On Tuesday I noted that in spite of being convicted on all seven counts of corruption, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens said that he would not step down from office.
One of the questions I asked was, “Whose interests is [Stevens] really serving?”
Answer: Clearly his own.
Now comes word that the Alaska G.O.P. is urging state voters to stand behind a convicted felon by returning him to the United States Senate. Party spokesman McHugh Pierre, (above) responding to questions, said, “That’s the reality. Unfortunately, the situation’s the situation.”
The idea is that even if Stevens resigns, the Party wants to be able to replace him with another Republican. Now, we can add another question to the Stevens issue: Whose interests does the Alaska Republican Party represent?
Answer: Clearly their own.
This is not only shameful and unethical, it should be illegal.
Upon hearing the Stevens verdict, Senator John McCain said that the Alaska senator has “broken his trust with the people.”
“After being found guilty on seven felony counts,” Gov. Sarah Palin said in a statement, “I had hoped Senator Stevens would take the opportunity to do the statesman-like thing and erase the cloud that is covering his Senate seat. He has not done so,” Palin said. “Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service, but the time has come for him to step aside.”
So far, Stevens isn’t getting the message.
So, how does Senator Stevens intend to deal with the issue of his conviction?
“Mr. Stevens,” The New York Times reported, “… plans to return to Alaska to campaign on Wednesday, and he has signaled that he will try to tap into many Alaskans’ distrust for the federal government by arguing that his conviction in Washington on Monday was flawed and came from a biased jury in a liberal city.”
Memo to Stevens: What Americans distrust are corrupt politicians who continue to discount the needs of their constituents in favor of their own careers.
If ever there was an occasion for the Congressional Ethics Committee to step in and take action, now is the time. However, due to a lame-duck Congress, no one will make a move. This is yet another reason to have a non-partisan, independent Ethics Committee empowered to make assessments and take direct action on behalf of the American public.
One piece of bright news: As a convicted felon, Senator Stevens may not be allowed to vote in his own election.
The Times reported that, “Alaska denies voting rights to people convicted of ‘felonies involving moral turpitude,’ said Gail Fenumiai, the state elections director. She said the Alaska Department of Law was reviewing whether Mr. Stevens’s convictions met that standard.”
At a time when we need it least, Americans are once again witnessing politics as usual.