The investigation into back-home dealings of Senate Commerce Committee heavyweight Ted Stevens (R-AK) has resulted in a criminal indictment on seven counts, the DOJ has just announced. A grand jury issued the indictment for making false statements. Stevens has alternately chaired or served as Ranking Member of the committee since the departure of John McCain (R-AZ) in 2005 as part of a routine Republican shake-up of such assignments. The indictment comes almost a year to the day after the FBI raided Stevens’ Alaska home.
Stevens is alleged to be part of a widespread pattern of corruption in Alaska which has also snared his son, formerly a member of the state’s Senate. Among the allegations are that used his office to Stevens promote certain business in return for value, primarily but not limited to extensive renovations and additions to his home in the resort town of Girdwood. Failure to disclose the value received is the basis for the indictment.
Stevens was appointed to a Senate vacancy in 1968 after the death of Bob Bartlett (D-AK), won the seat in his own right for the remainder of the term in 1970 and has been sent back with big majority votes ever since. He is famous for wielding his seniority on behalf of his state, bringing home massive amounts of federal dollars.
Steven has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal. However, there is a primary on the Alaska schedule for 8/26/08, which will give his party a chance to consider running with an alternative candidate. Also, Republican intramural rules will require Stevens to step down from his ranking member seats while under indictment.
RBR/TVBR observation: In broadcast issues, Stevens has generally opposed excessive government regulation, except when it pertains to assuring adequate communications services of all types for his many rural and far-flung constituents. He has been a big supporter of public broadcasting for this reason, and has been taking the lead in making sure rural viewers are accounted for in the DTV transition.
The ongoing corruption scandal in Alaska had already put Stevens at risk, and he has been trailing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) in some polls. The seat has certainly been targeted by Democratic Senate campaign chair Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and at least one watchdog has called the race a toss-up
Read the DOJ news release here: