Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ted Stevens indicted

A lot of people's minds this afternoon are on the latest earthquake to hit Los Angeles, currently estimated at 5.4 but pretty close to the surface. Hope everyone's okay there, but I wanted to talk this day about the long awaited indictments against the long time Republican Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens. He is to the GOP what West Viriginia's Robert Byrd is, a quintessential Senator Pork bringing in taxpayer largesse to an isolated state at the expense of the wealthier states who have much more pressing infrastructure needs.

Stevens, who is facing his first competitive election against a Democrat since -- well ever (his opponent this year is the very popular mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich), has long been accused of taking kickbacks from companies for which he has done lobbying in Washington. (Search "Ted Stevens" at Josh Marshall's TPM and you'll see a laundry list.) The specific indictment today deals not with that, but unreported gifts-in-kind for repairs to his home that were unreported. There doesn't appear to be proof of a quid pro quo, namely mutual backscratching; but one should not be entirely surprised that the same Senator who's implicated today tried to stick America with a bill for the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" which would have substituted for a perfectly adequate ferry service.

Stevens' fellow GOPers have leaped to his defense saying he is an essentially honest man. If he was honest, he would have disclosed the bartered items. No reporting suggests impropriety no matter how innocuous; and the Repubs are supposed to be the party of "ethics." Any barter, even if it's braces for a roof repair, should be reported with the net gainer reporting the in-kind difference as income. It's as simple as that.

If the GOP loses its stranglehold on Alaska, it will be very good news for progressives as well as politics in general in the Last Frontier. Forty years of the same old shtick isn't necessarily good especially when it comes from someone who, it appears, to have not practiced what he has preached.

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