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.





The Veco Corruption Scandal. Who’s Next?

31 10 2008

New information and new names have surfaced in the Veco corruption scandal, that has been rocking Alaska’s political world for the past two years.  Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp. made a deal to trade all the dirt in exchange for immunity for his son Mark, and others relatives involved in the scandal.  He had lots to tell.  Former lawmakers are in prison, and more are on the way.  The biggest fish ensnared in the net so far, of course, has been Senior Senator Ted Stevens, now convicted on seven felony counts.  But the FBI isn’t finished yet.

Newly filed court documents outline the extent of Allen’s initial revelations to the FBI, including his interactions with public figures that haven’t previously been reported — and who haven’t been charged.

In his first interview, the same day he learned of the investigation, Allen told the FBI about financial favors sought by and given to politicians.

Land deals were made, lawyers were hired, gas tanks were filled, floors were refinished, cash exchanged hands, pigs were roasted.

The new documents — summaries of Allen’s initial interview with the FBI and a subsequent interview — were filed earlier this month during the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in Washington, D.C. The summaries were attached to motions filed by Stevens’ lawyers. The summaries recount what Allen told investigators, and make no attempt to verify his assertions.

The first interview occurred on Aug. 30, 2006, after agents brought Allen into FBI headquarters in downtown Anchorage and he agreed to cooperate. The broad, multi-faceted investigation into Alaska corruption wouldn’t become public knowledge until the next day, when federal agents swarmed legislative offices with search warrants. The FBI had been monitoring Allen’s phone calls for months.

Allen pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in May 2007.

One of the conclusions reached by Allen, was that Rep. Don Young, who is currently running for re-election against Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz, “couldn’t be bought.”  Interesting, considering that after the investigation of Allen began, Young tried to reimburse Allen for more than $37,000 in pig roast expenses for Youn’s annual fundraiser.  Yes, folks, the King of Pork had an annual pig roast fundraiser, paid for by an oil service company.  Perhaps they should have hired a skywriter to surmount the event with the words “INVESTIGATE ME!”   When Allen didn’t cash this belated reimbursement check, Young sent it directly to the U.S. Treasury.  Then he got out a “wet wipe” and tried to get all that pig money off his hands.

Don Young has spent well over a million dollars in campaign money on legal fees….and he hasn’t even been indicted yet.

The other notable name mentioned in the new paperwork is Ben Stevens, son of Ted Stevens.  I remember breaking the news to a couple people when Ted Stevens was indicted.  The response from each person was, “Wait….TED Stevens or BEN Stevens??”  Everybody was expecting Ben would be first.  There’s a lot to cover with Ben, but these documents talk about the fact that Ben was getting paid for a lucrative “consulting” position, even when he wasn’t “consulting.”

Bill Allen told Ben Stevens (president of the State Senate at the time), when he needed money, to bill Veco $10,000 a month.  Stevens stopped sending invoices after his Senate offices were raided.  Go figure.

Think of all this as “scenes from next week” in the never-ending saga of Alaska political corruption.

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Republicans Speak on the Stevens Conviction.

27 10 2008

Sarah who?  Today’s theme in Alaska has been “All Ted, All the Time.”  To be honest, it’s been sort of refreshing to have a break.  We needed to cleanse the brain with something completely different – a mental sorbet between courses of Sarah Palin. 

Let’s ask the obvious question.  “Senator Stevens, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. … I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”

That was quick, and it’s no surprise.  Stevens plans to blame the system, and appeal the verdict.  And, yes, he will continue his campaign to retain his Senate seat, and asks for the support of his constituents and fellow Senators.

So (rolling up sleeves) we’ve heard what Ted has to say.  What about those national Republican and Senate leaders for whose support he has asked?  What do they have to say about their colleague in peril? 

“This is a sad but serious day. Sen. Stevens was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and now must face the consequences of those actions. As a result of his conviction, Sen. Stevens will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

OK.  Senate Minority Leader sounds pretty disappointed.  “Face the consequences”, “held accountable”…..Sounds like Mitch McConnell is thinking self-preservation and taking a giant step away from the convicted felon.  McConnell is running for re-election in a race that’s a little to close for comfort, and can ill-afford the Stevens albatross around his neck.

“This is a sad day for the United States Senate. Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace. Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public’s trust – as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law.” – Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Well, it’s pretty obvious that the Republican Senate leadership has pretty much thrown Ted under the bus.  And it’s not surprising, really.  Once the suffix “convicted felon” appears after a politicians name, any continued affiliation with them is pretty much political suicide.  Nobody, but NObody in the Republican Party would be foolish enough to snuggle up to Ted Stevens at this point.  I mean it would be like holding a big sign that said “I Pal Around With a Convicted Felon!”   Right, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski?

“Given today’s verdict, it’s a sad day indeed for Sen. Stevens and his family as well as for Alaska. Ted Stevens is an honorable, hardworking Alaskan who has served our state well for as long as we have been a state….Ted has asked for Alaskans and his Senate colleagues to stand with him as he pursues his legal rights. He stood with Alaskans for 40 years, and I plan to continue to stand with him.” – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

You guessed right.  Murkowski is NOT up for re-election this year.  But Rep. Don Young IS.

“I’m deeply disappointed. It surprises me. I don’t think he had a jury of his peers. That’s the way it goes. I’m sure there will be an appeal. If you watched the conduct of the court with the one juror leaving and going out and, of course, the actions of the prosecutors themselves, there definitely will be an appeal, and it will go for a long period of time.” – Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

Hit the brakes!  What’s this?  He didn’t have a jury of his peers?  What peers do you mean Rep. Young?  All the other members of Alaska’s infamous “Corrupt Bastards Club?”   Ohhh… that’s right, they are either in jail, testifying against Stevens, or are actually his offspring.  Guess that means he’ll have to settle for some other kind of jury…like the one selected by the attorneys on both sides.

What about that other Alaskan politician that’s been in the news lately?  What’s her name, again?

“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Sen. Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. … As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I’m confident Sen. Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska.” – Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.

Interesting.  So it’s the corrupting influence of big oil, not the corrupt compliance of politicians.  Subtle distinction.  It wasn’t Ted’s fault…it was those darn kids he was hanging around with that got him into trouble.   Then she tosses some word salad, with meaningless filler croutons.  And then “Respecting the workings of our judicial system” sounds good…but is she talking about the verdict we just got, or Ted’s upcoming appeal?  And what will Senator Stevens do that is “right for the people of Alaska?”  Does that mean step down, or continue to run?  In a nutshell, Sarah Palin said absolutely nothing with any substance.  How very…..Sarah Palin.

But, after all this, what is the official comment from the Republican Party of the State of Alaska?  THE most important Alaskan Republican in the history of the state has just been indicted on seven felony counts.  He has been tried by a jury of his peers, in front of the nation.  He has been held up to the world as an example of the degradation, rampant greed, and incomprehensible hubris of the Republican Party.  Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator in history, once third in line to the Presidency,  has been castigated and rebuked by the national Republican Senate leaders.  He is the poster boy for how far, long, and hard the Republicans have fallen.  What say you, Alaskan Republicans?  How do you console and guide your stricken party members who are reeling from betrayal and humiliation.  Let’s face it…the last two years have been pretty tough on Alaska Republicans, and now the demi-God of the party has just poured salt in the wounds.   I’m sorry Republican Party…I had asked you a question.  You were saying?

“We need to continue to support Sen. Stevens. We need to vote for him because a vote for him is a vote for a conservative candidate, a Republican who best represents the interests and beliefs of Alaskans. … We don’t know what happens in the future. But if you don’t want Mark Begich, you vote for Ted Stevens.” – McHugh Pierre, spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party.

You heard it here, kids.  The Alaskan Republican Party has just reaffirmed their endorsement of, and told you to vote for A CONVICTED FELON!  You show ’em Alaska Republicans!  Hold your head high, walk in to the voting booth with the blessing of your political party, fill in that little oval, and vote with impunity for A CONVICTED FELON!  Drive home with a satisfied smile, kiss your spouse, and say, “What did you do today, Honey?  I voted for A CONVICTED FELON!”  Proudly call your friends and relatives out of state, and tell them how you, and all your buddies in the Republican party, puffed out your chests, and proudly hitched your wagon to the star of an 84-year old CONVICTED FELON!  Maybe you should call your local party headquarters and suggest a fundraiser…you could do t-shirts, and hats that say, “I VOTED FOR A CONVICTED FELON!” 

