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Stevens the Soothsayer

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), it turns out, was prescient. Here's what he said two years ago in a secretly recorded phone conversation with Bill Allen, his longtime friend (whom he now may wish he had never met): "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."

A federal jury thought otherwise, however, and Stevens -- the Senate's longest-serving Republican -- was convicted on seven charges of making false statements on Senate disclosure documents. Technically, Stevens accepted gifts from Allen and others and failed to report them. The word "gifts" is somewhat mild; Allen renovated Stevens' house, filled it with furniture and other comforts, gave him a new roof, fixed his boiler, and on and on and on. The verdict comes as Stevens prepares to face voters Tuesday in a bid for reelection. It was Stevens who pushed to have the trial before the election, not federal prosecutors -- or Stevens's Democratic opponent, Mark Begich, who must feel as if he received a "gift" today.

Stevens was one of the lords of the Senate, a czar of earmarks who brought home federal largess to his state by the boatload and never apologized for it. He could be famously prickly and showed that side of his personality at his trial, when he shot back retorts at prosecutors as if he were in the midst of a floor debate. Asked about a chair that Allen had given him, Stevens responded: "He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift. He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don't belong to us."

One thing was missing from the charges, though: An alleged quid pro quo. Prosecutors didn't accuse Stevens of doing any specific favors for Allen or his oil services company, VECO Corp., in return for the gifts.

They just accused Stevens of not reporting the gifts. What Stevens did was wrong, and now both he and his party will pay for it -- his conviction makes it more likely that Begich will win, which would increase the Democrats' chances of building a veto-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. Prosecutors were sloppy enough in presenting their case that Stevens likely has avenues for appeal, though of course any reversal would come too late to affect his political fortunes. Stevens's real crime was arrogance -- he assumed that rules made for mere mortals didn't apply to him. This is Washington: That's not an unfamiliar story.

By Eugene Robinson  | October 27, 2008; 5:41 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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Next: 40 Years Later


I'm sure it was just a slip, Eugene, but 60 seats do not give the Dems a "veto" proof majority, rather a "fillibuster" proof majority.

Posted by: NMModerate1 | October 27, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

How happy John McCain must be that he reached to the Northern wilderness to find his running mate, lol. 8 days before the election and what's the front page news? Alaskan corruption ....

Posted by: Omyobama | October 27, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

This news will be looked on as "the first of the Republican convictions" and will be forgotten as happening before the election. However, in the days ahead, there will be a steady perp walk of people with '-R' after their names.
However, it won't be because they are Republicans, that will simply be the common denominator. It will stead be because of what was not learned in the Nixon years: nobody is above the law and our Constitution is sacred and those who play with it like a personal playtoy will pay the price.
And the final perp walk: Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney, former Vice President of the United States.

Posted by: kiernanje | October 27, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

You have to have 67% in both the House and Senate to override a veto.

Posted by: michaelfairbanks | October 27, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Good! I am glad they found this crook guilty! Since the same company that did all this work for Stevens also built Palin's home, AND the Wasilla Ice Rink, which Palin claims was HER pet project when she was Mayor of Wasdilla, SHE is next!

Todd Palin said he built their home himself, with the help of unnamed "buddies", no building permits. It smells like rotting fish.

If Alaskans re-elect Stevens, it only goes to prove their lack of judgement since they ALSO voted for PALIN as their GOVERNOR! It doesn't speak well of Alaskans!

Todd and Sarah have them brainwashed by those $3000 checks from the oil company royalties! That is what I call spreading the wealth around to get VOTES!

Posted by: cashmere1 | October 27, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Can Sarah Palin be far behind? I think she "associated" with the same contractor that gave Stevens such elaborate gifts of services, supplies, and so forth. There is a report that Palin received much of her new house free of charge thanks to a kickback for building the elaborate sports complex in Wasilia. My, how times do fix those who go about trying to slander and smear others.

As the Bible says,"Before you try to take the speck out of your brother's eye, take the beam out of your own." (Actually, Jesus said this, but I do not want to offend the religious right, especially James Dobson.)

Posted by: EarlC | October 27, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Also, the Alaska Daily News, Sarah's home town newspaper, has endorsed Obama! Even they know she is not ready for the Oval Office! She should have BLINKED! lol

Posted by: cashmere1 | October 27, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Cashmere1 has hit the nail on the head. It does seem that Palin knows how to spread the wealth around. But, this is the politics that Republicans play. They literally buy votes "legally." However, there is a time when you cannot reduce taxes anymore and still have any form of government. The fed is poised to drop the rate to 1% this week. The Fed will be doing something that they know will not work, or at least they told Congress last week.

