Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving GOP senator, was indicted for not disclosing more than $250,000 worth of gifts from oil-services company VECO Corp. He resigned his committee chairmanships but said he is still running for reelection to a seventh full term this year. He is known for funneling federal funds to Alaska. (USA Today)
What the commentators said
“Stevens is of course innocent until proven guilty,” said National Review Online in an editorial, but what we already know about his finances is “damning enough.” He clearly violated congressional ethics, if not the law, so he should resign. And he should do it now so the GOP can let voters pick his replacement in Alaska's Aug. 26 primary.
Even if he leaves, said Steve Kornaki in The New York Observer’s Politicker blog, the bad publicity could cost the GOP Stevens' seat. Republican corruption was "a major issue" in Alaska before Stevens became its latest poster child. Democrats held Bob Torricelli’s seat after that ethically challenged senator quit, weeks before the election, but Alaskans aren't likely to be so understanding.
The “political bottom line” is that Democrats are now likely to win Stevens’ seat, said Jonathan Martin in his Politico blog, moving them “one step closer to having 60 votes in the Senate.” But the indictment may not be all that bad for GOP presidential contender John McCain, who “battled frequently” with Stevens over pork-barrel spending.
The fact that this won’t be “devastating news” for McCain, said The Economist’s Democracy in America blog, is either testimony to the “extent to which Mr. McCain has successfully developed a brand as an incorruptible and atypical Republican,” or a sign that “public disgust at staggering corruption” in the GOP “has already been baked into poll numbers.”
Well, give the Republicans some credit, said The New York Sun in an editorial. It says something that “such charges were even brought against a powerful Republican during a Republican administration,” especially while “the GOP is fighting for every seat it can get in the Senate.”
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