor where, you know, a preponderance of members sit on the leather couches looking up at the monitor and the TV and such like that, and it was a Saturday. I mean,
this thing is now in its 8th or 9th day. It went on 13 days.
And there was a -- I think the Texas game, the big Texas game, Texas A & M, John Tower was down there watching this thing, and
everyone was ribbing John Tower, and I was playing chess there in the presence of about 20 senators, and I beat -- on that occasion,
I beat Senator Hines humiliating him in front of all his colleagues while they're watching this football game.
One of the low points of my career.
Anyway, so -- so anyway, you know, we -- we would -- on occasion,
we would go in and we're, you know, the wingman for Senator Stevens, so
when certain votes occurred, we would -- we would have to help go around and poll the votes, and this and that.
And we call it whipping the -- whipping the votes so you'd know specifically who was going to vote for and why, and who was going to vote against. And that number had to be relatively accurate.
You had to hand that over to leadership so they could presumably plot their strategy as to how they would offer amendments to that vote according, and so on.
And also the task was that when certain members came into the Floor,
they would come up to you and they'd say, "How should I vote on this matter?"
And we would never tell them how to vote, we would bracket it for them.
We would say, "The leadership has voted this way, the colleague from your state has voted that way,
and you may recall you have spoken on this last week in favor of a motion
to table to be a motion in favor of because you never know, you know, yea or nay whether or not that puts you on the right side of the issue.
It could be a motion to table, it could be a motion to pass, so on.
So that was our job. And so on.
Now, -- just for the color and for the history of it all, since people might read this, let me tell you how important that job is.
When the pipeline issue came up on the Floor -- now, this was -- I was over in the House side, but I've been told this story many times -- there was an issue of compliance with NEPA.
A very controversial issue. This is where Congress simply finds that NEPA had been complied with.
And that's it. That's the end of their -- it's not appealable by a court, and so on.
Well, it is in a certain way, but the finding is pretty dramatic.
Never been done before. I don't think it's been done since.
We -- we pass that issue on the House.
And Ted Stevens did not want to make it an issue in the Senate because he was fearful that we'd lose that vote.
And if you don't vote on it, if you don't get a "no," you can go into conference with a more open mind because the conferees were going to be chaired by Henry Jackson,
and he was very much a strong supporter of ours.
So we would have the House view, and then the Senate conferees would simply have to receive and concur with the -- with the House position.
So on. So we didn't want to take that vote. Well, Mike Gravel insisted on it.
He wanted to have that vote.
And it angered Ted Stevens to a great degree because he felt it put it in jeopardy.
Turns out that that vote turned out 49 - 49, and the president, the presiding president, Spiro Agnew,
President of the Senate, Vice President of the United States, had to cast the tie breaking vote.
But what was unusual about that 49/49 vote was one of the 49 in favor of finding NEPA had been complied with was Senator Brooke of Massachusetts.
A very liberal Senator, a Democrat, who had a history of opposing this sort of legislation and had voted the wrong way by his stated record.
He had walked onto the Floor, and my guess is, walked up to one of the Floor walkers, such as I had served,
and there was, you know, maybe a half dozen of them out there,
three for the Democrats, three for the Republicans, or whatever it may be, or your personal staff, doesn't matter,
whoever you sought out when you walked through those doors onto the Chamber and said, "How do I vote on this?"
And you may not have heard the debate, you may have been confused, well, it was a motion to table, a motion to pass, whatever it may be.
Usually you can get -- get the eye of the person calling out the vote, and you go thumbs up or you can go thumbs down, and you don't even have to give a verbal interpretation,
but he voted the wrong way according to his stated record, and then he departed the Chamber.
And no one could find him. And only a senator can vitiate his own vote.
So they held the vote open for, I don't know, a half hour, 45 minutes, an inordinately long time.
Usually a vote may go 10, 15 minutes, sometimes 20, but you know, to hold the vote open to see if they could find him. And they couldn't find him, so
there the gavel came down and there it was. So
that's how important a person on the Floor can be.
CHARLES FEDULLO: I just want to clarify, so the Senator -- Senator Brooke from Massachusetts just made a mistake? JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: And then the second part is the main issue was the NEPA issue?
JACK FERGUSON: Right. Right. Right.
So anyway, so back then too, I think, the controlling question here, what was my rapport, job responsibility with the Senator while I served in this post as,
again, administrative aide of his leadership position.
Well, he'd go down to the White House and get briefings, and I would have to get a security clearance.
And so I'd been in the Army prior to coming to work on the Hill after I received my Masters at University of Oregon,
so, you know, I liked -- you know, getting a security clearance was something of a
bit of value, and I liked it because it made me privileged to be in certain meetings, which was, you know, very fun.
And also there's what's known as the caucus lunch.
It's held every Tuesday, and the Republicans always have it in the Mansfield Room, S 208,
and the Democrats always have it in the Lyndon B. Johnson room.
And you go into that room and only senators are there, their guests.
You know, former senators, should they care to call in town, call in, and four nonelected officials.
They were the -- well, the one -- I guess one is elected.
They were the Secretary of the Senate, his deputy.
It was Bill Hildenbrand was Secretary of the Senate at the time, his deputy, I can almost remember,
and then the Chief of Staff of Howard Baker, who is now a Senator, whose name is --
from Tennessee -- I can come back to that in a minute -- and myself, who was then the Chief of Staff of Ted Stevens.
So we'd sit in the back.
And, you know, when they came in, even back in those days, they had to buy their lunch.
You know. And so there's a little cash box, and they'd come in,
and the Deputy Secretary would be sitting there and that would be $5.50, Senator, whatever it was, and he'd pay out $5.50 and they'd go take a seat.
And then there would be a dais and Howard Baker would be up there
and Ted Stevens would be up there and Bob Dole would be up there and he was -- and Trent Lott would be up there.
They had their various different leadership posts. You know, they were either, you know, policy, Chairman of the Policy Committee or Chairman of the Caucus,
whatever it is, but you'd see this posting up there.
There's a picture of the Caucus right there.
Anyway, and it was always really an interesting time.
I mean, guests would be, like, Henry Kissinger, and Margaret Thatcher, and things of this nature.
And when you came into this -- this -- this lunch, which I never once missed because it was just fascinating.
The purpose was that it was early in the week, and they would tell you each --
in those days, it was ranking member would tell you what they had in front of their committee and what they would -- what they would talk about.
And -- but it was very private. And no word would ever get out.
For example, John Tower would say something like,
"You know, the issue of having women on battleships have come up, and of course, it's a very controversial issue, and I say,
if you have a woman on battleships, you should have enough to go around."