Then, put your feet up, and watch the national news, and watch a couple political talk shows, and wonder to yourself, “How did Alaska become a laughing stock?”

 

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Son of Troopergate.

14 10 2008

Let me start by saying we know nothing yet. However.

The “other” Troopergate probe into Sarah Palin’s abuse of power in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired, is taking an interesting turn. The investigation, sanctioned by Palin herself, stems from the Personnel Board. This board is composed of three people, all governor-appointed, two by the previous Republican governor Frank Murkowski, and one re-upped by Palin.

The Legislature, of course, had its own investigation and concluded that Palin was, in fact, guilty of abuse of her power as Governor. But Palin has been decrying the Legislative investigation as a “partisan circus” and a kangaroo court. The REAL investigation, she says, comes from the Personnel Board. So convinced of this was Palin, that she herself is the one who filed the ethics complaint against….herself, just to make sure this Board had the final say.

Timothy Petumenos was appointed as the independent investigator for the Personnel Board. The buzz around town is that he’s a good guy, a competent and aggressive trial lawyer, a straight-shooter, and will do his job well. Then came the awful revelation…Timothy Petumenos is…..a Democrat. (loud ominous chord plays on the Mudflats organ) And not only a Democrat, but one who had contributed to Tony Knowles 2006 gubernatorial campaign when he was running against Palin! (loud, slightly higher on the scale chord plays on the Mudflats organ)

Palin, who said she would cooperate with the Personnel Board’s investigation, is scheduled to be questioned by Petumenos next week.

We took a gamble when we went to the personnel board,” said a McCain aide who asked not to be identified discussing strategy. While the McCain camp still insists Palin “has nothing to hide,” it acknowledges a critical finding by Petumenos would be even harder to dismiss.

But wait, there’s more.

We learned, in the wee hours of the morning, that Timothy Petumenos’ job has gotten a little bigger. The nets are cast wide, and there are more fish than we thought.

The state Personnel Board investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan has broadened to include other ethics complaints against the governor and examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel handling the case.

Indeeeed….

Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.

John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.

There’s no way of knowing how long this will take, or what the results will be, but we may be in for some more surprises before this is over.





Catherine Stevens to Testify, and Emails to Be Turned Over to Prosecution…

14 10 2008

With the nation’s eyes on Palin and the Presidential race, Alaskans have not forgotten the importance of the other races to be decided on November 4th. Indicted senior Senator Ted Stevens is holding his own in the polls against Democratic challenger, and mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich. Stevens is an institution who is as much a part of Alaskan history as the gold rush. Frankly, there are plenty of Alaskans who wouldn’t hold it against Uncle Ted even if he did “get a little something extra” for himself. They almost feel he deserves it, even though they might not say it out loud.

The presence of Palin on the ticket this year will bring out many Republican voters who may just cast their vote for Ted while they are there. So, the outcome of this trial is pivotal to Alaska’s chance of sending a Democrat to the Senate.

Here’s the latest on the Stevens trial.

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Stevens’ wife, Catherine Stevens, is tentatively scheduled to testify today or Wednesday in her husband’s corruption trial, although the senator’s lawyers haven’t said whether she will.

Stevens himself is at the end of the list, as a potential final witness. It’s not clear whether he will testify either, however, and the judge reminded Stevens – out of the presence of the jury – that he was under no obligation to do so.

“It’s your choice, you don’t have to say anything,” said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Tuesday morning, Judge Sullivan ruled that thousands of e-mails sent by Stevens’ wife, Catherine, will be turned over to federal prosecutors, who had first asked for them more than a year ago.

Communications between Catherine Stevens and her husband “will be relevant to show the material elements of the charges in the indictment, including defendant’s knowledge, intent, and motivation for concealing the benefits he received from VECO,” prosecutors argued.

They added that “in particular, we anticipate that certain documents at the time of the renovations will reflect that both Catherine Stevens and defendant knew they had not paid for the VECO work, and documents thereafter will reflect that Catherine Stevens and defendant took steps in 2004 to mislead the press when the media was investigating the costs associated with the renovations.”

