If at First You Don’t Succeed…

6 12 2008

This reminds me of that old piece of advice, “Ask for everything. The worst they can say is ‘No.’”

Ted Stevens’ lawyers have asked Judge Emmett Sullivan to overturn the jury’s verdict. That’s right, just toss the verdict out and rule for an acquittal.

And if he won’t do that, then they’ll settle for a new trial. In Alaska.

And if he won’t do that, then they’ll settle for a new trial.

AND they want 6 of the 7 felony counts dismissed because they are the same as the first felony count.

They also asked the judge to allow them to file some exhibits in support of their motions under seal because the exhibits refer to personal information about jurors and to the ongoing investigation by the government into political corruption in Alaska.

This might have something to do with Juror #9 who had “violent outbursts” during the deliberations, and whom all the other jurors wanted off the island. Or, it could have to do with Juror #4 who lied about her own father’s death, and skipped town to watch a horse race. Or, it could have to do with our favorite Juror #11 who has been talking to the press and keeping a blog that describes some interesting goings-on behind the scenes. And now, it appears that the defense has been doing some investigative work that reveals what they believe to be jurors who lied on their forms and failed to disclose relationships with the criminal justice system that could have made them prejudicial against Stevens, and politicians in general.

AND they say that Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp, and key witness for the prosecution lied when he said that the friend of Stevens who was overseeing the renovation said, “Don’t worry about getting a bill. Ted’s just covering his ass.”

Under an earlier schedule set by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, the government has until Jan. 9 to respond to the defense’s post-trial motions. A hearing is set for Feb. 25.

In asking for a new trial, the defense lawyers said Stevens’ trial was fatally flawed with false evidence presented by the government, improper hearsay evidence from a witness who was the “linchpin” of the government’s case, and by jurors who lied to the court and were prejudiced from the start against politicians.

Such post-trial motions are common in criminal trials but rarely succeed before the trial judge, who has ruled upon most if not all of the arguments before. However, they set out the basis for a likely appeal, and could also be used by advocates seeking a presidential pardon for Stevens to assert he was tried unfairly.

Like it or not, the Stevens trial continues. Trialophiles will want to read the entire article in todays Anchorage Daily News.





Ted Stevens Corruption Timeline!

28 11 2008

Every once in a while, going through my usual rounds online, I come across an unexpected jewel.  This one came from TPM Muckraker in the form of a wonderfully organized and aesthetically pleasing  Ted Stevens Corruption timeline!

It’s a true tale of descent from Last Frontier Icon, to really old semi-pathetic felon. 

The chronology begins with the fateful line, “Sen. Ted Stevens mentions to his friend, VECO CEO Bill Allen, that his daughter could use a new car,” and it’s all down hill from there.

In reading through the chain of events, there were some details I had forgotten, like this marvelous quote from Stevens at the time of his indictment:

“This is an indictment for failure to disclose gifts that are controversial in terms of whether they were or were not gifts. It’s not bribery; it’s not some corruption; it’s not some extreme felony.”

I don’t know why I always get such a kick out of that quote.  No, he didn’t commit murder, or knock over a bank, or kidnap someone for ransom. And that makes us glad.  But by implication, we’re supposed to feel good that it’s just a garden variety felony, a minor felony, a felony hardly worth mentioning.  Whew!  Dodged a bullet, there.  I was worried for a minute. 

The timeline ends on November 20, 2008 when Stevens makes his last appearance on the Senate floor.  I’m hoping the timeline will continue with updates, because Stevens may be out, but the cadaveric spasms of his long career in Alaska politics continue.

David Anderson, the witness who said he lied under oath regarding an immunity deal, has also stated that the prosecution showed him documents before the trial that he wasn’t legally supposed to see.  Judge Emmett Sullivan, who undoubtedly had been hoping he’d seen the last of this trial has scheduled a hearing for Monday to determine whether Stevens’ attorneys can question Anderson, Allen’s nephew and a welder who worked on Stevens’ renovations….the one’s he ‘forgot’ to disclose on his financial disclosure forms.

The circumstances surrounding this sudden and startling confession of perjury from the penitent welder are still unclear.  Kind of like when you question the “Magic 8 Ball” and it tells you, “Reply hazy….try again later.”

We’ll try again on Monday.





The Alaskan White Knights are Waffling, and We Have Homework to Do.

25 11 2008

waffle

I have a couple questions.

What do you do when your Governor is accountable to your Attorney General, and your Attorney General is accountable to your Governor, and neither one of them will either acknowledge or administer consequences for bad behavior.  It’s like a kid whose Mom says, “Go ask Dad,” and whose Dad says, “Go ask Mom.”  Neither one of them wants to be accountable, and neither one of them has any  intention of answering the question.  They are hoping the kid will go away.

