“The worst that can happen to us is we run up a bunch of legal fees, and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve some time in jail. I hope to Christ it never gets to that…. I don’t think we have done anything wrong.”
So said Alaska Senator Ted Stevens in a secretly recorded phone conversation with (former) friend Bill Allen regarding unpaid work done on his cabin in Alaska.
Yesterday, the worst happened.
Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, was found guilty on all seven counts of corruption charges stemming from gifts and renovations to his home by Allen, CEO of defunct oil services company Veco.
However, in spite of the guilty verdict Stevens will remain on the ballot in Alaska against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
But there’s another problem here.
If Stevens can pull off a “Hail Mary” and win re-election, hecannot be barred from the Senate.
“Tradition allows him to exhaust his appeals before the ethics committee begins expulsion hearings, according to the Historical Office of the Senate,” the Washington Post reported.
Further, “Stevens… said in the weeks before the trial that he would not step down if convicted.”
I can understand a personal right to fight for vindication from wrongful charges. But how does Senator Stevens help the citizens of Alaska by remaining in office? How can he fairly represent their interests when his own reputation is tarnished as a convicted felon? Whose interests is he really serving?
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin issued a statement saying, “The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company up there in Alaska that was allowed to control too much of our state. And that control was part of the culture of corruption that I was elected to fight, and that fight must always move forward regardless of party affiliation or seniority or even past service.”
As of this writing, we’re still awaiting the trial of Louisiana Democratic Representative William Jefferson who was re-elected in spite of thousands in cash found in his freezer subsequent to an FBI sting.
Then there’s Florida Democrat Tim Mahoney who’s dealing with his own sex scandal, up for re-election.
Citizens of Florida, Louisiana and Alaska deserve better. They deserve nothing less than the highest level of integrity from their representatives.
In speaking of Stevens, Governor Palin said, “I’m confident that Senator Stevens will do the right thing by the people of Alaska.”
Based on Stevens’s vow not to resign if found guilty, it seems the only option left would be for Alaskans to make the decision for him.
Let’s hope they choose integrity.