Stevens Vows To Fight To Keep Senate Seat

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/96231049/96231417" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has vowed to fight to keep his Senate seat despite his conviction on corruption charges. Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin have called on Stevens to resign, but the longtime GOP senator still enjoys clout in his home state.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Alaska Republican Ted Stevens says he is going to fight to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate, despite his conviction on federal corruption judges. Senator Stevens says he's the victim of prosecutorial misconduct, and he's planning an appeal. Before that, he faces an election, and Stevens' political fate is in the hands of his constituents.

Mr. CHARIYA CAVIGEE: I think he broke a lot of people's trust in him. There were a lot of people that were depending on him for a long time there. It's kind of sad the way it went. I don't think anybody would ever trust him again.

Ms. JESSICA WOLF: $250,000 over a lifetime is nothing. I figured there's still much more every day in Washington.

Ms. BARBARA LARMONT: If we reelect him, I just can't imagine what we will look like on the national scene.

SIEGEL: The voices of Chariya Cavigee (ph), Jessica Wolf (ph) and Barbara Larmont (ph) from our colleagues at the Alaska Public Radio Network.

SIEGEL: Now, to NPR's Martin Kaste on the question of what happens next for Senator Stevens. Hi there, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: What do you think? Are Alaskans going to send Ted Stevens back to the Senate even after his conviction?

KASTE: Well, he's not going to get the 60 or 70 percent of the vote that he usually can count on. He's made a point of making his campaign this fall about this trial. He told me that he was going to have Alaskans watch how he fought these charges, which he called unfair, that they should look to the verdict, that that would be his campaign. But now that that verdict has come out guilty, we'll have to see whether asking for a speedy trial before an election was a gamble he shouldn't have taken.

SIEGEL: Well, Remind us what the rules are as far as a convicted felon serving in the U.S. Senate.

KASTE: Well, there's nothing stopping him from running again legally. The courts cannot kick you out of the Senate. They can't stop you from running for the Senate. Only the Senate can kick you out, and it takes two thirds of the senators voting to kick you out to do so. So, since the Senate is not in session right now, really, this is a question for the voters.

There's, of course, political pressure for Senator Stevens not to be in this thing. John McCain, of course, has come out calling for him to resign, and, you know, some other Republicans who are in tough reelection battles of their own, like Norm Coleman, the senator in Minnesota, have called on him to step down. So there's certainly that kind of pressure. But as to the legal situation, it's certainly possible for him to run, and he is running, and he's quite adamant about the fact that he's going to fight for his seat.

SIEGEL: Martin, has Stevens's challenger in the Senate race - the Democratic mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich - has he called for Stevens to step down?

KASTE: Mark Begich is playing it very safe here. He released a sort of noncommittal statement yesterday that called on Alaska to move forward, that sort of thing, but not addressing the question of whether Stevens should still stay in office or should be running.

Mark Begich is, like most Alaskan politicians, very aware of Ted Stevens' stature as Uncle Ted, this man with - he's a legend in his own time in Alaska, and he also told me a few weeks ago that he was very consciously not going to campaign against Ted Stevens on the question of his legal troubles. And even now with the conviction, the mayor still is not going to bring that up, apparently, in the campaign. He doesn't want to antagonize, I guess, that deep feeling that many Alaskans still have for Senator Stevens.

SIEGEL: You mentioned what John McCain has said. He said Stevens should step down. What has Sarah Palin said?

KASTE: Well, right after the verdict was announced yesterday, Governor Palin put out a statement that was a bit vague. It called on Senator Stevens to do the right thing for the people of Alaska, but she didn't specify what the right thing would be. But today, apparently, she has told CNBC that Senator Stevens should step down. So she's joined her running mate, John McCain, in calling for the resignation of the man who's represented Alaska in the Senate now for 40 years.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Martin.

KASTE: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's NPRs Martin Kaste speaking to us from Seattle.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

McCain Calls On Sen. Stevens To Resign

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/96212237/96242224" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Even as Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens vowed to appeal his conviction on federal corruption charges, there were new signs that support for him was cracking. Presidential candidate John McCain called Tuesday for his fellow Republican to step down, saying the 40-year Senate veteran "has broken his trust with the people."

In a statement issued by his campaign, McCain said the convictions were "a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital.

"It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down," McCain said. "I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."

McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on Monday issued a statement saying the verdict "shines a light on the corrupting influence" of a big oil services company whose CEO gave many of the gifts to Stevens that the senator did not report. "I'm confident Sen. Stevens will do what's right for the people of Alaska," she said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, himself in a tight re-election race in Kentucky, similarly abandoned any loyalty to Stevens. "Sen. Stevens will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored," McConnell said.

And Nevada Sen. John Ensign, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said, "This is a reminder that no one is above the law."

The 84-year-old senator has to persuade Alaska voters to re-elect him to an eighth term in the Senate even though he has been found guilty of seven counts in connection with lying about $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor.

The verdict came as a "complete shock" to many Alaskans, correspondent Elizabeth Arnold reported on Day to Day from Anchorage. "This is Uncle Ted, the top political figure in the state for more than 40 years, a man who's rightly or wrongly touched about everyone up here with the millions of dollars of federal money he's brought home...."

"Many people up here simply didn't believe it, or want to believe it that this maybe instead was just some kind of failure on his part to understand complicated paperwork," Arnold said.

But amid intense media coverage of the trial and a campaign by the national Democratic Party reminding voters how few sitting senators have been indicted, "in recent days there's been a growing realization that he could be convicted. But even then, people here believed it might be just a few counts and that somehow he'd persevere ...," Arnold said.

Stevens is in a tight race with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat. That election could have national implications. Democrats are driving to increase their power in the Senate. And Stevens' seat is one more that Republicans suddenly have to worry about.

Stevens vowed to "fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have."

Outside the courthouse, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matt Friedrich noted that the jury had found that Stevens filed false financial disclosure forms over a six-year period.

The monthlong trial revealed that employees for VECO Corp., an oil services company, transformed Stevens' modest mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar.

"The evidence at trial showed that Sen. Stevens committed this crime to hide from the public and from his constituents the fact that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars of freebies from an Alaska corporation and its chief executive officer," Friedrich said.

And, Friedrich said, Stevens accepted these gifts, including renovations on his home, at a time when the corporation and its chief executive officer were seeking the senator's assistance.

Stevens faces a maximum of five years on each of the seven counts, though the sentencing guidelines call for far less time, and the judge has the discretion to suspend all jail time.

If he is re-elected, there is no Senate rule that would automatically force him out. He can be ousted only by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Once the seat is vacant, Alaska law would require a special election to replace him.

But that would be a long way off. If he is re-elected, his appeal would take months, and he might well seek a pardon from President Bush before the president leaves office.

The Senate Ethics Committee, by tradition, does not start expulsion proceedings until all appeals are exhausted.

From NPR staff and wire reports.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.