Now I have another question.

What do you do when the Legislature, the voice of the people who hired the Governor, also refuses to administer consequences for bad behavior, and simply stands mute?  And what do you do when that silence then turns into statements that run not only counter to the expectation of the people, but to their job description, and the bounds of ethics and the law? 

What do you do when your “voice” no longer speaks for you?

I have a small understanding about how people with Tourette syndrome, or muscular spasms must feel.   It must feel like a betrayal of mind and body when the things that are meant, on the most basic level, to represent you  (your voice, and your actions) are hijacked by unknown forces, leaving you making declarations and gestures that have no connection with your true intent. 

When the Alaska Legislature starts talking about how we’re all weary of Troopergate, and Governor Palin, Attorney General Talis Colberg, and those who ignored legislative subpoenas should just be able to continue without facing any consequences for violating the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, and the law,  I feel like shouting, “This is not me!  I’m not saying this!  I’m not doing this!”

I have often compared the Democrats of the Legislature to white knights. I’ve been blown away at times by their bravery, their conviction, and the fact that they put themselves out on a limb to do the right thing. And I’ve also given a pat on the back to Republicans who have planted themselves on the right side of the fence despite their party affiliation. In some ways the Repulicans had the harder job. When the bipartisan Legislative Council voted to make public the Troopergate report whose first finding was that Sarah Palin abused her power and violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, I was amazed. I began to…dare I say it aloud….have faith in my Legislature.  All of them.

Now, after the election, as Sarah Palin gets back to the business of the state (when she’s in town), I am beginning to lose that faith.  The white knights are starting to pull their punches, the horses are rearing like they’ve seen a snake, and the villagers are getting a horrible sinking feeling. We are wondering what happened to them? We wonder if they are breaking their vows to us, and justifying the betrayal in the name of “moving forward and working together on the issues that really matter.”

Call me crazy, but I think ethics really matters.   If you polled voters and asked if they’d rather have an ethical politician or an unethical one, you’d get the obvious answer. And if you broke down the results of this poll by party affiliation, I don’t think you’d find much difference.  Everyone wants ethical politicians. So, why, after a candidate has been elected, would anyone want to stop a process that was designed to find out if that politician is corrupt?  Why would you budget $100,000 for an investigation to find out whether a politician violated the ethics act if you were going to ignore the finding?  And why, if the findings showed that the politician had indeed violated the ethics act, would you decide to give them a free pass?  And why, if witnesses, and perhaps the head of the Department of Law violated…..the LAW, would you be just fine with that?

For right now, I’m going to give our White Knights on both sides of the aisle the benefit of the doubt.  I, on behalf of the villagers, am going to accept some responsibility for their waffling.   Perhaps we just haven’t been doing a good enough job of letting them know we’re here, and that we’re going to back them up.  Maybe they really think people don’t care.  Perhaps they feel like they’re headed off to battle with no ammunition.  That has to be scary.

So here’s your homework Mudflatters…  As a Thanksgiving present to the Alaska State Legislature, I want you to give them some ammunition.  Every email you send, every letter you write, every phone call you make is an arrow in their quiver.  Phone calls count as two arrows…maybe even three.

I want our white knights to be armed to the teeth.  I want them to ride into battle feeling invincible.  I don’t want them to feel like they were abandoned by the village.  Let’s hang a garland of flowers around their necks, and sent them off with a full quiver of public outrage.

I’m not willing to throw them under the horse just yet.

For emails to all Alaska State Legislators – Click HERE – then cut & paste them all into your email address bar.

For phone numbers of the Alaska State Legislators – Click HERE

Giddyup!





Alaska Needs Your Help! In Which I Explain That the Creature from the Black Lagoon is a Good Guy.

24 11 2008

creature-from-the-black-lagoon

I’ve been talking for weeks now about goings on beneath the surface of Alaskan politics. I’ve fielded dozens of inquiries asking, “What can we do to help?” I’ve answered, “Don’t worry. News is coming. Things are happening. Just be patient.”

I’ve said it’s like bubbles in a pond that start small, and get larger, and clue you in that there’s something down there…and the bigger they get, the sooner you know it’s coming.

Now I want you to imagine a rowboat containing all those Alaskan politicians that don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, all those that have been stonewalling, and twisting the truth, and doing everything possible to stay comfortable right where they are. The boat is large, and the crew is pleased with themselves. They sit under parasols and straw hats, dining on little sandwiches without crusts spread with lies, and tiny cakes glazed with croneyism.