May I ask my learned Republican friends, when do we start paying off the national debt? Once you have answered this, I ask "How?"

Posted by: EarlC | October 27, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Stevens' defense, as I understand it from published reports, was that "It's not a gift, even if I kept and used it for years and never paid for it, if I say now that I didn't really want it and didn't intend to keep it in perpetuity." Pretty boneheaded defense. Stevens is no dummy, so I would agree with you that his problem is arrogance. His lawyers must have been tearing their hair out.

Posted by: lydgate | October 27, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Alaska was and is the most corrupt, graft ridden and "ear-mark" dependent state in the union. It is a sad commentary that the current Gov. Palin's unethical conduct is actually an improvement. That being said, her shenanigan's while fine for Alaska, would be indicted in any other state. In California she would be under impeachment hearings right now just on "travel-gate" and "trooper-gate" alone. Senator Stevens is TOAST and so is Gov. Sarah Palin.

Posted by: mykulw | October 27, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Eugene, You wrote; "Stevens's real crime was arrogance". Maybe there is a little literary license there, but Stevens' "real crime" is accepting bribes and crapping on his oath of office, the law and his responsibility to America and Alaska. It would serve the public interest, and set an example, to have him spend some time away from home in another government institution where they pay for room and board.

Posted by: watchingduck | October 27, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

While I'm sure nobody cares about a washed-up corrupt GOP senator from Alaska (cough cough cough), we really do need to know the "extent of his relationship" with Gov. Palin. Don't ya think?

Also we should probably know which candidate Sarah endorses for Senate in the state where she is governor. I know she doesn't like talking to the press, but perhaps a quick comment is in order?

Posted by: youarestillidiots | October 27, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Eugene writes ".. It was Stevens who pushed to have the trial before the election, not federal prosecutors -- ...

Um. Is Steven's hoping to be cleared by President Bush?

Can Bush pardon Steven's 7 felony counts?

Posted by: VoiceofReason | October 27, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait until Palin's next press conference for somebody to ask her who she now supports in the Alaska Senate race.

Uh, well, on second thought, never mind.

Posted by: jimk8mr | October 27, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Stevens, like McCain become intoxicated with the arrogance of power. Stevens received his verdict today, McCain will receive his next Tuesday........Obama 08

Posted by: logcabin1836 | October 27, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Ted Steven’s may be correct that he didn’t know about and didn’t want the gifts which Bill Allen, and others, bestowed on him. (See Dana Milbank in theWashington Post and Anchorage Daily News) But that’s the problem, Stevens has been in office so long, that it seems he feels immune to the rules. And he was friends with Bill Allen so long, that he seemingly could no longer separate Bill Allen’s interests from his own. They operated as a unit, a team. Bill Allen and his lackeys built a deck, hoisted an expensive barbeque onto it, dropped off furniture and expensive sculpture. And Bill and his friends felt free to use the house. It was all done in a “what’s yours is mine” style that Stevens would have us believe is “the Alaskan way." That Allen was a contractor and Stevens a powerful U.S. Senator probably came to be seen merely as convenient to this long standing friendship. That, I repeat, is the gist of the problem. That Stevens failed to report the gifts, the added expense, is just the symptom of the problem. But that is how the typical prosecution for corruption goes. Rarely is the principal fingered for actual “corruption.” Instead, convictions come on ancillary charges: failing to report, or failing to pay taxes. In this case, the charge is not based on a quid pro quo: the prosecutors have alleged that Allen received favors, but they are not trying Stevens on these charges. But again I repeat, the problem was, is, that Stevens has no notion of separation between what is good for Bill Allen and Veco and what might be in the interest of the state

Posted by: janiak | October 27, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Voice of Reason, I'm pretty sure Bush can pardon anyone for anything. That would so suck, if Stevens could get elected and pardoned and serve another term.

More gravy train for Alaska. They need to start sharing those royalties with the rest of us. Or nationalize the oil companies (j/k).

And no more earmarks until we catch up.

Posted by: Walt6 | October 27, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

So what happens if he stays in the race and wins the election, then resigns later? Does Sarah Palin get to name his replacement?

Posted by: kmcnyasha | October 27, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I know that this is a very difficult time for you. This gross miscarriage of justice ending with Stevens' conviction must have been particularly difficult for you. You seem to have a shoulder nearby on which you may weep. Mr King seems to be holding up a lot better (he got to press earlier) but do not be downhearted. A better day will come....61 including Lieberman??

