Senator Ted Stevens’ legal team continues with the “He paid all the bills that were given to him” defense. Stevens himself has been saying this since months before the trial began. It’s like their little piece of driftwood in Alaska’s boiling sea of political corruption. If there was no bill for the illegal gift, then there must be no crime, or so the thinking goes.
The defense today called Augie Paone, a contractor who says that Bill Allen asked him to “eat” an invoice for more than $13,000 worth of work he did on the Stevens residence at Allen’s behest. Allen is the former CEO of oil services company VECO, who pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers and supervised and paid for massive renovations to the Stevens’ “chalet” in Girdwood, Alaska. Stevens stands accused of not reporting over $250,000 in gifts and home renovations that he did not report on his Senate financial disclosure forms.
After Paone “ate” the invoice, he was hired to work on the Allen residence and was over-compensated by $13,000 for the work there, to make up for the “eating” of the other bill. So why was Paone called as a defense witness? Presumably to illustrate how Stevens was unaware of all this work that was being magically accomplished while he was away in Washington D.C.
(Why, look dear! While we were away, the elves came and raised up the house, inserted another story beneath it, remodeled the bathrooms, tiled the fireplace, and left us this cool Viking barbecue grill! If only we knew how to compensate them for their magical elf labor…)
The bottom line is, of course, that if Stevens took any gifts or services worth over $250, without reporting it, he broke the law. So no matter how they try to chip away at the bill (or the Bill), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s looking like Stevens crossed the threshhold in a big way.
After Augie Paone is cross-examined, the defense will call additional witnesses including his wife Catherine, and perhaps Stevens himself. If Stevens does take the stand, sounds like he’ll be there for a while. He will testify about more than 200 exhibits, 104 from the defense and 101 from the prosecution.
UPDATE: Stevens WILL testify.