“Do you guys hear anything?….Sounds like bubbles.” says communications director A, with a mouthful of sandwich.

“I don’t hear anything. Can you pour me a glass of lemonade? Ooo…And take my picture!” says politician B, smiling.

“Yeah, I hear it. It definitely sounds like bubbles to me.” says Politician B’s husband.

“What’s that?” (shrieks spokeswoman C, peering over the side of the rowboat at the large growing circle of bubbles)

“Get away from the edge!” bellows Legislator D.

(The occupants all scoot over to the far side of the boat. It lists precariously from the sudden shift in weight distribution, and almost starts to take on water. All of a sudden, a large webbed hand emerges from the bubbles, grabs the rail, and pulls down hard. The boat is now upright again, and the picnickers gape in horror as they realize the boat is about to be boarded. Another webbed hand grabs the rail, and the creature, fueled by the moral outrage of the citizenry pulls its massive body out of the water with a terrible cry. It’s……

Alaskans for Truth! Hooray! (The creature places its webbed hand on its leathery abdomen, extends its leg backward, and makes a sweeping bow. Distant applause is heard over the water.)

The boaters realize with growing dismay that the crowd that has gathered on the shore has not come to help them fight off the beast. They are actually cheering for the creature who has boarded the boat! What can this mean?! Why do they hate us?! Quick, offer this thing a sandwiche or something!

But neither the creature, nor the townsfolk on the shore will be deterred. The creature has made itself quite comfortable on the boat, and is now sitting, and has actually begun to row the boat ashore (Hallelujah!) with the intent of delivering the trembling crew right into the middle of the mob of agitated townsfolk….

It’s amazing what can be brought to life with some good old fashioned community organizing. What all this means is that Alaskans for Truth is now an official Political Action Committee, registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. And they have issued a call to action.

Rather than to try to figure out how to get our creature to pull something out of his non-existant pocket, and read an eloquent call to action, I’ll just give you a link to the Alaskans for Truth website, which spells it all out. What do they want?

  1. Censure of the Governor for violating the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.
  2. Penalties for the state employees and Todd Palin who ignored subpoenas.
  3. Hold hearings on whether Governor Palin and her husband committed perjury in their sworn statement to Timothy Petumenos.
  4. An independent investigation into Attorney General Talis Colberg’s alleged witness tampering in the Troopergate investigation.

How is this going to happen? In two ways.

First, the call to action involves emailing the Alaska State Legislature and letting them know in no uncertain terms that these things still matter. A governor who is in violation of a state ethics act matters. An Attorney General who tells state employees to ignore legislative subpoenas matters. A Vice Presidential candidate and her husband who may have committed perjury matters. They are trying to tell us that these things don’t matter. But, they do.

And don’t for a minute think, dear Mudflatter, that what you do won’t have an effect. Do you remember when we were all biting our nails, wondering if the Legislative Council would release the Troopergate Report? It was touch and go. That report almost didn’t get released. I was there biting my nails in person, when they voted to release it. And one of the Legislators said, “Maybe I’ll be able to get through my inbox again…….”

That means you mattered. And you can matter again. Alaska is small, and every voice that speaks up may as well be using a megaphone. Nobody gets lost in the shuffle. Everyone is heard.

And don’t worry if you are not from Alaska. Because when Sarah Palin was foisted upon you as a Vice Presidential candidate, and when she was made an international celebrity, and when 77% of Republicans want to see her on the national political stage, this matters to you too. All you need to do is explain that, in case they don’t get it.

And the second way to help, is by donating. Alaskans for Truth wants to get their message out, and that means funds are necessary. The goal is to take out ads in the Anchorage Daily News, The Anchorage Press, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, The Juneau Empire, The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, The Tundra Drums…you name it. You’ll see the big yellow DONATE button on the website.

And here again, your voice matters. Alaska is one of the cheapest media markets in the country. Don’t think that a donation of $5 or $10 won’t matter. Everything will.

I once compared Alaska Bloggers, and citizens on both sides of the aisle who wanted the truth to get out to “Whos”, from the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who. Those little Whos, living on a dust speck, had to raise their collective voices to be heard by the outside world, and save themselves from doom. We in Alaska have been doing our best since August 29th to tell you our story, and to make sure that the rest of the country learned the truth. Just like the Whos, we have been yelling “We are here! We are here! We are here!” Do you hear us?

If so, then climb on board the rowboat, go to Alaskans for Truth, and start emailing and donating. The time has come to hold Alaska’s leaders accountable. The time for action is now.