And, you know, everyone would, you know, go, "Oh, my God --."
And that sort of thing.
And -- and -- or you would -- or when certain people like Jake Javits spoke.
He spoke, oh, so beautifully and with such amazing elocution,
but you know, there are other things about Jake Javits before his health sort of started to fail on him,
he had a ravenous appetite.
And, you know, they'd have various servants in there and he would be, like, "Bring me some more of this, and I want a cup soup right over here, and I want some more of the, you know, salami over here,"
and so he would just -- throughout the lunch, he would just be eating in the most ravenous way.
Or then you would get -- you know, Henry Kissinger would come up and you'd stand up, and of course, he would have this tan, and you know, and people hooting and hollering, "Where have you been, Saudi Arabia?"
You know, and this sort of thing. You know, he -- "You look a little like you've been in the desert." On it goes.
And -- but everyone had a huge amount of respect for Henry Kissinger.
And when he spoke one time, it was just hilarious because he was, like, annihilating the head table.
You know, he would say, "You know, if the Italian election comes out Communist, we can expect big troubles in that region."
And he'd swoop his hand across, knock the ketchup all over Howard Baker and so on. Onto his plate.
And then, you know, "However, I think you know what one can expect at this point in the Cold War."
And he threw his hand out like that and knocked over the water pitcher and stuff like that.
And the four of us in the back, of course, were stifling.
I mean, we were privileged to say nothing, we were just stifling laughter.
And, of course, all of the other senators were just ignoring it and, you know, various people coming in and cleaning up the mess as he would go about waving his hands.
When Margaret Thatcher came in, I'll never forget it because she was just, you know, one of those people, maybe never, ever in doubt,
she just stood up and said, "This is the way it is, boys, and this is what's going to happen, and this is what you can't expect.
You got that?" You know, she was a very forceful speaker, and very certain of what she said.
And just, you know, sort of like dared you to challenge her, you know, in any of her thought.
And, you know, it was -- it was pretty interesting stuff.
PAUL MCCARTHY: Keep going. I'm sorry.
JACK FERGUSON: Oh, okay. Well, you know, I don't, because we had to cancel them all. Remember, she lost her -- yeah, but, you know, the other ones are coming. Go downstairs and check on the new ones.
So evening would fall and the course of the day would change, you know.
We've done our work regarding the schedule, we may have had a meeting over in Howard Baker's office, you'd always go over to Howard Baker's office to have those meetings.
And you know, sometimes things weren't always -- didn't always run smoothly with Howard Baker, and you know,
the Senator would come back and say, "Here's what we've got to do: We've got to do that, we've got to do this, we've got to do that."
And my job was supposed to coordinate with the House and the House leadership and the House Republicans.
And I would -- following the meeting with Baker, I'd go over and deal with the House -- my House opposite, and so on, this and that. And the day would work on.
And we would move into the evening time.
Now, chiefs of staff, administrative aides are privileged to eat in the Senate Dining Room, so we could go down there and
grab -- grab a bite, which we liked to do because we observed the other senators and who they were talking with and this and that, and just a little bit more information.
We had a little -- in those days you didn't have TV, we just had a voice box of what was going on on the Senate Floor.
And then turn the volume up and down depending on who was going on.
Sometimes I would sit in the meetings that the Senator would have with his constituents and other people and -- and lobbyists that would come to town and so on.
And one time the Senator was exercising his Floor responsibilities, and there was a very prominent D.C. lawyer dressed in the best of his lawyer clothes,
attache case at his feet, sitting there waiting to see the Senator. He had had an appointment earlier in the afternoon, say, like two o'clock or so.
And the Senator, just because of his Floor responsibilities, couldn't meet with him until 5:00.
And the man, of course -- not of course, but the man, unaware of the protocol of events,
went in there and read the Senator the riot act for being so rude to him and not respecting his two o'clock time slot.
And the Senator just says, "You know, you made more money sitting there waiting for me than I've probably made all year. Why don't you just get out of my office."
You know, and that sort of thing.
And, you know, from time to time, you know, a chief of staff's is --
what makes his position so important is that he can walk in and out of the meetings with the Senator and he can -- I guess he would have to pass on, you know, Howard Baker said X or, you know, you're needed on the Floor, or whatever it may be,
or your next meeting is there, and such like that.
And I wasn't beyond sometimes saying when somebody was in the office that I felt he should be wary of, I'd, you know, go, "Yeah, Mike Gravel's on the Floor right now saying X," and he would spin out.
And these guys, "What happened there?" "Well, meeting's over.
He's got to go down there and see what he's up to."
So anyway, and there was a time, too, of course, later in there -- you know, in those late night sessions, oftentimes Wednesday night would go long,
we had that bar open, and I was to pour drinks and such.
So -- and to keep general conversation alive among senators when Senator Stevens was out doing his responsibilities.
One time John Tower, who is a notorious drinker to begin with, and he came down and sat there.
And he was an amazing stern individual. I mean, he always dressed in a three piece suit buttoned up, always a dark blue suit, and very erect.
When he sat on the couch to drink, he sat on the edge of the couch, you know, very, very erect.
And he always drank scotch, and I'd pour him a scotch.
And no one else would be in the room, and I’d be sure he had the ice, did he want it, the routine.
And every now and then I would attempt to engage in conversation with him.
Like, you know, "Well, I felt the debate went very well this afternoon," something like that, just anything just to get him to say something.
He'd always look at me, like, "Kid, when I want to talk to you, I'll start the conversation."
You know. "Otherwise, just keep my drink full and sit over there." You know.
That was one of those great times.
And then there was another time I've got to tell you, which is so funny.
The Senator says to me, he says, "Elizabeth Taylor's going to come in with John Warner.
And John Warner's running for the Senate in Virginia."
And so I said, "Okay."
And he said, "Now, your job is they're going to come in for lunch, and she likes to have a Bloody Mary at lunch,
so you pour her the Bloody Mary. "Right. Got it, boss."
So the day arrives, this was a week out or so, the day arrives, I'm dressed to the nines,
and I walk in there and he's dressed in a corduroy sport coat with patches on, and I don't know, some weird pants, and this and that.
I looked at him and said, "She cancelled, didn't she?" He said, Yep."
And so on. So anyway, the day finally arrived and John Warner came in.
And it was one of those things where Warner only wanted to talk to the Senator, and Elizabeth Taylor was clearly sort of the attraction of the hour.
But you know, when we sat down to lunch, it was Senator Stevens and John Warner, and old Jack and Elizabeth were over here on the couch and I had to do whatever.
