Stevens Will Stand Trial.

10 09 2008

Ted Stevens on Primary Night 2008 in Alaska

Anchorage Mayor and Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Begich

Looks like the best efforts of Ted Stevens’ attorneys came up short. They tried to get his ongoing corruption case thrown out on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and that some of the charges exceeded the statute of limitations. ‘No dice’, sayeth Judge Emmett Sullivan.

Stevens was charged on seven felony counts for accepting home renovations and gifts in excess of $250,000 from the oil services company Veco, and failing to report them on his senate financial disclosure forms. In 2006, to the shock of Alaskans, the FBI raided Stevens home in Girdwood, a small town south of Anchorage. There were guys in baseball caps and mirrored sunglasses crawling all over the house, which Stevens refers to as ‘the chalet’. They took pictures of the roof, the deck, the gutters, electrical outlets,  the ginormous Viking barbeque grill…you name it. And that was just the outside. Nobody could figure out what on earth was going on.

Turns out that Bill Allen, head of Veco, was handling all the renovations. What a pal.  Stevens, who said that he paid every bill “that was sent to him”, failed to disclose all he didn’t pay for. We have recently learned about other ‘gifts’ he failed to disclose – among these, a new SUV for his daughter, a massage chair, and even a sled dog worth $1000. Yes, we Alaskans have to add a little ‘local color’ to our political scandals.

So, while many Alaskans love and revere Stevens, who has been our senator since 1968, many others think it’s time for him to bow out gracefully. Others think it’s time for him to check in at the grey-bar hotel. There is nobody that doesn’t have an opinion about Stevens.  And whether you love him or hate him, it will seem strange when he is no longer the Senior Senator from Alaska.

Stevens easily beat a flock of competitors in the recent Alaska Republican primary. Despite smelling blood in the water, none of these challengers were even able to come close to toppling this Alaskan icon we know as “Uncle Ted”, and the longest sitting Republican member of the Senate.

But, Stevens, for some inexplicable reason, seems to be benefiting from the recent Palin phenomenon. Palin’s approval ratings have remained virtually unchanged, hovering around the 80% mark both before and after her nomination. (They had dipped to 67% after the Troopergate scandal broke, and then rebounded) However, Stevens, who had trailed the Democratic challenger Anchorage mayor Mark Begich by 13 points in late July, has seen his numbers surge to within 2 points of the challenger – a statistical dead heat.  It’s suddenly a horse race.

So, is it possible that Stevens will actually be re-elected, despite his indictment? Yes. He did, after all, win his primary after he was indicted. Why? I wish I could tell you. The only rationale I have heard is that Stevens has ‘done a lot for Alaska’. This is true. He has funneled mega-doses of federal money into the state, particularly as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has been a bulldog. He even gave that Bridge to Nowhere thing a pretty good shot (with the full support of Gov. Palin, I might add).

MARK BEGICH, Anchorage’s hugely popular mayor, will give him a run for his money in the senate race, though. He is smart, young (46 compared to Stevens 84), and full of energy. He’s progressive (by Alaska standards) which means he is against No Child Left Behind, for drilling in the ANWR, pro-alternative energy, acknowledges climate change, is pro-health care reform, for closing loopholes in the new ethics reform bill, and getting troops home from Iraq.

It was looking like Begich had the whole thing sealed, until this latest Palin bounce, that strangely didn’t affect Palin’s numbers in the state at all. 

But first things first…Stevens’ jury selection will begin on September 22nd.  You know, if it weren’t for this Stevens trial, we’d be sooo bored with politics up here.