Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Step down, Senator

The ethically challenged senior Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, has been indicted.

And now he needs to step down.

No matter how big he is in Alaska (he's been a political leader in the state since before it became a state in 1959 and there are numerous public buildings in the state named for him), and regardless of the fact that losing Stevens means likely losing another Senate seat for the Republicans, it's time for him to go.

Here is a summary of the indictment, from National Review:

The facts are these: In 2000, Stevens ordered an extensive home-improvement project that nearly doubled the size of his house. The contractors who did the work were told to send the invoices first to VECO Corp., an oil-field-services company whose two top executives have pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators. VECO then sent the bills to Stevens, which he paid out of a separate account set up for the project. Even if VECO sent Stevens all the invoices it received (and that remains an open question), there is no question that Stevens involved himself in a shadowy financial arrangement with a company known for its corrupt practices.

The indictment alleges that VECO employees did pay for parts of the renovation. It presents evidence that they did so and that Stevens knew they did. In addition, the indictment names other gifts Stevens allegedly received from VECO and then failed to disclose, such as furniture, cars, and a Viking gas grill. Stevens is accused of taking gifts worth more than $250,000 from VECO, which he did not list on his Senate Financial Disclosure Forms. The indictment alleges that in failing to do so, Stevens broke the law.

From a legal standpoint, Stevens deserves the benefit of the doubt — but not from an ethical standpoint. VECO had substantial business before Congress, and Stevens used his influence to benefit the company. Specifically, he made sure that federal job-training funds went to train Russian oil-field workers for VECO. Stevens’s close relationship with VECO — even if it wasn’t as close as prosecutors allege — renders such behavior ethically out-of-bounds. Stevens should have known better.

Meanwhile, Alaska governor Sarah Palin (also a Republican) wants Stevens to discuss the charges with the public.

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