So anyways, time to have the drink, right? So I go to the bar. Well,
Bloody Mary is sort of a funny drink. I mean, maybe you drink it on Sunday morning or something, but
we had a Bloody Mary mix, you know, we looked, checked, saw it, but when we opened it, it had previously been opened many months prior and there was nothing but mold pouring out.
And so I -- oh, God, you know.
And so I looked at her and said, "Well, how about a vodka on the rocks?" She said,"Well, that would be fine."
And -- and so -- and Stevens glowered at me, he said, "Hey, she wants Bloody Mary's."
"We don't have any Bloody Mary mix," you know.
We were talking out of the sides of our mouth.
And so I said -- anyway, she's powering through this vodka, and she -- she pulls out the cigarette to be lit,
and like a lady, you know, I -- she nods to me to light the match, and I had the match and I light it, and when I cup my hand in the cigarette and hold --
hold the match like this, and she -- you know, she puts her hand underneath my hand like a lady would do, you know, just like --
and then she stared me dead in the eye.
And there were the National Velvet violet eyes that you wouldn't believe.
They were so penetrating.
You know. And I was just, like, wow.
And she was not very svelte at that time.
She was wearing muumuus and they were flowing out, and she was -- this was one of her period of times when she was having difficulties.
So anyway. That was one of the great chores of all time.
And I -- actually, I had to take her over to the Senate Russell Building, and when I walked out back of the Capitol to walk outside those two blocks over to the Senate Russell Building,
by the time we got there, we must have had 40 or 50 people following us, you know.
She was really quite the catch. You know.
Anyway, so those days were really interesting days, not only for the reasons of covering the Floor agenda,
covering the White House briefings, being part of the Floor strategy, setting out on our chores to inform our colleagues,
but also just the personal interaction with the senators that the job brought.
And he got quite close to a number of them.
Senator John Warner later, Senator Mark Hatfield in particular, and really became -- what's that?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I don't think there was any mail that came in.
JACK FERGUSON: Oh, really? Oh, okay. Did you want some money or something?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Yeah. Well, we'll just uh --
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah. Here. Actually, I'm getting -- here, take it. That's it. Very good.
So anyway, you know, that was pretty much those days.
PAUL McCARTHY: How did he -- you know, he was known for being able to walk -- or to work across the aisle. I mean
JACK FERGUSON: Well, yeah. I mean, he -- he had -- he had a real respect for elders, people senior to him.
In fact, when he got this post, he received a car and driver.
And I think it was Bill Young of North Dakota, elderly man, he wanted to give the car and driver to him
because he felt he needed it to -- he was more ambulatory, and he wouldn't have anything to do with it.
In fact, Ted Stevens was so unaccustomed to it, he would ride around in the front seat of the car. He wouldn't --
in those days, there were Town Cars and, you know, they were a little more elaborate. Nowadays, they're all SUVs and all sorts of things, but anyway.
Yeah. No, he -- you know, he -- he just really -- and Bob Byrd and he were very close, he had a huge respect for Bob Byrd.
Obviously, Dan Inouye, I mean, his rapport and relationship with Dan Inouye is legendary.
He -- you know, he just really revered those people.
And there was McClellan, you know, from Arkansas at the time, and --
and Russell Long, and a number of those Southern senators that he really revered.
Scoop Jackson. I tell you, he loved Scoop Jackson.
When Scoop Jackson passed away, he mourned for a year after Scoop Jackson.
I mean, he really, really -- we always called Scoop Jackson a third senator to the State of Alaska.
He, you know, really was very close to Scoop.
Now, Magnuson, you know, he liked and all that, but he wasn't all that close to him, but Scoop Jackson was truly a friend and confidant and so on.
So, yeah. No. I mean, Ted -- Ted worked very well with Democratic colleagues, especially the ones in leadership.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Well, you know, you were with him when he was Whip, and that -- that's a significant position.
He's relatively new coming to that position.
How did he handle it -- he brought you in, clearly he had a view of the hospitality of the position. JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: But how did he handle that position as being a relative -- a relative newcomer to the Senate at that point?
JACK FERGUSON: Well, you know, keep in mind, when you're in the leadership role, you are the, you know, Assistant Minority Leader.
So you really do what the Minority Leader is asking you to do.
Sure, you're the Whip, so you do the counts, that's your responsibility, put out a Whip notice every time, and
you're in all the strategy meetings and you get assigned certain tasks, but again, I mean, Howard Baker didn't come to our office, we went to Howard Baker's office.
You know. And that's -- that's just the way it was.
And -- and Howard Baker, to the extent that the minority leader can, makes those choices.
Now, mind you, Ted ran for the position of -- of Majority Leader,
and Bob Dole prevailed in that instance, and that's quite a story, as well.
Maybe I'll regale you in it, if you want.
CHARLES FEDULLO: We'd like to hear that.
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah. Yeah. No, so, I mean, having been -- let me just step back and warm up on it.
Having been -- Thanks. Yeah, you know, just give me some more. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You want more?
CHARLES FEDULLO: No, I'm good, thanks.
JACK FERGUSON: You know, even though you're in a leadership post, and a lot of people
would revere that post, see it as really something quite elevated in terms of
where you were in the standing in the pecking order of the United States Senate.
We'd have fundraisers, we'd fill the room.
But in truth, we were -- we were at the beck and call of the Minority Leader.
And when Al Simpson took that post, and again, it's the assistant minority posting,
there was a fellow that took my place, and his --
his name was Mike Tongert, and we met once at a party and we each looked at each other and saw that posting and we sort of laughed
because we knew in certain ways it was important, but in other ways,
it wasn't anywhere near as powerful as people it preceded.
And -- and Mike was a very funny guy, he even had a different bent on it because, again, you know, he was a staff person for Al Simpson, a very
strong personality, he says, "I'm a key adviser to a senator who doesn't like key advice."
Or no, he doesn't take key advice, I think it was. And so on.
And we used to laugh over our roles in it because, you know, to some degree,
it was quite important -- to other degrees maybe, you know, the Chief of Staff back in the State Office, Tim McKeever was,
in some ways, doing, you know, that -- taking a heavier load and such and so on.
Anyway. So we -- we get to the point in Ted's career where he can now --
well regarded, strong intellect, very serious person, takes a lot of work home with him, reads everything.
In fact, we used to say the best way to communicate with Ted is to write him a note.
Now with e-mails, he's all over e-mails, too, such like that.
So he decided to run.
And the vote is held in the old chamber of the Senate. In fact, it's where the Supreme Court used to meet.
