Catching up with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

29 October 08 | Posted in Events

30 years ago this month I left Alaska. I left to get an emotional break from a sad divorce, and an even more draining fight over an Alaska lands bill in Congress.

Ultimately, millions of acres were “protected” or “locked-up” –depending on your point of view–because what constituted “good management” of federal lands could never be agreed upon by residents, elected representatives, government bureaucrats, environmentalists and developers.

The congressional delegation could have played a role here, in getting all parties to the table to hammer out a solution that would bring energy resources,  jobs, safeguard the most sensitive areas, and protect the traditional rights of the native people.  They did not, largely because they hated environmentalists so much, and wanted no restraints on economic development.

Alaska’s congressional delegation was rabidly pro-development, especially Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. Stevens and Young never met an oil corporation, mining outfit, construction company, or logging group they didn’t like. 

I can think of very few U.S. senators disliked more by the Sierra Club than Ted Stevens.

Now he’s headed out the door.

Sen. Stevens, 84, was found guilty of violating federal ethics laws by failing to report over $250,000 in gifts and services he had received from friends, most notably Bill Allen, the former president of VECO Corporation, an Alaskan oil pipeline services and construction company.

A lot of these “gifts” were used to renovate and furnish Stevens’ home in Girdwood, Alaska.

Mr. Allen wore a wire for the Feds in his conversations with Stevens. Allen was convicted for his role in a scheme to bribe Alaska lawmakers to help with his oil exploration projects. stevens-courtpreview.jpg

Stevens was finally shown to be a bully and cheap hustler. He promoted legislation benefiting his oil company friends, and traded his influence for furniture and home remodeling at the expense of  Alaskan working people he always proported to support.

It would have been “business suicide” to cross Bill Allen, testified the Augie Paone, the carpenter who renovated Sen. Ted Stevens’ home in Alaska and who said he was bullied into not sending the senator a final bill of $13,393. Allen told him he should “eat” the final bill from the home renovations.

Paone testified that he objected to “eating” the bill for work at Stevens’ home and said so in a meeting with Allen, who told the carpenter he should “look at it as a political contribution,” Paone said.

“At first I was shocked,” Paone said. “I also tried to hold on to my composure. I knew I was in a bind, because I knew he had me in a spot where I really couldn’t do anything.”

The great irony of Sen. Stevens’ tragedy is that with his political demise, it may tip the balance to the Democrats, helping them to win enough seats to give them a filibuster-proof majority of at least 60 votes.

Just imagine what kind of environmental legislation could be passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House.

It’s gonna be tough sledding for some folks in Alaska….

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