Ted Stevens Prosecution Witness Says He Lied. And Wait…There’s More!

21 11 2008

chart2

Three days after Mark Begich was declared the winner in Alaska’s Senate race of the century, and the day after Ted Stevens yielded the floor of the Senate for the last time, a chief witness for the prosecution in his recent trial came forward with some more than interesting statements.

David Anderson, a witness who testified against Ted Stevens has said in a letter to the Judge Emmett Sullivan that his claims on the stand that he never had an immunity deal with the prosecution were false.  Not only that, Anderson said that the prosecutors coached him and “instructed me on how to sugar coat (the immunity deal) and get it swept under the rug during the trial.”  He also claims that all members of his family and friends, including former State Senator Jerry Ward  would be immune from federal investigation as a result of his agreement.

Ward appears to have been the beneficiary of an illegal campaign contribution by private prison advocate Bill Weimar, who was sentenced to six months in prison this week on a guilty plea to making the payment. Ward has not been charged. The recipient of Weimar’s illegal $20,000 payment was identified in charging documents only as “Candidate A,” but the description matched Ward.

Today, defense attorneys filed the letter from Anderson, a welder who worked on the extensive renovations on the Stevens home that totalled almost $250,000, and which Stevens did not disclose on his Senate Disclosure Forms, leading to seven felony convictions, and his defeat in the general election.

There are only so many times you can say, “You can’t make this stuff up” in one post, so I’m going to save it for the end.  Because there’s more to come.  Really.

In addition to the above, Anderson goes on to talk about being coached, and “groomed” for the trial, and being reminded of the events that happened.  He was shown pictures of the home, paper records, and other materials that he states he had forgotten in the years since the work was done.

In the letter, he states:

Without the preparation from the prosecution and the reminders from them about my activities and the agreement I had with them about my family and myself I would not have given the same testimony.  Without a shadow of doubt I believe this trial would have gone much differently.

Wow.  A belated birthday present for Ted Stevens?  But wait, there’s more.

Possibly the most bizarre allegation in Anderson’s letter is the claim that Bill Allen, (chairman of the oil services company Veco, who was responsible for the home renovations that Stevens was found guilty of not declaring) and his son Mark Allen had taken out a contract on Anderson to have him murdered.  Anderson is Bill Allen’s nephew.  Think I’m ready to say “You can’t make this stuff up?” yet?  Nope.

Stevens’ attorneys demanded a hearing be held to look into the matter. In a court filing Friday, they said the Anderson letter, dated Nov. 15, was new evidence of government misconduct in the case. They’ve already said they planned to seek a new trial or to overturn Stevens’ conviction on Oct. 27 of lying on Senate disclosure forms.

Government prosecutors responded Friday that Anderson’s letter, “simply put,” is untrue. They said that defense lawyers had ample opportunity to question Anderson about the March affidavit when he was on the witness stand, but chose not to.

In the affidavit, the main subject of Anderson’s Nov. 15 letter, Anderson said he agreed to cooperate with the government on condition that prosecutor grant immunity to Ward and his wife Margaret, Ward’s three daughters and their husbands, Anderson’s mother and son, and several others who couldn’t be identified. Anderson lives with one of Ward’s daughters, Kirsten Deacon. She was once Bill Allen’s girlfriend and that fact is the cause of much of the friction between uncle and nephew, Anderson has said.

OK.  Now I’m ready.  You can’t make this stuff up.





Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.





Vote on Ousting Ted Stevens Delayed. Happy Birthday. UPDATED!

18 11 2008

Ted Stevens turns 85 today, and the GOP has voted to postpone a vote today that would boot Stevens from the GOP conference, until after the results of the Alaska Senate race are known. I guess that’s about as good a birthday present as the embattled Senator can expect this year.

As it stands, Democratic challenger Mark Begich leads Stevens by 1022 votes, a slim lead, but one prognosticators believe may be enough to hold through the last major round of vote counting today. 24,000 votes will be tallied by this evening, and the only ones remaining after that will be votes received from overseas, which will continue to be accepted until Wednesday. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight on November 4th, and are allowed two weeks to arrive in Alaska.

One of the questions on everyone’s mind is what happens when the current administration leaves office? The number of individuals on the list of last-minute pardons to come can only be imagined at this point. Will Stevens be one of those on that list? Not according to Stevens himself who was asked if he would seek a pardon.

Stevens simply said “No” when asked about a Bush pardon, and bristled when a reporter asked if he expected to be expelled as a political liability to Republicans battling an image of corruption.