And you can't really -- only the senators were in there, plus Bill Hildenbrand, the Secretary of the Senate.
And he was there just to tally the votes.
And Ted Stevens and Howard Baker were on dais of this old chamber
because they were the leaders at the time, so they were setting up the vote.
The vote was an elimination vote. There were five candidates. Let's see if I can recall them all.
Bob Dole, Jim McClure, Ted Stevens.
Oh, boy. I used to be able to do this.
And two other quite conservative members that challenged.
There were five moderate senators that wanted to eliminate those conservative people,
so they formed a cabal, and they were led by Mark Hatfield and Mathias of Maryland,
and who was the guy that went on to become governor up in Connecticut.
Oh, come on. Jeez, it's sad, isn't it?
Anyway, there were five of them.
So they vote as a block and then some.
And so, you know, one would be eliminated,
then another would be eliminated, and then it got down to Ted Stevens --
and, oh, McClure was one of the first out.
Ted Stevens and this other guy. And, oh, God, I've got to remember his name or the story's no good.
Anyway, we thought we had more votes from this fellow than Bob Dole would have.
So after each vote, we would sort of get -- you know, the white smoke would go up the stack, someone would come out and let us know what happened.
Cathy Stevens and I were sitting there in that hallway.
We couldn't look into the chamber, we could only look down the hall because the place had sort of headed off.
And so we were there by the Roosevelt chandelier looking down the hallway, and these people would come out from time to time,
we'd hear who had been eliminated. And so on.
So it got down to these last three, and we thought, wow, we'd go back in, look at our little vote count and say, man, if he is out, we get more of those votes than does Dole.
Well, it didn't prove to be true.
So it didn't -- it didn't turn out to be true. And there was another problem we had.
And that is with Jesse Helms.
And he wanted Ted Stevens's vote on a tobacco issue and Ted Stevens wouldn't give it to him.
Ted Stevens would oftentimes say, "I never trade votes, you know, I only vote the way I feel accordingly."
And he didn't support Jesse Helms in this issue and didn't give Jesse Helms that vote.
Upon reflection, we oftentimes think that may have cost us,
which uncertain to know because the votes are secret, and so on.
And we don't know how the five moderates voted, either.
In fact, I remember years -- not years but months later Senator Hatfield walking out of the room saying, "Why is he so damn grumpy? I want you to tell him I voted for him."
You know. And that sort of thing.
Which I did. Which we didn't believe, but I did.
Anyway, when it came down to learning of who had won that position,
we thought Ted had won it by a perceived announcement.
So for 10, nano-seconds Cathy Stevens and I thought that Ted Stevens had actually won the leadership.
And what had happened was after the last vote, the doors opened, and a page walks by and he looks in.
And the pages have been running in and out, there's -- you know, they're present because they are messengers and are hither and to,
the office wants to say this to him or whatever, the page walks by, looks up at the dais and sees Ted Stevens.
Well, he had erroneously assumed that since he was in the dais, he had won.
He was at the dais because he was there with Howard Baker and part of the existing leadership.
And he says, "It's Ted Stevens." And we go, "Wow!" You know.
And about 10 seconds later, John Tower came -- came out and --
and Hildenbrand came out and said to somebody, one person -- there was no staff there because we were all held back, but he said, I think, to Hildenbrand, "Dole."
You know, or Hildebrand would have known, or somebody, but anyway, we heard "Bob Dole."
And then Ted did something which is very characteristic of him, and I've learned a lot from this.
He came out, we went -- our leadership office was just adjacent to that old chamber; in fact, they shared walls.
We walked into that -- his old office,
the leadership office as we called it, and he looked around, and he -- there was a number of other key staffers in that room.
And he looked around, and he said, "Let's all go to lunch."
And we walked out and he turned the lights off himself and never went back into that room.
And it's symbolic of the fact that through many of the things and disappointments in his life, he's never dwelled on them.
He doesn't look back on these things.
He has -- there's maybe one instance, but in this trial circumstance, the way he conducted himself all through that time,
he's always been a mentor to me. I mean, he taught me really how to deal with that type of adversity, unfairness.
He had a certain faith in the justice system, still does, even though it was running roughshod over his reputation.
And, you know, he's -- he's really got a steely constitution about life and how to live it, and -- and it's really impressive.
And it was noticed way back then.
We went out to lunch and we said, "What are we going to do now? "And we --
and we were just -- it was more therapy than anything else, we could do tax issues on the Floor, yes, there's a need for that.
Yeah, but you're not on the Finance Committee, so why would we do that, you know.
And so on. But we were just, you know -- we were finding the next niche right away.
CHARLES FEDULLO: You say he moves on immediately. JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: How -- how much did it bother him, he thought he had the vote?
Other people we've talked to, Jack, and said there's one professional event and one personal event that has affected Ted Stevens more than others.
The professional event is losing the majority leadership position because he thought he had the votes.
And then there's losing Ann.
When it comes to this, was there a thought coming in that there was enough votes that Senator Stevens was going to win, and then did --
you know, he obviously moved on, but did it bother him?
JACK FERGUSON: If it did, he didn't show it.
The event -- and it's funny that you mention Ann because that was the other event where he didn't actually move on as well, and that was the loss of his wife Ann.
And what was wrong with that, he finally saw.
But again, it goes back to the Mike Gravel event.
We passed -- in that time we passed TAPS, now, remember, against that 49/49 vote, but now we're on to what we call D-2.
And we had -- we had worked hard on D-2.
There'd been 42 markups in that bill, and Ted Stevens attended most of them, even though he wasn't on the committee at the time.
We'd reached a compromise, and it looked as if it would be signed by the President, and Mike Gravel said
he wasn't going to do it, he wasn't going to accept the compromise, and
it put that issue over into another Congress where we didn't do as well as we could have done at that time.
Now, Tony Motley had run a very effective campaign on behalf of business interests in the state, principally the timber interests.
And in -- in terms of trying to protect certain multiple use lands for that very person -- reason, I'm sorry, multiple use.
And environmentalists were trying to take multiple use lands such as Forest Service and making them single use, which is very easy to do, all you have to do is declare part of it a wilderness area,
and that -- that will supersede the multiple use organic aspect of the -- of that land classification. So on.
So we were losing the Tongass Forest, they were swiping it right and left from us.
And the timber industry was just -- there was going to be no place for it to have a timber sale, really, when it was all said and done,
and that turned out to be right.
There is no timber industry in Southeast right now.
Anyway, so Ted was -- had returned from Europe on a trip, and he was going to the Legislature, but anyway he was in June -- Juneau December 4th,
1978, I believe it is. It could be '79 but I think it was '78, December 4th, '78.
