Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Ass On Your Way Out
This National Review editorial sums up the sad sack that is Ted Stevens:
One of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’s most memorable moments of the last few years came during the Senate fight over the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” In 2005, when Sen. Tom Coburn introduced a measure that would have redirected the money Stevens had earmarked for the bridge to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, Stevens gave an apoplectic speech on the Senate floor in which he threatened to resign if the Senate passed the measure. It was the nation’s loss that the Senate voted the measure down, simultaneously missing two opportunities.
Now that a grand jury has indicted Stevens on seven counts of making false statements, it is time for him to make good on his threat. Stevens is of course innocent until proven guilty of the crimes with which he is charged. But even if he committed no crime, the facts that have emerged over the course of the federal investigation into his personal finances are damning enough on their own. The indictment was just the last straw…
The indictment alleges that VECO employees did pay for parts of the renovation. It presents evidence that they did so and that Stevens knew they did. In addition, the indictment names other gifts Stevens allegedly received from VECO and then failed to disclose, such as furniture, cars, and a Viking gas grill. Stevens is accused of taking gifts worth more than $250,000 from VECO, which he did not list on his Senate Financial Disclosure Forms. The indictment alleges that in failing to do so, Stevens broke the law. From a legal standpoint, Stevens deserves the benefit of the doubt — but not from an ethical standpoint. VECO had substantial business before Congress, and Stevens used his influence to benefit the company. Specifically, he made sure that federal job-training funds went to train Russian oil-field workers for VECO. Stevens’s close relationship with VECO— even if it wasn’t as close as prosecutors allege — renders such behavior ethically out-of-bounds. Stevens should have known better.
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His situation is complicated by his well-deserved reputation as one of the worst pork-barrel spenders in Congress. Stevens is notorious for his ability to secure earmarks for his home state. It is largely because of Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, that Alaska has ranked in the top ten in per-capita federal spending since 1981. It might be easier to count the public buildings in Alaska that aren’t named after him or his fellow porker, Alaska’s sole representative in the House, Don Young.
Stevens and Young represent the main reason why the Republican Party is in the predicament it now finds itself. Thankfully Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is challenging Young in the primary, and Governor Sarah Palin is backing him. Hopefully he will win. It would be a good sign that conservatives can clean house in the Party of Reagan. As for Stevens, he’s stayed far too long for any good he has done, its time for him to hit the bricks.