“That’s just your words,” he said. “As a matter of fact, when the indictment was announced, they said it was not a corruption case, it was not a bribery case. It was a simple matter of failing to disclose. Maybe some of the verbiage that you are using is not proper.”

Senate Republicans are meeting to determine their leadership and a variety of motions. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had intended to offer a motion expelling Stevens from the conference, but postponed it until Thursday just minutes after Tuesday morning’s meeting began.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘pleased,’ but I’m happy with that,” Stevens said of the delay.

Stevens said his race in Alaska won’t be final until Nov. 25, and that he remains confident of victory. He is currently trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) by more than 1,000 votes.

“I still think I’m going to win,” he said.

Stevens said he expects the Republican Party will ask for a recount in the race, given the narrow margin.

So, that’s the word from Ted Stevens who is one tough nut, and cantankerous to the end. No asking for a pardon (at least not officially), and a probable recount. The bad news is that this election will seemingly never end. The good news is that a hand recount will potentially expose some election “abnormalities” that are a result of the unreliable and easily manipulated Diebold machines responsible for the vote tally that was tampered with in 2004, and that continue to be used to this day.

And the ride goes on.

UPDATE – First new results in!

Mark Begich – 146,286

Ted Stevens – 143,912

That gives Begich a comfortable lead of 2,374

*****************************************************

UPDATE #2:  Finall tally for the day has Mark Begich up by 3724!  Will Stevens concede?  Will Begich declare victory?  Will we have a recount?  Stay tuned!

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Another Election Eve in Alaska. Recount Possibility?

17 11 2008

1600. That’s the magic number. If Mark Begich can increase his lead from 1022 to 1600, it will put him over the recount threshold. If the margin of victory is under .5%, the state will pay for a recount if requested by either candidate, or a group of 10 citizens. If the margin is over .5%, then the candidate would have to pay for a recount himself. An automatic recount is generated only in the unlikely (but nothing would surprise me at this point) event of a tie.

Will Stevens ask for a recount if he comes up short?  It’s anyone’s guess.  If anyone would do it, it’s Ted.  But he may decide to leave well enough alone, and spare himself from his almost certain expulsion from the US Senate.  But Stevens is not one to back down.  Ever.

Let me be the first to say that Alaskans are eagerly looking forward to this election being over.  We were all prepared to wrap it up on November 4th, and are now faced with the election that wouldn’t die.  But, there is a bright side to a potential recount.  Recounts are done by hand count.  It would be interesting to see how a good old-fashioned hand count fared in comparison to the suspect results that come from our particular brand of nefarious vote counting software.  It might be the only vote of integrity Alaskans will have seen for several cycles.

And, if it flips the other way and Stevens regains his advantage, maybe Mark Begich will demand a recount.

The counting finishes tomorrow with approximately 24,000 ballots coming from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska, and the Kenai Penninsula remaining.  When all is said and done it looks like Alaska’s percentage of voter turnout will be about 65%, which is less than the 66% voter turnout just four years ago, despite Palin and Obama on the ticket, and despite the addition of more than 20,000 new registered voters this year.  There are many loose ends to be tied up before this is all over, and once the votes are counted.

And just in time for a little comic relief from the Stevens-Begich duel to the death, check out Juror #11′s Blog! That’s right.  Blogging jurors.  This is a hilarious recounting of the Ted Stevens trial from the perspective of Juror #11.  Too bad she wasn’t allowed to blog during the trial! This is the juror who, although initially pegged as an alternate, got to step in when the infamous Juror #4 fled the scene after making up the story about her father dying, so she could go attend a horse race.

Here’s Juror #11′s summary of the trial’s opening statements: (‘Salmmy’ is Ted Stevens….we don’t know why yet, but have been promised an explanation in the future)

The prosectution: I am Rosie, and Salmmy is guilty of fraud! False Statements! Lying! Receiving Gifts! Furniture! Generator! Free Work done on his house! Statue! Puppy! Stained Glass Window! Mustang! – Wait?! Did she just say Mustang? What was that about a Mustang? Whose Mustang? Are you giving out Free Mustangs? Damn, now I really have to listen to find out more about that mustang! (yes, I love mustangs and am sure at one point I doodled ‘Mustang of love’ a dozen times in my notebook like a love sick teenager. I really hope they shredded those notebooks). Sadly, after the mustang bit my head was a little cloudy, but I think she said that they would prove their evidence in the next couple of weeks.