And I actually drive out to the Juneau airport with them. There were a couple cars, and he had a lot of luggage, and they get on this Lear Jet, a Lear 30, I think.
I'm not exactly sure, but a small Lear.
And there were six passenger -- seven passengers.
The pilot who owned the plane and flew it, a good friend of Frank Murkowski's, a professional copilot. And Ann Stevens took the jump seat.
And in that plane, Ted Stevens took the starboard seat facing forward.
And I'll -- I'll go back to this issue in a minute because there's two things that happened here.
Took the starboard seat that was facing forward, Tony Motley had the port seat facing aft.
A fellow named Joe McCracken, a great guy, ran the Sitka mill.
No, it's not McCracken. I'm sorry, Joe -- God, it's not McCracken, that was a timber guy.
Boy, oh boy. Anyway, a very prominent and wonderful guy who ran --
ran the Sitka spruce mill was in the port seat, I believe.
And a lawyer was in the starboard seat, from Anchorage, a prominent lawyer facing Ted.
And when that plane crashed, flipped over from a wind sheer going 160 miles an hour, broke into three parts.
And the fuselage -- the cone, fuselage, tail. Ted was in the fuselage upside down.
And they took him out of there and he had a concussion and he went to the hospital and such.
But -- and he couldn't remember what had happened.
Tony Motley could remember the whine of the engines, a number of things a little more to the point,
but still, at the point of impact, he lost memory, as well.
But the event was something that he felt he did not need to have taken that trip from Juneau to Anchorage
had it not been for Mike Gravel's scuttling the bill.
And therefore, he had to go to Juneau and explain what had happened to the Legislature, I believe is what that was -- or the Governor, or maybe both.
And that was why when he returned, he -- he went -- he returned from Spain, I think it was,
to Juneau, and then flew that flight, that -- that flight to -- on December 4th to Anchorage. And it crashed and such.
So he had a "but for" thought in his head.
But for, if I did not have to take that flight, Ann would still be with me, and why did I have to take that flight?
It was Mike Gravel.
And he really -- you know, we would sit around and sort of think about that,
and I was not -- I'm a staffer, I'm not privileged to intrude upon the Senator's personal thoughts. I'm a staffer.
But oftentimes a staffer receives word from constituents
that they don't want to tell the Senator them self, you know, because they don't have the guts either, they'll tell the staffer. You know, and
I was getting a lot of -- you know, from Cliff Groh and some of the other old timers
coming up to me and says, "It's not rational what he's saying. The but for theory is not a sound theory.
He needs to accept the fact that this event occurred and it's not circumstantial to other events."
And he did, finally, but there was a period, even when he came over to the House and spoke on the Lands Act,
he -- he referenced it, but for, we wouldn't have done that. And it was sort of like one of those
utterances that Ted has been famous for over the years where it's --
once it becomes public, and then it carries on a lot more weight than just sort of a private thought that he might have said to a staffer in the room.
And, of course, that's recorded in the Anchorage Daily News and then everyone's saying, what's he thinking, and that sort of thing.
So -- but he got beyond. But to the point, again, of his not looking back,
he said to me, "Jack," he said -- he's now two weeks after the accident.
He needs to fly back to D.C. He says, "Get me a plane, I want to fly back on a private plane."
So I had one client that I knew of -- he had planes. He had a Hawker.
He flew it up from the Lower 48.
Company policy was that you had to have a person aboard, an employee of the company, an officer, I think.
Those are the days when you could fly private planes without remuneration or --
I think we used to, for years, paid first class plus a dollar, now we can't fly them at all.
But this is long ago, long before any of those rules were even a thought.
So it was -- you know, it was okay.
We got on that plane.
He got on first. Everyone was sitting around us.
This Hawker was probably -- it was a bigger plane but it was of the same design, there were four seats, you know, in the passenger area.
He got on the plane and sat in the starboard seat facing forward.
You know. And we -- none of us -- there were two staffers and this one officer, none of us said a damn word.
We sat there, and like always, he's sort of a workhorse, got out his work, started working, the plane took off, he didn't do anything, the rest of us are sitting there with sweaty palms, and -- and flew back to D.C.
In those days that thing had to land, I think, twice, too, so you had to land at Minot, North Dakota, or something.
You know, because they didn't have the capacity.
CHARLES FEDULLO: I'm going to move you back for one second because I -- I just need clarity for the tape.
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah. Yeah. CHARLES FEDULLO: Did the Senator think he had the votes?
Did you all think you had the votes before that?
JACK FERGUSON: No, we were not sure.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Okay. JACK FERGUSON: We were not sure if we had the votes. CHARLES FEDULLO: Okay.
JACK FERGUSON: Because there were five, you know, it's elimination, so --
CHARLES FEDULLO: You didn't know whose votes were going where?
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah, we didn't know. CHARLES FEDULLO: Okay.
JACK FERGUSON: Um, no, I'm almost coming upon the name of that third guy. CHARLES FEDULLO: If it comes, let me know. JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: The only reason I bring that back up is the Daily News has two recorded stories where they say -- And so this is why I'm hammering on it. JACK FERGUSON: Okay. Yeah, sure.
CHARLES FEDULLO: That he knew -- he -- he lost three votes, he thought he had the election won by one vote. That's the only reason that --
JACK FERGUSON: Well, that -- that's -- that's your Jesse Helms story.
CHARLES FEDULLO: That's the Jesse Helms. Okay. That makes sense. JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: And I apologize for interrupting with that. JACK FERGUSON: Yeah.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Let me ask you a question. You talked a little bit about Gravel, the relationship, and did it -- obviously, the relationship was not good.
Did it ever affect how -- did it ever affect legislation regarding Alaska or other national interests?
JACK FERGUSON: Oh, yeah. I mean, I've already given you one piece of the example, and there are other that are major. CHARLES FEDULLO: Yeah.
JACK FERGUSON: I mean, keep in mind Gravel had a lot of crazy ass ideas, you know.
The geodesic dome. We're going to put a dome over Mt. McKinley. You know, things of that nature.
He would -- he would come up with some pretty crazy stuff.
Now, he sat on the Senate Interior Committee as --
now, mind you, the second time around, on the Alaska D-2 lands,
after Gravel has scuttled it and Ted Stevens had attended those conferences.
Scoop Jackson, the chairman of that committee, says, "Ted, I can't let you come to these conferences unless you're a member of the committee."
So he had to, at that point, give up his post in the Senate Commerce Committee and go over and sit on that House Interior Committee.
