Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens To Be Arraigned Thursday July 31st; Alaskans Concerned But Are Willing To Reserve Judgment

Alaska's Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was back at work on July 30th, 2008, with an arraignment date waiting for him on July 31st. Story published in the Anchorage Daily News Alaska Politics blog. A related story also posted on KTUU Channel 2. Previous post HERE.

Stevens will be arraigned on July 31st at 1 P.M in federal court in Washington D.C. Federal arraignment hearings are typically short, and about all that happens is that defendants face their charges and then are asked by a judge to enter a plea. ADN's Washington correspondent reports that the senator appeared to be fairly well-received by his colleagues on Wednesday, and he attended a committee meeting and then cast two votes. However, he chose not to talk to reporters, merely referring to the statement he issued on July 29th.

Although Stevens lost his leadership posts on both the Senate Commerce Committee and on a defense spending subcommittee, he remains a member of both committees. As a member of Appropriations committee, he will keep have the ability to advocate for Alaska, which means that his legendary ability to earmark might not be hampered that much. But he will no longer be writing the defense appropriations bill, however, something he has done for two decades along with Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI). That task will be taken over by the top Republican on the full Appropriations Committee, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Further reaction: Alaska media published editorial reaction to Stevens' indictment on July 30th:

(1). Anchorage Daily News: In their column, entitled "Stevens indicted", they carefully acknowledge that Stevens is being indicted for sloppy reporting, not bribery. While the indictment does allege that Bill Allen and Veco were seeking official actions from Senator Stevens, and sometimes got them, there was NO quid pro quo in exchange for the gifts. ADN characterizes it as "mutual back-scratching". But they point out that, even if it is ultimately determined that Senator Stevens did not break federal corruption laws or Senate ethics rules, he will still find it difficult to explain his conduct to Alaska voters. The bottom line: it will still be a black mark against an otherwise distinguished career.

(2). Voice Of The Times: In their column, entitled "Stevens indictment spreads a pall over Alaska", the Times characterized it as a kick in the stomach, although they also proclaim the presumption of innocence. But while they acknowledge that the mere preferral of charges has tarnished Stevens’ sterling reputation as one of this state's all-time great political figures, they remind us that Stevens was named "Alaskan of the Year" in 1974, and just a few years ago, he was proclaimed "Alaskan of the Century" and had the Anchorage International Airport renamed in his honor. Because Ted Stevens has worked long and hard for Alaska for four decades, the Times asks that this not be erased from the public mind.

(3). Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: In their column, entitled "Deserved respect", the News-Miner also cites Senator Stevens lengthy and homorable service to the state, while acknowledging that this accusation of wrongdoing casts a shadow over Alaska. Because he has shouldered a high level of public scrutiny and responsibility for a very long time, Senator Stevens doesn’t just hold an office in Washington that calls for a modicum of respect, he has earned his title and is deserving of that respect. But for now Senator Stevens has stated his innocence, and will continue to work for Alaskans and seek re-election. The News-Miner reminds us that we must allow justice to follow its course.

Read ADN's overview of Alaska political corruption HERE.

But one "Alaskan" openly called for his resignation on KTUU Channel 2. Florida carpetbagger Vic Vickers, who only became a full-time resident of Alaska in January 2008 and who pledges to spend as much as $750,000 on his campaign to wrest ["buy"] the Republican senatorial nomination from Stevens, loudly and imperiously demanded that Stevens resign. Vickers is primarily a one-trick pony, interested only in torpedoing Stevens, although he seems to have an in-depth understanding of America's banking system, having written several books about it. But those few people who've even been motivated enough to respond to Vickers consider him a carpetbagger, although he's visited Alaska frequently in the past in the course of his professional duties. Vickers has no chance to win.

The Alaska public seems to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. In a KTUU unscientific poll conducted on July 29th, when they asked the question, "Will the federal indictment of Ted Stevens influence your vote in Alaska's U.S. Senate race?", the response was 43 percent Yes, 52 percent No, and 5 percent Unsure. But in another poll conducted on July 30th, in response to a question about whether Stevens should continue to run for re-election, 52 percent said No, while 45 percent said Yes.

In a new story just published by the Anchorage Daily News, there are signs that some other U.S. Senators are beginning to distance themselves from Senator Stevens. A number of Republican senators facing re-election challenges are seeking to "insulate" themselves from Senator Stevens by promising to donate to charity tens of thousands of dollars they received from the veteran Alaska lawmaker's political action committee. The list of senators includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Senator John Sununu (R-NH).

However, Alaska's other senator, Lisa Murkowski, who previously donated to charity $8,000 in donations received from Bill Allen and former Veco vice president Richard Smith, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges last year, chose to keep donations from other Veco executives. Her spokesman, Mike Brumas, said Wednesday that to give away donations from other Veco employees would "impugn the integrity of a lot of good Alaskans."

Meantime, the Republican Party of Alaska on Wednesday disclosed that it has donated $34,500 it received from Veco executives to a half dozen Alaska-based charities. The party received more than $56,000 in donations from the company between 1997 and 2004, but spokesman McHugh Pierre said that more than $20,000 of those funds had been spent when the corruption scandal became public in 2006. The state party donated the money, Pierre told McClatchy, because, "We wanted to make sure that people understand that we were not part of this corruption scandal."

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