A crook gets his due
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens thought it was a good idea to put his criminal trial behind him before next week's election. Now, he might be having second thoughts. A jury in Washington, D.C., on Monday found the longtime Republican lawmaker guilty of trying to conceal more than $250,000 worth of home improvements and other gifts from a rich oil contractor who was a close pal. There's no guarantee that Alaska voters will turn out Stevens - after all, he's brought tons of pork to the state - but this sure doesn't help his chances. Stevens' defense was basically that the missus was in charge of all that house-renovating stuff and he was clueless. An AP report suggested that Stevens did himself no favors by testifying on his own behalf because he "stuttered and looked uncomfortable answering several questions" and sparred angrily with a prosecutor. A story that came out over the weekend perfectly illustrated why dinosaurs like Stevens - along with Sen. Robert Byrd and our own Rep. Jack Murtha - may be outliving their welcome by ignoring the overall good of the country to pour money into their own districts and/or states for projects of questionable need, in the process ignoring the call for an end to pork-barrel spending. Stevens, it seems, disregarded the needs of the state of Alaska as a whole in order to steer $2.7 million to widen and pave an Alaska road that's only seven-tenths of a mile long. Why would he do that? Well, it seems that the road runs right past Double Musky Inn, a bistro owned by Bob Persons, a close friend of Stevens who testified as a defense witness for the senator earlier this month. Stevens also had given Persons power of attorney to handle the renovations to the senator's house. What a tangled web. A spokesman for Stevens declined to answer questions about the senator's discussions with Persons regarding the road, but he said Stevens believed paving the road would be a boon for tourism at a historic gold mine two miles beyond the Double Musky Inn. Just one problem: The asphalt ends just past the restaurant. A state transportation official says the paving originally was supposed to stretch for 3.5 miles, but some of the money had to be diverted to fix a bridge on out the road. Then why even pave the seven-tenths of a mile? Hardly seems worth it, does it? Also, it flew in the face of the wishes of local officials, who wanted to use the money to fix residential streets and make other improvements. Stevens faces a maximum of 35 years in prison, though he might escape a prison sentence entirely under sentencing guidelines. It would be nice if the senator did at least a little time behind bars, if for no other reason than to remind him that he is, in fact, a criminal.