Murkowski’s bid has brought attention to a quiet but significant clique on K Street composed of former aides to Murkowksi, her father, Frank, former Sen. Ted Stevens, and Rep. Don Young, who specialize in lobbying for energy interests, Alaskan natives, and Alaska’s towns and cities. The phrase “Alaska mafia” slips off the tongue of many Republican staffers, activists, and lobbyists who have dealt with this clique.

“They’ve done a very good job of looking out for each other,” one Republican lobbyist told me. Stevens, Young and the Murkowskis have shared plenty of staff, and sent dozens of aides to lobby on K Street. These aides served as invisible middlemen in the earmark machine run by the venerable Alaska Republicans…

But this pork culture, and the streak of moderation, is the natural product of Alaska’s status as nearly a federal colony.

The federal government owns almost all of the land in Alaska, rendering moot a leave-us-alone attitude. Also, environmental groups see so much public relations value in “protecting” Alaska that they’ve fought tirelessly — and successfully — to block logging, drilling and mining.