Stevens leaves options open


Did you know that there is nothing in the law that prevents a convicted felon from serving in the US Senate? Does it kind of figure? Leaving that fact aside for the moment, Ted Stevens (R-AK) continued to strongly proclaim his innocence on the matter of seven counts of lying about value received, and promises an appeal.

He still has to get past Election Day, however – a prospect many observers believe is remote. Even if he does prevail at the ballot box – which incidentally has not been ruled out either, his peers could oust him from the Senate. Many in his own party are calling for his resignation, including ticket-topper John McCain (R-AZ). The head of the Republican National Senatorial Committee, John Ensign (R-NV) is withdrawing support for the Stevens re-election campaign. There is no chance of an appeal happening in time for the election.

Stevens issued a statement, saying “I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. The prosecutors had to report themselves to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility during the trial for ethical violations. Exculpatory evidence was hidden from my lawyers. A witness was kept from us and then sent back to Alaska. The Government lawyers allowed evidence to be introduced that they knew was false. I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Stevens carries a lot of weight on a committee that oversees broadcast issues, but his presence or absence is not likely to have much effect one way or the other. At the moment, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is the heir-apparent to his Ranking Member seat and is fulfilling those duties on a temporary basis. But hey, maybe John McCain will actually start attending committee meetings again, just as we started seeing John Kerry show up after his extended 2004 road trip came to an end. A McCain reunion with Byron Dorgan (D-ND) could produce some interesting, and not necessarily pleasant results from a broadcast ownership perspective. But as of now, McCain will either be ranking in a different committee or punching his pay card in at the Oval Office. But it’s something to keep an eye on.