Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stevens should show honor we once thought he had

It’s a sad day for Alaska.

Sen. Ted Stevens, Uncle Ted, Alaskan of the Century, Lion of the Senate, Senator for Life, added a new title to his name: convicted felon.

Stevens was found guilty Monday of seven counts of lying on his campaign disclosure forms by not recording gifts and remodeling services he received from Veco and its president, Bill Allen, Double Musky owner Robert Persons, Penco Properties owner Bob Penney, and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Sadder still was Stevens’ reaction to the guilty verdict — defiance, finger pointing and blame. He didn’t show a hint of remorse or offer any sort of apology to Alaskans.

He probably thinks he doesn’t owe us one. He must figure that after all he’s done for the state, Alaska should be indebted to him for life. That’s the mentality that led him to ignore ethical rules and the law in accepting gifts without reporting them in the first place.

On one hand, he has done more to make Alaska what it is today than anyone else. Communities across the state show the stamp of his service in the Senate — from water projects to airports, even the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai was part of the gravy train of federal dollars he consistently drove to the state.

But he’s wrong in thinking his service gives him special ethical privileges, or makes him in any way above the law.

He’s wrong in not taking accountability for his actions. Even if prosecutors didn’t conduct as smooth a case as they could or should have. Even if there was drama with the jury. Even if all the conspiracy theories he and his closest supporters maintain about the investigation and trial that brought him down, it doesn’t obscure the clear, unavoidable truth: He took gifts and didn’t report them.

He’s guilty.

Stevens needs to resign from the Senate, drop out of the re-election race and apologize to his constituents.

If he won’t, it’s up to Alaskans to show Stevens and all our elected officials that we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior by voting against him on Tuesday.

He doesn’t deserve to represent Alaska in the Senate, and he can no longer be an effective legislator. Even if the Senate doesn’t kick him out, as it should, the stigma of these violations will follow him wherever he goes, and in whatever he tries to do.

No other course of action makes sense. If Stevens honestly doesn’t think he inappropriately accepted gifts, or if he truly was clueless that Veco was footing the bill for his house remodeling, then he clearly lacks the intelligence to remain a senator.

If he knew what he was doing and thought he was entitled to his behavior, he lacks the ethical compass needed to be a senator.

That makes him either stupid or corrupt. Neither are qualifications Alaska needs in its representatives.

If Stevens doesn’t want that to be the only thing remembered about him, he needs to step up and prove he’s capable of the integrity and honor Alaskans once assumed he had and be accountable for his actions.

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