Judge Sullivan said he saw no reason for prosecutors not to have the documents and ordered Stevens’ lawyers to turn them over.

The 84-year-old senator is on trial for lying on the Senate financial disclosure forms he’s required to file each year. He’s charged with accepting gifts and home renovations worth more than $250,000, chiefly from Veco Corp. and its former chief executive, Bill Allen, who was the star witness for the prosecution.

The renovations in 2000 and 2001 doubled the size of the Stevens’ home in Girdwood, expanding it from a small, A-frame cabin into a two-story retreat with multiple decks, a Jacuzzi tub and a Viking outdoor grill. Prosecutors have been laying out a case that much of the work, including the decks as well as plumbing and a complete electrical overhaul, was paid for by Veco.

In another interesting development, while the legal limit for gifts is $250, the communication the prosecution asked for includes documents relating to anything of value given to Stevens, his wife Catherine, and his daughter, Lily, including “any documents relating to diamond earrings.”

I have a feeling those diamond earrings weren’t the under $250 kind.





Stevens Trial Steams On…and a New Blogger is There.

6 10 2008

A new man has pinched his nose and jumped into the shark-infested waters of Alaska political blogging. I’d like to welcome Cliff Groh to the pool. Groh is in Washington D.C. now, blogging about the Ted Stevens trial. His history with Stevens is long, and his knowledge of Alaskan politics is extensive. He is working on a book about the current political corruption scandal uncovered by federal investigation. He understands the dynamics of corruption. He’s a straight shooter.

The name of his blog? Alaska Political Corruption. It’s not catchy or clever, but it gets the point across, and Groh is good at getting the point across. I’m adding it to my blogroll, and will be checking it throughout the trial. Here’s his assessment of the two legal teams.

Not counting the defendant himself, there were 12 people sitting at the defense table or at the bench behind at a hearing last week.

The prosecution also had approximately a dozen people at that hearing.

This massive investment on behalf of Ted Stevens is a far cry from what we saw in the three trials of Alaska state legislators occurring in Anchorage last year. In each of those public corruption cases tried in Alaska, the defendant was outgunned so badly it was embarrassing. It was like a freight train was roaring down the tracks on one man.

This case sets up very differently. With all of the resources expended on Stevens’ defense, this trial is more like two freight trains colliding—and it’s not clear which train will ultimately get the worse of it.

All this fine legal work for Ted Stevens doesn’t come cheap. It’s entirely possible that this defense is costing $175,000 per week during the trial, and that estimate could be substantially low.

$175,000 a week? You could buy a lot of sled dogs, fish sculptures, massage chairs, barbeque grills, generators and home renovations for that chunk of change!





Stevens Trial – Bill & Ted’s Desert Adventures

1 10 2008

So, if I told you that an 84-year old Senator was on trial for seven felony counts of failure to disclose gifts and home renovations on his Senate financial disclosure forms, and then I told you that he wore a panda tie to the trial, and then I told you that his estranged best friend, now turned key witness for the prosecution, told a wistful story about how the two of them used to go to “boot camp” together in the desert southwest, and walk around eating hardly anything but drinking wine as a weight loss strategy…. you’d probably have to do a mental rewind. You’d ask me to repeat myself, and you’d listen again and then start to think I’d been hitting the wine myself, or at the very least was relating a weird dream in that way you do when you first wake up.

But, you’d be wrong on both counts. This is all very, strangely true. The witness in question is none other than former oil services company Veco’s former CEO, Bill Allen. And Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure really did happen.

“Allen described meeting Stevens for the first time in the early 1980s at fundraisers and events for Republican Frank Murkowski, who was running for the U.S. Senate and went on to a term as Alaska governor. Allen spoke wistfully of their former “close, personal friendship” and how they used to go to “boot camp” in the desert Southwest – where they would walk around, eating little and drinking only wine, “trying to get some pounds off.”

While Allen testified, Stevens looked down at the table, writing. It didn’t appear the two former friends ever made eye contact.”