Now, that had huge significance when the Republicans took over the Senate
because he would have been senior enough to be chairman of the Commerce Committee at that time over Larry Pressler,
but because he had left the committee at the instruction of Scoop Jackson
to protect the interest of Alaska D-2 lands and sit on that committee and marshal it through, he lost that seniority. Now,
in this day and age, they have eliminated that problem; and when a member leaves the committee, he writes a letter to the Senate Rules Committee saying,
"I seek to preserve my seniority and standing on that committee while I am temporarily reassigning myself to another committee."
But that letter and that -- that protocol did not exist at the time.
And so when it went on -- so it had -- you know, there was -- there was a rolling sort of effect of all of this, you know, that Mike Gravel did, so
it goes pretty deep with the Senator because it -- it affected a lot of different things.
It kept him from being the chairman of the Commerce Committee, and not necessarily Mike Gravel's fault, but the events at hand sort of turned. And so on.
Mike Gravel, who was not liked by Scoop Jackson,
and Scoop would call me, and again, I'm a very young aide, I'm, you know, like 28, 29, you know, I'm pretty --
or maybe I'm 31 or two or something, I don't know what.
I've been in that spot, I can't remember exactly, but Scoop Jackson came up to me one time, he used to call me the Viking.
Because I had my beard. I've always had my beard.
I grew it when -- yeah, when Don Young had a Frontiers Day contest, and I was a candidate, so I've had a beard since then.
But he called me up, the Viking, he says, "Why is Gravel doing this?
I says, "That is such a crazy thing that he would do that. I can't see how he'd possibly think that was in the state's interest."
You know. And Mike Gravel had a -- whether it's true or not, and this may be a little cruel, but
we never felt he had the state's interest in mind as much as the rest of the delegation.
And in part, it was because of the way he would fraternize outside of the state with -- with luminaries.
He loved to be around luminaries, you know,
whether they be movie stars or other -- well, like Trudeau, he took up a rapport with Trudeau at one point and his crazy wife.
He'd go skiing with them and so on.
But, you know, so he had this sort of fast and loose sort of life style that was different than, I think, the discipline that -- that Stevens had.
Well, I know it was. Anyway, but we were always baffled by Scoop because when it came time for Mike Gravel's election, old Scoop Jackson would be up there campaigning for Mike Gravel,
and of course, that teaches you that one very basic and important rule that, you know,
when it comes down to it, Scoop Jackson would rather be chairman of that committee than
care about the vagaries of Mike Gravel's thinking, and he wanted a Democrat.
And, you know, oftentimes just to jump ahead here a bit,
when people talk about the loss of Ted Stevens and this trial,
they not only talk about the loss to the Senator, but the loss to the state,
but also the loss to the nation because of the balance of power in the Senate.
As well as what he contributes.
I could go one step further. I think it's sad because it's -- it's tarnished his legacy.
You know, when you pick up the Washington Post today and you talk about Bob Byrd and
Ted Kennedy and the 34,000 votes they cast in the 96 years between the two of them that they had served,
you know, you could make that same sort of thing between Dan Inouye and Ted Stevens
and almost come up with not quite that same number of years, but close to that same number of votes.
And you know, just the reminiscence of it all, it doesn't seem to go in the Senator's way because of this event at hand, and I think it's denied him that privilege.
He doesn't talk about it.
It doesn't -- you know, again, he doesn't show that it bothers him because he's -- he's just more of a man than that. But it --
it hurts a lot of us that are around him.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Sure. Sure. JACK FERGUSON: So...
CHARLES FEDULLO: You mentioned that it will harm his legacy.
We've got a lot of questions, I'm going to ask the important ones because you're being very generous with your time.
What should his legacy be for the nation and the state? There's thousands of issues, I mean, that --
JACK FERGUSON: Well -- CHARLES FEDULLO: -- hundreds that you worked on and developed.
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah. I mean, the Anchorage Daily News has oftentimes run through them, and you know, they're --
you know, you hit the big ones and then you hit some of the small ones.
Obviously, TAPS, the pipeline, D-2, you know, very important thing.
Magnuson Stevens Act, obviously, you know, a very important thing to the oceans.
When Elmer Rasmuson who chaired the Northwest Pacific Fisheries Council retired from that position, he flew up, I remember specifically,
to talk to Rasmuson about what is it that he should be protecting.
You know, he wanted a little debriefing so he could do that in the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the oceans and the fisheries.
He was very, you know, aware of the state's economy and the importance of trying to bring --
you know, to help that economy, the pipeline and the timber industry were important in that regard.
But he was also very, very aware of the Bush and the Native life, and Ann Stevens played a big role in that.
In fact, one of the pallbearers at Ann Stevens's wedding was Oliver Leavitt who was a
prominent Native from Arctic Slope and whale hunter and so on.
And he really cherished his reputation among the Native community dearly.
And, of course, the Native community for the longest time had
more or less been perceived to be Democratic, and then he was probably the person that brought more Republican votes out of it than anyone else.
And there is an interesting blog by Don Mitchell that evaluates that Native vote, the 15,000 Native votes that voted against him but didn't vote against Don Young.
And that in itself was a margin that would have led to his victory this last time around.
And it was one of those things where you always thought he had that Native vote because they were so appreciative of the
hundreds of things that he had done for them. The net operating losses, the 8(a)s.
He really created a sort of a -- an economy -- oh, and -- and CDQs.
I mean, he created an economy for the Native existence. He created cash flow that no one else could by those three acts alone.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Not only for Natives but for the state, billions of dollars. JACK FERGUSON: Right.
Billions of dollars. And, you know, we got called short on it, you know, a couple of times.
I mean, for example, on net operating losses, when he took that issue into the Joint Tax Committee,
you know, when you submit that legislation at the door, it goes in there, you don't get to follow it.
And it's like going into a black box. And they'd tell you what the numbers are going to be. They're going to
score it, and they scored it at, like, 400 million that it would cost the taxpayers, right?
Well, when it hit the billion and a half mark, you know, people said, "I think we're going to have to revisit this."
You know. And such. So he had to undo it.
And the 8(a)s, you know, in part, many of his colleagues would come to him, like Pete Domenici and others and said,
"You need to undo this." You know. And -- CHARLES FEDULLO: You mean 8(a)?
JACK FERGUSON: Yeah. Oh, Pete McCloskey was -- I mean, Pete Domenici was one -- not -- not that he would, but I mean, he was getting a lot of the pressure from his own side of the aisle to do it.
Now you've got McCaskill running around doing all this craziness, and so on like that, and that's born of a --
of a active -- very active -- proactive staffer who used to work for Waxman and so on,
but it was the Republicans that were telling him that this 8(a) is getting out of hand.