Posted by: Draesop | October 27, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Think of it. Had Stevens followed his instincts and left the Senate the night of his tirade about the bridge to nowhere, he'd be fishing or hunting right now, perhaps with Sarah Palin. Instead he thought he was untouchable. Why do many politicians in the most responsible positions over-reach? Mr. DeLay thought he too was, "the Federal Government." Both may yet find time to ponder their wayward ways while behind bars, (and not the kind you drink at).

Posted by: jpt51 | October 27, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Politicians (congressmen in particular) are all crooks; no exceptions, period. They are businessmen who like to pamper
themselves with taxpayer's money.

(I like Jimmy Carter and Bob Dole. I also believe they played the same games too. tsk, tsk.)

Posted by: rotor301 | October 27, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

This is one of the best series of posts I have ever read. None of the banal tripe spouted by the right.

I remember meeting Stevens in Chicago nearly 37 years ago. I thought him an affable fellow and certainly Senate material. Oh, how time and the endless sense of self-importance can belittle one's true self.

Stevens at 84, convicted felon, is a pathetic sight. But so was Martha Stewart at her low moment.

Ted, you done the crime, now do the time.

Posted by: BisbeeAZ | October 27, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Without 60 dems it won't matter to Reid. One Repub threatens a filibuster and he'll just cave anyway, as usual. Someone should explain to Reid that there is such a thing as CSPAN, and that it would provide endless national entertainment for the nation to watch a Republican read the phone book and see who really obstructs government business.

I do feel sorry in a way for Stevens because I think there is selective enforcement about gifts. Like, who were those contractor "friends" who helped build the Palin house and who got those lovely contracts to build the sports complex? I suspect Sarah will not take this one too far onto the soapbox lest she call too much attention to herself. But then again, maybe mayors of small towns in Alaska are allowed to take favors for granting construction contracts.

Posted by: patriot16 | October 27, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Now that he's a convicted felon, Ted Stevens will be barred from voting in next Tuesday's election.

Ain't Karma grand?

Posted by: amym2 | October 27, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

This sleazeball Republican now says he is not going to quit. Typical Republican go F yourselves attitude, no honor, no dignity, just a thieving pig of a man. I want to thank the Republicans for all the lost jobs, the foreclosed homes, the giant deficit (you recall under Bill who you hated we had a surplus), and most especially for the 4000 dead young Americans who died in a war you lied to start. Stevens? He is the littlest of these stinky fish. Join KART: Kick A Republican Today

Join KART Kick A Republican Today

Posted by: limejunction | October 27, 2008 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Stevens is going to fight it, huh? Good luck. Politicians won't admit their guilt, even with the smoking gun in their hands. Ain't American government grand?

Posted by: tgolamb | October 27, 2008 10:47 PM | Report abuse

At last, one of the most arrogant of Republicans got what he asked for. What puzzles me though, is why the Justice Dept. has not looked into which company got the contract to design the pipeline? Follow the paper trail. Veco Engineering is now CH2M Hill. Bill Allen sold Veco to them before all of this came down. Worth checking into, don't you think? Sarah Palin learned the game well from Stevens. She needs to be investigated for her role in the bidding process that ensured only one company would prevail. Not that I believe that she is intelligent enough to pull this off on her own. She is clearly not. However, one does not have to be intelligent to be cunning. She is one of the most self-absorbed politicians I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: Veteranforchange | October 27, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I say cut Ted Stevens some slack. He was the number-one greatest supporter of public radio in the whole Congress over the years. That counts for a lot.

The stuff they prosecuted him on was nickel-and-dime favors.

The conviction will likely be overturned on appeal. And what the heck was going on in the jury room?

Posted by: gnusey | October 27, 2008 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Ted Stevens is no better than Karl Rove is no better than John McCain is no better than George Bush. All three have supported disastrous policies:

John McCain is in favor of the Bush tax cut for the super wealthy, the top 1 percent of America. If you like the Bush economy, if you like the Bush tax cut and what it's done to our economy, making wealthier people wealthier and the average middle class struggle harder, then John McCain is going to give you a third term of George Bush and Karl Rove.

If you like what has happened to oil prices, John McCain is going to continue that policy. If you like what you see about health care, John McCain has no health care plan.

Posted by: Dorothy_J1958 | October 28, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Enjoy your jail time greedy pig. How many more of your Republican buddies are there we can have join you?

Posted by: Hillary08 | October 28, 2008 12:50 AM | Report abuse

Enjoy your jail time greedy pig. How many more of your Republican buddies are there we can have join you?