I don’t know that wandering in the desert drinking wine is the most effective weight loss strategy, but it does get points for creativity….unless the dehydrated alcoholic heat stroke gets you. Ah, the hazards of “boot camp.”

And the panda tie? I can’t explain it. Stevens has been infamous in the past for wearing another tie, featuring the Incredible Hulk (no I’m not kidding), on the Senate floor. That’s when many Alaskans collectively sink down in their chairs with a hand over their faces trying to act like he’s not our Senator. Stevens even has a collection of Incredible Hulk memorabilia in his Senate office. The Hulk is his totem animal. Maybe the panda was meant to metaphorically show the court that deep down he’s just a big ol’ teddy bear? The Hulk can be a bit intimidating, and you could imagine him being in shackles… but a panda? No jury could be that cruel.

Most of the rest of the Stevens trial has been all about…home renovations. Electricians, photos of plugs, blueprints, telephone lines, contractors….kind of a snooze. But Bill Allen definitely spiced things up a bit.

The conversation also turned to some of the unreported gifts that Stevens has received from Allen and Veco: gift baskets, a $30,000 fish sculpture, engraved guns, a sled dog puppy, a generator to save the Stevens’ chalet from potential Y2K issues, and a foot-sewn doll. If you are more convinced than ever that I’m making this up, feel free to check HERE, where they are live blogging the Stevens trial.





Ted Stevens Trial Gears Up.

22 09 2008

Today’s the day. After three unsuccessful attempts to get the case thrown out, jury selection in the Ted Stevens trial will begin today.

Ted Stevens is kind of like Queen Victoria, or Ramses the Great. Many of his ‘subjects’ simply can’t remember a time he wasn’t in power. To imagine someone else in the Senate, filling that seat, is almost impossible. Stevens, now 84, has been serving Alaska in this capacity since Christmas Eve of 1968. This means he’s literally been in the Senate since before most Alaskans were born. He has been President Pro Tem of the Senate. He has been the chair of important committees, including the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has brought multiple millions of dollars to the state over the years. He even has his name on the shiny new granite-tiled Ted Stevens International Airport, which was built mostly with earmark money.

For all the good Stevens has done, there are many who think his time is over. Ex-Governor Walter Hickel, who appointed Stevens to his senate seat in 1968 has even said it’s timefor the very senior senator to retire. Stevens has deteriorated a lot in the last few years. His frequent stammering is almost incomprehensible. His belligerence is alienating many Alaskans who used to revere him. And sometimes he’s just downright embarrassing… Wearing a tie featuring the Incredible Hulk on the Senate floor, and his reference to the internet as a “series of tubes” has begun to define his national image, more than his actual policies.

Then came the summer of 2007. Sitting in my office, minding my business, the news came over the radio. The FBI and the IRS were raiding the home of senator Ted Stevens in the small town of Girdwood, south of Anchorage. People in the Girdwood area started calling local talk radio stations with on-the-scene reports. Gawkers drove to Girdwood and parked outside ‘the chalet’, as Stevens calls his home, to see what was going on.

Photos were being taken of gutters and barbecue grills, electrical outlets and wrap-around decks, and onlookers stared in stunned silence at the black SUVs and the guys in suits and glasses swarming the Stevens’ home. The raid was stunning, and it was the talk of the state for weeks. Then, finally on July 29, 2008, one year later, the indictment came. Stevens was accused of accepting more than a quarter of a million dollars in home renovations, and personal gifts that were never paid for, and were never reported on his Senate disclosure forms. The source of these gifts, which included raising the entire house and adding another floor, was Veco, an oil services company. The CEO, Bill Allen, and the VP, Rick Smith plead guilty to bribery, and is now ‘telling all’ to the FBI and the IRS.

Sarah Palin is not the only soap opera in Alaska politics.

The witness list for the trial includes some well-known names: longtime friend Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Quite a list of power brokers. Now here’s the interesting part, just to give it a little Alaskan twist.

Also on the witness listare a Fairbanks strip club manager, and the underaged ‘coke-for-sex’ former mistress of key prosecution witness, former CEO of Veco, Bill Allen. And there are all kinds of accusations about paperwork that the newly sold and renamed Veco Corp. (now CH2M Hill) refuses to turn over to the defense.

