OCTOBER 28, 2008
Although he was convicted of multiple felony corruption charges this week, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is going full throttle with his reelection campaign as he fights the “unjust verdict.”
Serving Alaska in the Senate since 1968, Ted Stevens was confident he’d get acquitted before next week’s election when he demanded a speedy trial but the strategy blew up in his face. Instead, he will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot as a convicted felon facing up to three decades in prison.
After a month-long trial in Washington D.C., a jury deliberated for only five hours before finding the veteran lawmaker guilty on seven counts of trying to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars—including a major home renovation—in gifts from an oil company seeking lucrative government contracts as well as favorable legislation.
Before the trial, two major oil company executives and a lobbyist had already pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and federal corruption charges and were cooperating with the vast investigation which focused on Stevens and a handful of prominent Alaska state lawmakers.
The operators of the huge oil services company called VECO admitted paying nearly half a million dollars in bribes to various Alaska lawmakers. In return the public officials helped VECO obtain tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts as well as legislation favorable to the multi billion-dollar titan company.
VECO’s founder (Bill Allen) testified at Stevens’ trial that he gave the senator thousands of dollars in gifts, including a massive home renovation that transformed the lawmaker’s Alaska house. Recordings of conversations between Stevens and Allen were also played in court and, in one, the senator tells his friend that they both risked going to jail.
Stevens is heard saying: "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 a little time in jail. I hope to Christ it never gets to that, and I don’t think it will."
Regardless of the evidence and subsequent conviction, Stevens maintains his innocence and asks his constituents to reelect him. The 84-year-old legislator blamed prosecutorial misconduct, including ethical violations, for his conviction and vowed to fight the unjust verdict with every ounce of energy.
Even if reelected, Stevens can face expulsion in the Senate. He is the fifth U.S. senator to be convicted of a felony. The disgraced club includes Kansas Republican Joseph Burton for taking federal dollars in the early 1900s, Oregon Republican John Mitchell for accepting bribes in 1905, Michigan Republican Truman Newberry for conspiracy in 1920 and Minnesota Republican David Durenberger for abuse of his congressional expense account in 1995.
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