Posted by: Hillary08 | October 28, 2008 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Here comes that ole Scooter Libby! Bush'll pardon him on his way out the door. He'll have nothing to lose; the election will be over, and hopefully, after a massive loss, the Republican Party in shambles. Bush knows WE know it is a corrupt party, so he'll do it just to spare his old friend any real hard time in a minimum security facility. Teddy will go home, to all of his "stuff," and live out the rest of his days in quiet, not so obscure, obscurity, still pullin' strings from behind the scenes.

"Fool me twice. . . and and and you can't get fooled again!"--GWB

Posted by: heavyheadtoo | October 28, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
28 October 2008

Eugene Robinson:

You must recall that line of Shakespeare which says, "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they make mad."

And there is that other sage warning to all politicians and bureaucrats attributed to Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Yes, I am afraid that Senator Ted Stevens wielded a lot of power, probably too much power, during his over-40 years in the U.S. Senate. Like many fallible men, he got corrupted by power.

It is illustrative of the kind of power he wielded that he was able to insert in the Federal budget that "Bridge to Nowhere" costing American taxpayers the mind-boggling amount of $250 million and which would have benefited only some 50 people on the other side.

Now he has been found guilty on all 7 counts for not reporting all those gifts totalling $250,000 from his (no-longer close) friend Bill Allen of VECO to the IRS, a felony calling for 5 years in prison for each count.

Here are Shakespeare's morbid words coming to life in the case of Sen. Stevens: "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they make mad."

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | October 28, 2008 4:33 AM | Report abuse

Even if Bush pardons Stevens, the senate can vote to have him expelled.

My question is: Can a new president override the pardons from a previous president.....especially if the pardons are apparently intended to protect him.

Posted by: GCHeels | October 28, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Al Capone went to jail for tax evasion. Despite this, we all recognize him for the murderous criminal he truly was.

Senator Stevens is now a convicted felon, but to dismiss his actions solely by that for which he was convicted requires the intentional ignorance that pervades so much of political discourse.

Similarly, when Lewis Libby was convicted of perjury, it was a far cry from the charge of treason he should have faced. I state this not as a partisan, as I have not ever been a member of either of our major political parties and left the Libertarian party in 1980. I say it as the son of a brave woman who was asked by the CIA to infiltrate radical student groups overseas during the 60s.

These last years I have gone from being non-partisan to anti-partisan for exactly that reason. So-called conservatives defend Treason when committed by their fellow travelers.

Posted by: eebsnallof | October 28, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

One commenter wondered why the FBI has not gone further in this investigation. In fact they have. Bill Allen is in legal trouble as is Ted Stevens' son. There will be more news here.

My assumption is that the FBI told Stevens they were going ahead with this indictment and that Stevens could have announced his retirement and his trial never would have happened. But in his "my sh!t don't stink" world, Stevens did not accept the veneration that would have been his after his long Senate service to Alaska.

Do not underestimate the voters in Alaska. I do not think he will win. But if he does win and then the Senate kicks him out will Gov. Palin appoint her husband or herself to complete his term? :>)

Posted by: LHO39 | October 28, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

On the topic of corrupt Alaskans and their graft funded homebuilding .... Would it surprise anyone to learn that Sarah Palin's house was built with material and labor that "fell off the truck" from the Sports Complex being built down the road at the same time? The Sports Complex that went way way over budget? Can it get any worse for the GOP? You betcha!

Posted by: majordomo | October 28, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

As a former Alaskan, I think you write Ted Stevens off too soon. In the quiet solitude of the voting booth, the majority will be unable to make that vote for anyone with a D after their name. That should tell you something about Sarah Palin as well. Brains, thoughtfulness, ability to speak, ethical behavior? Not important in Alaska. Just the R.

I've met Ted Stevens, and he was an impressive man, a kind man, and man deeply dedicated to making sure the people of Alaska got all they could. He worked tirelessly for kids in Alaska, and was always working to make sure that money that went to more populated areas of the state benefitted the "bush" areas. He was conservative, but not conservative in the neo-con manner, the Tom Delay conservatism that spawned Jack Abramoff.

Alaska does have a very corrupt federal politician... Don Young. I've met Don Young as well. You feel like you should take a long shower and scrub twice after being around him for a few minutes. He oozes slime and corruption. I can't wait for his trial.