You know, Lower 48.
So they'd modify it here and they'd modify it there and they'd make certain limitations on it.
So he -- he was pretty aware of all that.
But, you know, beyond the fishing industry and the oil and gas industry and the timber industry and the military, I mean, look at the military.
You drive on Wainwright and you see a huge hospital.
You see a hospital so big, you can't imagine the veterans of Alaska having a need for a facility that size.
And then you learn that, no, it's because he has cobbled together different missions,
and this will service all of the soldiers in Korea and elsewhere in the Pacific Rim, and they will be flown in here to do this.
And as the military bases would avoid BRAC, the closing and so on, he would -- he would bring in certain other squadrons as the helicopter squadron.
One time we had a squadron, it was unbelievable,
that their mission was to be deployed into subtropical areas.
We -- you know, the subtropic -- because we could reach to them from Alaska, but you know, you would -- it was hard to imagine how they'd be training for such a mission in Fairbanks, Alaska.
But nonetheless, you know, that's what he'd do.
And this hospital was, like, unbelievable.
And you know what, in his frame of reference, it was "I'm going to put such as an asset on the ground there that they'll never think of closing this base."
And, you know, so in a way, he preserved so many of those things.
But the way he went around as chairman, which will never happen again to any Appropriations chairman,
the funding, you know, for various different projects, the core this and that.
I remember attending a city council meeting in Fairbanks,
and the council people went through all of the earmarks that he had provided for the city and applauded them and thanked him and
told him their new agenda, what more they needed, and so on.
And, you know, when Ted Stevens would fight against earmarks,
I mean, it used to be in the day where, yeah, that's what you did, you brought home the bacon to your state any way you can.
Keep in mind, there's a ceiling on how much money you can spend, and there's only so much to go around,
and you would fight because of it; that ceiling was there, someone's going to get the money. All right.
So it's not like we're all going to turn it back to the Federal Treasury if we don't need it.
And there are 40 times more requests for that amount of money, and Ted Stevens would go in there and fight for that money up to that ceiling of spending limitation that the committee assignment
would have, and he was quite -- quite able at it.
You know, I think as times change and different views occur, and
there are not always, you know, like, the purest of reasons of why things do occur.
For example, let's take the denunciation of lobbying and lobbyists.
Part of, I think, that occurs, especially with the Obama Administration, is it's part of the strategy to pass a health bill because they felt that
last go around when the Clinton Administration put it forward, it was a pharmaceutical lobbyist and others that were --
and health insurance lobbyists that were controlling the votes,
and -- and the issue got lost in that mix.
So what are we going to have to do.
We're going to have to take them out of the picture as best we can, so on like that.
That's one example. Another example would be what are we going to have to do with earmarks.
If we're going to get control of the budget, we have to keep them from earmarking.
Now, the sad thing about it is the entitlement program eats up, you know, two thirds of the damn budget. You know, the earmarks account for, as Ted would say, something like less than a percent of the overall budget,
yet it was this big issue.
So why was it made such a big issue? It was, again, to diminish the authority of the appropriator on the Hill.
And -- and again, you know, just like the White House would try to diminish the influence, let's say, of the lobbyists.
So now you're taking the Constitution and you're keeping the appropriator from appropriating in a manner that, you know, is --
was envisioned by the Founding Fathers, so Stevens fought that tooth and nail.
But, you know, to a populist president, you know,
who really never served on the Appropriations Committee, barely served in the Senate.
Yeah, he'd look at it like, we need transparency, we need to return the power to the people and so on, which we're really returning it to --
or giving it to, not returning it, you're giving it to the bureaucrat who wants to fund his laboratory or wants to fund his issue and so on.
And, sure, I'm -- there's plenty of examples of an appropriator abusing the process.
I think, you know, you see it in the paper today with probably Murtha, but you never saw that sort of abuse by Ted Stevens.
You know, it was for the villages; it was for, you know, the military; it was for, you know, the people.
And -- and in that instance, you know, a lot of people make a lot of hooey over the oil and gas industry.
Very little of it was ever for the oil and gas industry, I mean, if anything, it might have been for
export ban or it might have been for a licensing for export of liquefied natural gas.
It would be something that would be in such a large realm that it wouldn't speak to a specific company or anything of that nature.
You know, it would just speak to the betterment of the -- and the health of the industry.
But he covered -- he covered the gambit.
He was really something.
And, you know, you had bypass mail, you had -- you know, you had all sorts of stuff.
You know, universal service for phone service.
I mean, the villages were paying the same -- oh, man. Can I take that? (Cell phone ringing, pause in interview.)
CHARLES FEDULLO: Senator Stevens -- a lot of Senator Stevens's former staffers have -- that was just a little feedback. I'm going to check that.
JACK FERGUSON: Okay. CHARLES FEDULLO: A lot of Senator Stevens's former staffers have moved on to lobbying positions. JACK FERGUSON: Yes. Uh hum.
CHARLES FEDULLO: Could you just talk a little bit about that. Do you think that benefits or harms the State of Alaska?
Do you think that -- and you've talked a little bit about the lobbying and the vilification of it and,
you know, a lot of people think that it's unfair.
Talk about that, why it happens, and how it's impacted the state and national policy.
JACK FERGUSON: Well, you know, lobbying has been around forever.
And as you know, the word "lobbying" is derived from the time when the Congress was meeting only for two or three months,
and there were really no great offices, no even hotels to speak of, you know, there were boarding rooms and bed and breakfasts and so on,
but meeting places were either in the lobby of the hotels or certain public buildings, such as the Capitol.
And so when you -- when you addressed a Congressman at the time, you were talking to them in these lobbies, so a lot of them didn't even have offices.
And they just came up and served here for a brief period and moved on.
And keep, too, in mind that way back then, the members of the Senate weren't here for a long period of time. They were
appointed just like the House of Lords, and they didn't usually like the assignment because it took them away from their --
their land and the management of their own personal affairs, and
they saw it as I'll do this for six years and that will be my public service and then I'll move on.
Nowadays, of course, we're into the what some call the professional public office holder and, you know, seniority was a very important event.
Now, there's a pushback to the seniority of the system in terms of term limit and this sort of thing because
they think that is harmful to the system. That it gives
too much power to a certain limited number of people.
Now, Senator Stevens always felt for the small state, to get its representation, keep in mind it's one man, one vote, and out of the 435 members of Congress, we only have one.
