Sen. Stevens’ conviction hurts waning GOP

Freedom New Mexico

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ conviction Monday on all seven federal corruption charges is being viewed in terms of the Nov. 4 general election, which is understandable given that the nation is in the final week of a long and grueling presidential race.

From that horse-race perspective, it’s obvious this is more bad news for an already flailing Republican ticket. As Ben Smith of Politico.com put it, “If life were fair, it would bit a boost for McCain, an old intramural Stevens foe and enemy of Stevens’ earmarks. But (Sarah) Palin’s mixed relationship with Stevens complicates that, as does the fact that much of what filters through will just be another Republican going down.”

Sen. Stevens, 84, also is embroiled in an unusually tough re-election fight, largely because of the trial. Although he has no plans to resign from his seat (the Senate has no rules against its members being convicted felons), this development should bolster Democratic attempts to gain a filibusterproof 60-seat majority. The national Democratic Party is investing heavily in a Senate race in the reddest of red states, Alaska.

We find it unsurprising that a senator who has mastered the art of redirecting tax dollars toward his state through earmarks and other budget games apparently had no trouble redirecting dollars toward his own home. The amount of money at issue in the Stevens case is relatively trivial (in the scheme of federal budgets).

As The Associated Press reported, he was “charged with lying on Senate financial forms about $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from an oil contractor.”

The bigger crime in our mind isn’t even illegal: the abuse of the taxpayer to benefit political cronies and constituents — something practiced by most members of Congress, although Sen. Stevens was a maestro.

The Alaska Daily News reported this week that he moved ahead a $2.7 million road-paving project that benefited a close personal friend who owns the Double Musty Inn. This is nothing new. Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative group that battles wasteful federal spending, noted recently that Stevens “has helped bring home a total of 1,452 pork-barrel projects, worth $3.4 billion, between 1995 and 2008.”

“The Stevens trial will go down in history alongside the trials of lobbyists Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham as just another sad, but not surprising, spectacle of corruption and cynicism in the nation’s capital,” CAGW President Tom Schatz, said in a statement Monday. “Members of Congress, who have so far been unwilling to police themselves and stop the grotesque, runaway federal spending spree, ought to view Stevens’ conviction as a cautionary tale.”

One can always hope.