The defense: I am a whimisical old man! I don’t like microphones or standing in one spot! (I swear his nickname was going to be Orville Redenbocker if he had continued in this vein. I wanted to give him a straw hat, bow tie and a red stripped vest). Luckily he got to the point: Salmmy is innocent! He is old and confused! He hardley even goes to Alaska! His wife handled all the bills! His bestest friend didn’t tell him what was happening! Seriously? Oh, and Bill Allen is the Evil. He tricked Salmmy!

There are also before and after pictures of Ted’s chalet, and other amusing tidbits about the Alaskan trial of the century.  I’ll be putting a link in the sidebar for this one.

And then tomorrow, back to the serious stuff.





Does Stevens Want Begich to Win?

16 11 2008

No matter what happens, we are witnessing the end of Ted Stevens.  Either he loses the election to Mark Begich, or he wins the election and faces expulsion by his peers.  Neither scenario is one he would have chosen, or that Alaskans would ever have believed before his Girdwood home was raided by the FBI in 2006.

I hope that Mark Begich wins this seat for a variety of reasons.  But, I think in the deepest recesses of his soul, Ted Stevens hopes he wins too.  Stevens is a tough nut, but I suspect that the humiliation of being voted out by his Senate colleagues would be a lot tougher on him than losing an election. 

The first official action of the Senate, a meeting in which senators will vote via secret ballot whether to oust Stevens from the Republican conference is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning, before the vote totals are even completed in his home state of Alaska.

Ejection from the Republican conference means losing his committee assignments and his vote on party matters.

Following his felony convictions in federal court before the election, Stevens was forced to step down as the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee and on an Appropriations subcommittee. He now appears in danger of losing his seat to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich

The conference meeting is currently scheduled for Tuesday, the day after Congress returns from its elections recess. While the vote is on the agenda for 9:30 a.m., it’s not clear whether it will take place. Many Republican senators say they would rather wait for the final election results so they don’t have to cast an uncomfortable vote on whether Stevens should stay in their conference.

Yes, we wouldn’t want to make them feel “uncomfortable” by voting on a secret ballot to eject a convicted felon from the Republican conference.  For those Republican Senators who may be waffling on this decision, I have seven words for you.  Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, aaannnnnd……guilty.

Whatever comes to pass, it won’t be long before Ted Stevens is packing up his undeclared massage chair, his fish sculpture, his stained glass window, and the rest. His Incredible Hulk collectibles, and the rest of his office will be finding its way to cardboard boxes, and leaving the Senate building after more than 40 years.

It’s a new chapter for Alaska, regardless of the outcome.





Latest Alaskan Numbers and Palin’s Potential Senate Run.

12 11 2008

So, IF Ted Stevens gets re-elected, and IF he gets expelled from the senate, we will have a special election to fill the seat.  Any takers?

In an interview today with Wolf Blitzer (I wonder if she had an urge to shoot him from a helicopter?) Sarah Palin said that she feels as though she has a “contract with Alaskans” to continue to serve as governor, but didn’t completely rule out a run for the U.S. Senate if there was an opportunity to do so.

Palin said, speaking of Alaska voters,  “if they call an audible on me, and if they say they want me in another position, I’m going to do it. … My life is in God’s hands. If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

She also said she would not appoint herself or a member of her family to the vacant senate seat….which is nice, because that would be illegal.  (bangs head on desk)

So obviously a lot hangs in the balance in this Senate race – not only another potential Democrat in the Senate, but whether Sarah Palin will gain a foothold in Washington.  The first batch of uncounted ballots will be finished tonight.  The official count from the Division of Elections has Democrat Mark Begich leading ConvicTed Stevens by THREE votes.  There are about 10,000 ballots scheduled to be counted today, and nobody is going home until it’s done.  There are about 35,000 more ballots to be counted in the next week. 

Ethan Berkowitz has made up a little ground on Republican incumbent Don Young but still trails by 15,710. 






Palin Will Continue to Steal Cookies, She Says.

10 11 2008

cookies

A newly released interview of Sarah Palin by KTUU and the Anchorage Daily News has left me speechless. I had to listen to it twice before I could really believe it. It’s a little over nine minutes, but it’s so filled with red meat, it’s going to keep me busy all day.

Here’s the first installment:

Remember “per diem gate”? It was one of Sarah’s many “gates” that came to light shortly after her nomination, and was revealed at the same time as “travel gate,” both of which were discovered by the Washington Post back in early September. It was a little embarrassing that we needed the Washington Post to discover our governor’s dirty little financial secrets, but it was better to know than not know. This one may not have incensed the average voter in the rest of the country, but up here, the implications were huge.