So seniority was an important thing because the only way we could deal with the other large states in terms of their demands upon the Federal Government and such was to have our seniority preserved. Now,
that's not uncommon to a lot of other smaller states, especially in the South.
And if you would look at some of the history in California and New York, you'll see that their members turn over frequently.
And not so in Hawaii and Alaska and other smaller states, so on. Montana.
So along with that, then, comes -- with the longevity of the service
comes to mean that you're going to have more former members of your staff that have moved on to other careers.
And whether that be here in town or whether that be in the university system
or whether that be in the practice of law back in the state or whatever it may be.
Whether it be a federal judgeship or whether it be, as might have been my path, commission -- commissioner down at the FCC or the FAA or wherever it may be,
you were born of a certain part of a family known as your member's family. Now,
it's not unique to Senator Stevens.
Warren Magnuson, Preston Thorgrimson, the law firm, is built around former Magnuson staffers. Manny Rouvelas and Ellers and so on.
I mean, there are literally firms in Seattle, Perkins Coie and others,
that have a good number of former staffers under their employ.
And Jerry Grinstein, Chief of Staff of Warren Magnuson, staff director of Senate Commerce Committee, and he goes on to be a managing partner of Preston Thorgrimson, and chairman of Western Airlines,
and chairman of Burlington Northern Santa Fe,
and chairman again of Delta Airlines, and such like that.
So what you have is -- and while he was managing director of Preston Thorgrimson, he was back here lobbying, you know, for various different people, and so on.
And so what you have is a large group of people who feel not only an intense loyalty to the former member,
but have a profound understanding of how he thinks, how the Senate thinks, what the Senate thinks about him,
the rules and the procedures, the timing.
You'd be surprised how many clients do not understand the nature of the schedule of the First and Second Session of a Congress.
They come in and ask for assistance in terms of appropriations after the appropriation bills have been marked up and moved on.
When I worked in the House I remember being called upon by certain Boeing executives,
and they would ask me if the member was up for election this time,
not knowing that a Congressman is up for election every time.
So, you know, you see -- and here's rather sophisticated individuals.
I mean, so you -- you see then suddenly sort of a need under the Constitution for the constituency to petition Congress. And how do you do that?
You know, well, you would want to do it in a way that was meaningful and knowledgeable,
you know, and not just lay your story of woe on the Congressman
to say, God, I need assistance, but you know, you'd want to do it with the advice of somebody who knew the procedure, the timing,
the likelihood of it being accepted, and had a feel for Congress, you know.
I like to say to the young fellows that work for me and even to the constituents, never ask a question which you're going to get a "no" to.
And if you've got, let's say, the whole package here from one to ten,
you can ask questions up to three if you think you're going to get yes, or up to six,
but stop there if you think seven, eight, or nine are going to be a "no."
Come back another day and look at them from a different viewpoint.
And I've oftentimes said to young people that come and work for me and said, "How do I get to work for a Congressman?"
"Well, the first thing you need to do is know how he thinks."
"Well, how do I learn that?"
I say, "Go work on his campaign."
And then you'll see how difficult it is.
And why a Congressman doesn't oftentimes just simply say yes or no.
Because the person who is running up to him saying you must support this, and if he said yes, he would alienate another three or 400 people.
And so he might say, "You know, I'd like to think about that, and I'm sure your views are worthy," and so on and so on.
So you see how difficult it is.
You can't just say "yes" to everyone that comes forward to you, and how it is that you deal with that and how you evaluate that and what your thinking is, and --
and all the hand wringing and everything else, so if you work for --
on that campaign, and then you take that understanding of how he thinks into Congress,
and you he see how he works with his colleagues in the same manner as to how to cobble together a support for a vote,
and this and that, you start to understand the process to a point where your opinion is valuable.
And like I say, when someone says, "What is being a lobbyist?" I say, "It's about judgment."
Now, most people don't have a profound understanding of what a lobbyist is. My colleagues do.
And my reputation is held more dearly among my colleagues than to say it is to the general public, especially since
we're so widely besmirched for whatever political reasons at this particular period of time.
And -- and again, I think the reasons for that is some of the policies are coming forward they don't want to be challenged in a professional way.
And they figure if they can take the --
some of the element of the lobbying world out, they will enhance the prospects of passing these things,
whether it be good or bad for the people at large or not, or certain interests.
And lobbyists tend to get a bad name for a couple different misperceptions.
One is that they represent private interests and not the general public at large.
Oftentimes I say to my clients, I said, you need to explain to the Congress, the Congressman, the senators you're talking to, why this is in the public interest.
Because if you can explain to them why your concerns are in the public interest,
then you've enabled them, you know, to understand why it might be important to their constituents.
And that's what they're thinking about.
Not you, as an individual, but their constituents. So,
you know, if you're selling wind turbines, you know, or something along those lines,
and you can explain why wind turbines are a good thing to your constituents, then, you know, then -- you know, mind you, I mean, look at the --
Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy who were strong proponents of renewable resources, and they proposed a wind farm in the Great Bay of Cape Cod, and suddenly they don't like it.
You know, so --
CHARLES FEDULLO: Walter Cronkite was one of the ones lobbying harshly against that.
JACK FERGUSON: Right. So, you know, people have their own NIMBY , their own particular interests on.
Anyway, so on with the lobbyists. Well,
so oftentimes there's a misperception that the private interest is not necessarily in the public interest.
And I'm sure there's been times that's true, but not always, and not in the big swing of things.
Secondly, I think lobbyists take a hit because people perceive them as doing favors for congressmen to enhance their re election, whether it be
campaign contributions, or gathering up support from various different groups,
this and that; or having access to them that would be denied somebody else who had certainly an equal --
equally as passionate concern about a certain issue, but yet didn't feel they had
that access, yet the lobbyists did because of his time in the past.
You know, I tell you, I've done this now for 31 years, I've been a lobbyist.
And the first three years someone once said to me, well -- it was an old senior lobbyist. He said,
"If you should succeed, you'll know after the third -- third year or so."
I said, "Why do you say that?
"Because then you're no longer just trading on the reputation you had as a staffer for a member or his access.
It shows that you have contributed some way to the development of the problem that's significant beyond just,
you know, through your reasoning and your understanding and such."
All right. So now for 31 years I've done this, right? So what have I -- what have I learned?
I've learned that we'll be around for a very long time.
And I've learned that I'm not really -- I don't really feel threatened by this most recent time about
not thinking well of lobbyists, because they play a very important role.
And they can help members of Congress achieve their goals oftentimes.
And they -- they -- they are important conduits of information, not only in terms of the technical knowledge that's necessary,
but also in terms of the
political play that's unfolding, and so on.