I keep thinking throughout the Ted Stevens trial, why is the Alaska FBI office so diligent in prosecuting some relatively small crimes, when George Bush and Dick Cheney and all that work for them flagrantly break the law each and every day. They are responsible for thousands (tens of thousands... no, HUNDREDS of thousands) of deaths, torture, illegally holding prisoners, wasting trillions of taxpayer money... anyone of which is easily proven. Yet the same justice department that went after Ted Stevens with all its resources for a Viking grill can't see any reason to bring ANYONE in the current administration to justice? Doesn't that seem like perhaps the Bush Justice Department is using a guy like Ted Stevens as a smoke screen as they disappear out the back door?

I'm ready for some real justice... I want to see Dubyah and Cheney on a perp walk. I know... it'll never happen... but wouldn't it be great???

Posted by: philbiggs | October 28, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The list of criminals among our illustrious representatives makes obvious they have pushed the mob out & taken over. I believe alcohol & the promotion of while every other guy in America is an alcoholic with family behind bars for DUI, tells the story. Promote disease for profit claiming it's good for business? Why didn't we hire Capone instead of arrest him? We're using his plan to profit.

Look at the promotion of slave labor by our representayives through campaign finance & illegal immigrants while busting unions & holding down wages. Who has health care now & why is our health care unaffordable? Agri corruption is rolling in billions while the Mexican drug Cartel is running Calfornia like old Mexico. Where's the terminator?
Abramoff, Cunningham, Nixon, Clinton, & a list perpetual. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a crooked millionaire, politician. Two thirds of Congress & 39% of the Senate are millionaires representing US taxpayers who live in poverty & pay these clowns? What kind of idiot would pay these guys great salaries, auto pay raises, provide health care, & retirment to break unions, & hold down wages, break our health carem Social Security, Medcare, & Mediaicd? We lose more everyday of what we give more to our representatives everyday while we bail out campaign contributors who made billions of $? None of this makes any sense yet the American people run to it, flock to it for more???

When lawmakers are the law breakers, it's time to do something about the joke democracy has become! End the two party joke, the GOP & democrats must go, & campaign finance needs to be taken control of. These crooks have people, regular taxpayers who pay 90% of taxes compared to 50% in the mid 20th century, beleieving all the job creation, trickle down lies.

Are the American people so foolish they believe everything politicians say? Didn't have to ask did I? While Stevens was no doubt a crook for years with campaign finance, we're watching an election unfold breaking records in campaign finance yet our infrastructure is failing!

Giving tax cuts & incentives while shifting taxes evaded to the working class isn't & hasn't been working for a half century. How many bridges have to fall in the river, how many power failures like the one out East just three or four years ago, how many states begging the fed for $ because they can't fix roads because they don't have the money, while campaign finance from big oil, corporate unAmerica, & agri coruption, rakes in millions if not billions?

When are the people sacrificing their loved ones for country in Iraq, going to ask why they & their families are making the sacrifices, paying the taxes, working for poverty wages, & losing their homes while they bail out millionaires who continue the crime while living the life of luxuray?

Posted by: greyghost1 | October 28, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

philbiggs wrote:
"I've met Ted Stevens, and he was an impressive man, a kind man, and man deeply dedicated to making sure the people of Alaska got all they could"

Impressive? anyone petty enough to wear an Incredible Hulk tie qualifies

Kind? kindness can rather depend on which end of the stick you're on

Getting Alaskans all they could? I read that as stealing as much from the other 49 states as possible.

Sen. Stevens is a prime example of what is wrong with the US Gov't and needs to leave.

Posted by: rpixley220 | October 28, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

How deeply was Senator Palin involved in Senator Steven's election. It is my understanding that she was head of a 527 group supporting his election, and that she also took funds from VECO which she did return after the impropriety was "outed." It seems like her connection to yet more corruption other than Trooper Gate is not being discussed. I think it should be as this is fairly recent history and germane to the current election.

Posted by: FanofWyth | October 28, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

You got to love a guy, who when faced with criminal charges, can say with a straight face that someone put a chair in his house but since he never asked for it he doesn't actually have it. He could probably say that although there were two decks built onto his house since he never used them they are not really part of his house. You've got to love Republican logic!

Posted by: Jimof1913 | October 28, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why our leaders whe make the laws are breaking the laws and they get away with it. We've proven in our society that the rich are as liable for their sins as the poor. Yes there is always going to be a question of fairness when it comes to sentencing, but if Martha can do it...Ted can do it.

Posted by: Ahsay | October 31, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Those "R"s doing the perp walk have one thing in common. They believed Rove's permanent GOP majority was a done deal and that their schemes would never see the light of day.

If you're looking for justice you're on the wrong planet, but all things come to them that wait.

The wait is almost over.

Posted by: arty2 | November 1, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

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