Alaskans are not pleased by fiscal shenanigans. We are a frugal people and wasteful spending is not going to win you fans. Fiscal conservatism is the mantra that gets people into office. Remember former Governor Murkowski and his spendy private jet? Part of Palin’s fiscal conservative label came from selling that jet, which had become a symbol of outrageous spending that a sitting governor charged to the state. Here’s the background:

Washington Post - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor’s daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Now, this is a sore spot with many Alaskans. Palin is not a fan of Juneau. She’s there as little as she can possibly manage. State lawmakers even wore buttons saying “Where’s Sarah?” in protest. Working in Juneau is part of the job. It is, after all, our state’s capitol, even though some wish it wasn’t. There have been a couple attempts to move the capitol from Juneau to Wasilla, or another location that is on the road system. But for right now, travel to Juneau by plane is just part of the package and everyone knows that going in.

From the Juneau Empire:

“Palin has spent little time in Juneau, rarely coming to the state capitol except when the Legislature was in session, and sometimes not even then. During a recent special session called by Palin herself, she faced criticism from several legislators for not showing up personally to push for her agenda. Someone at the Capitol even printed up buttons asking, ‘Where’s Sarah?’”

Many Alaskans figured that the fact that Palin was charging the state a per diem fee, while in the act of shunning our state capitol so she could stay home in Wasilla would be her undoing. THEN when we found out about her children showing up at events when they were uninvited, unexptected, and on the state’s dime, that was just too much. Swanky hotel rooms for her daughters, expensive multiple one-way flights…you could almost feel the fiscal conservatives, and budget watchdogs bristling. She was going to be in biiiiig trouble.

So, right up front in this interview came the question:

Q: One of the things that came up during the campaign is that you charged the state per diem for time spent here in Wasilla. Is that something that you are going to continue to do?

Palin: Oh, we’ve always followed the law and fully disclosed all that and the choice there in many months of the Juneau mansion being replumbed and um all the …all the improvements being made in the infrastructure in the Juneau house where we weren’t gonna be there anyway, knowing that in the end it would have cost the state more money to do what other governors had done and that is either charge the state for hotel rooms or the state renting an apartment like they did for Governor Murkowski. We said no, we just won’t sell our house knowing that we’re going to spend quite a bit of time here, especially those months when the remodels were taking place in the Governor’s mansion, and we would disclose my per diem. We wouldn’t try to hide it. But as long as this is about full disclosure, not trying to take anything from the state, just trying to do my job and part of my job is with the first family, having them with me at some of these events. I’m going to continue to do my job, and my family is going to continue to be a part of it.

She’d rather work from home, so she did. She says It would have cost the state more to have her working in Juneau where her actual job was located, but she didn’t feel like being in Juneau, so she decided to work from elsewhere, and charge the state for meals and incidental traveling expenses despite the fact she was eating in her own kitchen and sleeping in her own bed. And she charged the state for travel expenses to stay home. And somehow this is OK. And the state of Alaska paying for Bristol’s fancy New York hotel and over $20,000 in family travel? That’s OK too.

It was as though Sarah was caught with her hand in the cookie jar when mom and dad walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. “What do you have to say for yourself, Sarah?” ask Mom & Dad. “Well, Mom and Dad, I’m not doing anything wrong, and I’m fully disclosing the fact that I’m taking cookies, and I’m going to continue to do that.” Huh? This is one of those moments as a parent when you have to think long and hard about how you react, because there’s obviously a fundamental lack of understanding about who is in charge, and how this relationship works.

So…..what do Mom and Dad (the State Legislature) do? If you listen to legislators, they’re sounding awfully concilliatory lately, and it’s making those who want to hold Palin accountable uneasy to say the least. I’ve heard Democratic legislators saying that we all need to work together for the good of the state, and they’ve worked with Sarah in the past, and we all need to march ahead and let the healing begin, and so on. I’ve heard them squirm around about the makeup of the new Legislature, and that there aren’t as many Democrats as they would have liked. I’ve heard them cite the fact that Alaska voters have given Palin a 61% approval rating as evidenced by how many voted for the McCain-Palin ticket. In other words, the Alaska State Legislature sounds an awful lot like the U.S. House of Representatives under George W. Bush. If only things were different, we could hold him accountable to the law….sigh….

I am assuming that all members of the Legislature will be watching this video, and I hope that each and every one of them realizes what it is. It is a dare. As a matter of fact, it’s a double-dog-dare. The Governor has just said that she is going to continue being unethical, and she’s going to do it right. in. your. face. “What are YOU going to do about it?” says the child with her hand in the cookie jar.

So, what are you going to do about it, Mom and Dad Legislature? You have two choices.