So for those of you who are suffering from Sarah-fatigue, take heart. Alaska is an endless source of the strange, the sordid, and the knee deep muck of Alaskan politics.

Here’s the Ted Stevens classic. Enjoy the “series of tubes”.





Alaska Lt. Governor Sean Parnell Concedes!

18 09 2008

Alaska Democratic Congressional Candidate Ethan Berkowitz

Lt. Governor Sean Parnell will not seek a recount in the Republican primary for Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives. He conceded to 18-term incumbent Don Young, who is currently under investigation and has spent more than $1 million in legal fees, before he has even been indicted. Young squeaked out a narrow victory with a final vote tally of only 304 more votes than Parnell.

Parnell, who had indicated he would seek a recount, has apparently had a change of heart. He may be banking on a McCain-Palin victory, which would put him snugly in the governor’s chair with a direct line to the White House. At this point, it’s not a bet I would take, but I’m not him.

The concession still strikes me as odd, since the margin of victory was slim enough that the state of Alaska would have picked up the costs of a recount. Maybe he worried that a recount and second loss would sully his image. Palin and Parnell are all about image.

Democrats will sleep a little easier tonight knowing that Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz will be the one to face Don Young in November. Parnell would have been a tougher competitor. I can practically hear the champagne corks popping at Berkowitz headquarters.

Despite the much larger Republican turnout at the primaries, many of Parnell’s votes were “anyone but Don Young” votes from Republicans, Independents, and Non-Partisans. Many will either not vote at all, or vote for Berkowitz, simply because the 18-term corrupt, bombastic, blowhard that is Don Young is no longer tolerable.

There were also many Republican ballots selected by Independents, and Non-Partisans who lean Democratic, but voted for Young in a strategic move to keep him in the race so Berkowitz can bring him down like a bag of dirt. In Alaska, Independents and Non-Partisans can choose either the Republican or Democratic ballot. That’s why there are so many of them. Ahhhh…strategery.

Frankly, it’s also going to be a lot more fun to cover a Young-Berkowitz matchup for local media and bloggers.

So join me in a toast (or a donation) to Ethan Berkowitz! >tink< It’s not going to be a cake walk, but he stands a chance of ending an era of corruption in Alaska’s congressional delegation. I’ll bet there are plenty in Washington D.C. popping their own corks right about now.





Operation Chaos a Success! Don Young Wins by a Nose!

17 09 2008
Lt. Governor Sean 'Caribou Ken' Parnell
Lt. Gov. Sean “Caribou Ken” Parnell (left) and Don Young with his favorite objet d’art….Don Young.

Operation Chaos, it seems, may have been a diabolical success.  You’ll all recall when Rush Limbaugh urged all his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton in states with open primaries.  The theory was that she’d be easier to defeat than Barack Obama.  It’s debatable whether his tactic had any effect locally, but it obviously didn’t work on a national level.

In Alaska, on the other hand, things may have turned out differently.  It was no secret in the polling, that Democratic candidate Ethan Berkowitz was much more likely to defeat long-term but desperately corrupt incumbent Don Young, than Republican newcomer (and some would say Palin-bot) rival Lt. Governor Sean Parnell.

So, devious Independants and Non-partisans (who make up well over 50% of the voters in Alaska), chose the Republican ballot and voted for Young in a desperate attempt to swing the general election in favor of a viable Democratic candidate.  How do I know this?  Because, just in general chit-chatty conversation, I personally came across FIVE people who did it.  I didn’t ask. It was almost like people needed to make this guilty, yet gleeful confession.  Did one of my earliest posts help plant the idea?  Probably not. Not many people read it.  But the idea obviously sprang up indepentently in the minds of those hungry to get the old-guard corrupt politicians out of office.

Weeks after Alaska’s primary, the absentee ballots now counted, Don Young can claim victory by the razor-thin margin of 304 votes.  I know five of the voters by name, and I’m guessing that Alaskans like them have put him over the top.  Alaska politics makes strange bedfellows.

Parnell  will probably call for a recount, so keep those champagne bottles corked for now.  The recount could take another 10 days.  But, things may be looking up in one branch of Alaska politics.