“I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in WWII. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a US senator,” Stevens said in a statement. This is an odd defense, because investigators have surveillance tapes, the testimony of contractors, and the testimony of former CEO of VECO to the contrary.
Stevens said that he is stepping down from his ranking member positions, and made it clear that is claiming innocence, “In accordance with Senate Republican Conference Rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.”
His Democratic opponent in the November election Mark Begich said, “The indictment of Senator Ted Stevens is a sad day for Alaska and for the senator after his 40 years of service to our state. The people of Alaska are resilient and strong. I have great faith in our state and our people, and we will continue to move forward.”
It is understandable that Begich took the high road, because Stevens is a political institution in the state. Also, his opponent has dug his own grave here, so Begich could only hurt himself if it looked like he was kicking Stevens when he was down. Allegations of wrongdoing have been following Stevens around for decades. According to news reports going back to last summer, the feds have a lot of evidence against Stevens. However, I would not expect the 84 year old to stand trial. It is more likely that his political career will be finished. To me, this seems like a punishment that fits the crime.