1) Well…..OK, honey. But you really shouldn’t have done that. You can keep taking cookies but you just need to let Mommy and Daddy know first, OK? Kiss on forehead.

2) Listen young lady. We don’t need any of your backtalk. Put that cookie down and go to your room because we need to have a serious conversation.

It’s your choice Legislature. Alaskans are tired of corruption. And don’t forget that Palin may still have a 60% approval rating, but before her VP run, it was over 80%. The more we know, the less we like. And Alaska voters don’t get to vote on the law. It’s not a popularity contest to see who has to obey the law and who doesn’t. Dealing with law is YOUR job. That’s why we put you there.

I hope there are some strong statements forthcoming from our elected officials. I don’t think I voted to have representation that gets cowed by a kid who just got nailed swiping cookies.

(More to come on this interview.)

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Stevens and Stevens. Like Father, Like Son?

10 11 2008

Just in case anyone wasn’t sure, here’s Harry Reid’s take last night, on convicted felon Ted Stevens’ chances of surviving in the Senate should he be re-elected.

“He’s been convicted of seven felonies,” Reid said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “He’s not going to be in the Senate.”

The majority leader was a bit more gentle about Stevens’s close friend, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who campaigned for the Republican in Alaska during the time-consuming trial and will soon assume the chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Committee after West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd announced Friday he would be stepping aside.

“I just said Senator Inouye is wrong,” Reid said. “All the Republicans, John Ensign [Nev.], head of the Republican senatorial campaign committee, Republican leader [Mitch] McConnell [Ky.] and a long list of people said that he’s going to be kicked out of the Senate. Of course he is. He is not going to survive.”

(Tangent: So Senator Inouye who is 84 years old, is trying to help Ted Stevens who is 84 years old, keep his job. And he is also replacing Robert Byrd who will turn 91 next week, as the Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Can anyone say “Term Limits?!?”)

Not sounding too good for Uncle Ted. I wonder if he’s secretly hoping to lose, so that he doesn’t have to face the humiliation of expulsion. What a way to end a career of four decades in the Senate. Ouch.

There’s another thing that nobody seems to be talking about much. This may not be the only trouble in Ted Stevens’ future. There’s a whole lot of unanswered questions, and ongoing investigation into some dealings with Ted, and his son, former State Senate President Ben Stevens.

Back in September of 2007, while local talk radio personality Dan Fagan was talking about the legal problems of the Stevenses, Ben was listening in. And Ben decided to call the radio station. Now, keep in mind that Ben Stevens had his Senate office raided by the FBI back in 2006.

Ben Stevens is under investigation by the FBI, the IRS and the the National Marine Fisheries Service, but maintained his innocence and called this whole investigation a “feeding frenzy” and a “blood bath.” The show’s host, Dan Fagan asked him about the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, where Stevens and his father’s former top legislative aide, Trevor McCabe, served together while simultaneously accepting consulting fees from the very companies they awarded federal grants. The grants themselves, of course, came from Ben’s dad.

“I didn’t receive anything [while on the board],” Stevens told Fagan. “I’ve got a 30-year relationship with the fishing business. I’ve been working for many companies and many entities and some of that overlapped, but it didn’t have anything to do with what happened on that board.”

Unfortunately for Ben, the facts don’t support his story. Stevens and McCabe founded their fishing consulting company in the last week of 2002, immediately before the marketing board started accepting applications for federal grants. It’s unclear how much money the duo raked in running the company, Advance North, but Stevens listed accepting $775,435 from nine fishing companies on his public disclosure forms between 2001 and 2005.

And how did Stevens and McCabe get these nice seats? The elder Stevens created the marketing board and funded it with $29 million, but Ben claims nepotism played no part in his getting the job of chairman.

“My father didn’t appoint me to the board, Dan,” Stevens said on the radio. “I was appointed to the board by the governor and confirmed by the Secretary of Commerce. The board members elected me as the chairman, not my father.”

He forgot to mention who submitted his name for nomination — that would be his dad.

And yes, Alaskans know all about this one too. They do seem to harbor fonder feelings for Stevens the Elder than they do toward Stevens the Lesser, who stepped down from his State Senate seat to…..wait for it…..spend more time with his family. It was almost universally believed that Ben Stevens would be convicted first. When people heard the news, they kept saying, “Ted? Are you sure it’s not Ben? It’s TED?!?”

So this whole “Failure to disclose gifts on Senate Disclosure Forms” may only be the tip of the iceberg. The FBI works in mysterious ways. Now that the election is (almost) over, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to hear from them again.

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