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Framed

With the passing of former Senator Ted Stevens, we are reminded of how he left office in disgrace -- and then the "rest of the story" behind it.

Stevens was convicted of political corruption just before election day 2008, and it's clear that his conviction was a factor in his defeat. But that conviction was later overturned when it was revealed that prosecutors had engaged in gross misconduct in winning that conviction -- they had kept some highly-relevant evidence in Stevens' favor from the defense, had arranged for a key witness to be unavailable, and that one of the FBI agents involved in the case was boffing a key witness, who also had done some favors for other FBI agents and other key figures in the prosecution. The prosecution's conduct was so egregious the entire team was tossed off the case, and it was dropped. (Stevens' age and loss of office was also a factor.)

This reminded me of the Representative Tom DeLay case. The Texas Republican Majority Leader was indicted on campaign finance violations, and was forced to resign. DeLay said that he was the target of a prosecutorial vendetta, and there certainly seems to be some evidence of that -- the porsecutor, Ronnie Earle, had two grand juries refuse to indict DeLay, and the third had to violate the Constitution to do so -- they accused DeLay of violating a law before it was passed. And five years later, DeLay still has yet to have his day in court.

When it comes to members of Congress, I have a very low standard for believing in their innocence. I've often said that accused Congress members should be considered guilty until proven innocent -- and, in some cases, punished anyway.

But in Stevens and DeLay's cases, it seems that their statements that they had been set up and were the victim of some kind of conspiracy seems to have some weight.

My outrage is tempered in this case, though, by the rather unsympathetic nature of the defendants. Stevens and DeLay might not have been quite as corrupt as charged, but both men reveled in their power, and abused the public's trust.

And I'm not going to make these two cases into some kind of pattern citing unfair prosecutions of Republicans. Former Republican Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham is currently in prison for corruption, and I hope he rots there. Likewise, Louisiana Democrat William "Cold Cash" Jefferson Clinton is currently appealing his conviction on corruption.

But it certainly worth noting, though, on the occasion of former Senator Stevens' passing. It's one thing for me -- a nobody from nowhere -- to talk about members of Congress as "guilty until proven innocent." But when prosecutors start acting like that -- and doing anything they can, whether or not it's ethical or even legal -- to convict them, then we have some real problems.

As Stevens tried to argue. As DeLay continues to argue.

Perhaps we are all better served with their removal from office. I didn't care for either man's actions in office. But the circumstances that led to their removal should give us all pause.

And, perhaps, even get me to reconsider my own standing position on when politicians are charged with corruption.

Nah.


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Comments (34)

I'm starting to think that ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

I'm starting to think that we'd be best served by a hard, solid 20-year term limit on our reps and senators. Longer than that and it seems they start believing that they ARE special and the rules don't apply to them.

Admittedly, it takes a significant amount of elitist belief to even run for office - but by the time their self-esteem has been boosted by multiple successful elections they've gone from being the servants of those who elected them to aristocrats who feel they're supposed to rule.

And I, for one, don't think we need a professional ruling class at all.

I am all for a one term ter... (Below threshold)
retired military:

I am all for a one term term limit and no lifetime benefits for congress.

Save the taxpayers money and get us out of some of the mess we are in.

I don't think it is fair to... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

I don't think it is fair to speak of DeLay in the same sense as Stevens. There was credible evidence against Stevens; his conviction was overturned only on the basis of egregious prosecutorial misconduct. There is no evidence against DeLay, and he has been persecuted by political prosecutors who have heinously abused their authority.

I don't know what the answer ultimately is, but term limits isn't it. There are people who have been in there for a long time who vote right, and who vote wrong. There is no evidence that newer people have ever necessarily voted any better.

Isn't this the fresh face approach - which gave us Obama . . .?

The Democrats hated both me... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

The Democrats hated both men and found ways to remove them from office by prosecutorial misconduct.

I have stated here and elsewhere that I believe a Constitutional amendment that limits ALL politicians in the Federal government to a maximum of 12 years of service would eliminate a lot of the problems currently seen.

RM's suggestion that they not be given golden parachute retirement plans would be a worthy law as well.

Here, here Gmac.Sa... (Below threshold)
epador:

Here, here Gmac.

Sarah's recent comment on Ted is an interesting piece in several respects and to me suggests she is really interested in staying active in Alaska and eschewing the lower 48 and Hawaii rather than running a national campaign in the future.

Stevens $400 million dollar... (Below threshold)
Dane:

Stevens $400 million dollar "Bridge to Nowhere" was and will remain the iconic monument to Congressional Pork.

"Stevens $400 million dolla... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"Stevens $400 million dollar "Bridge to Nowhere" was and will remain the iconic monument to Congressional Pork."

Once again Dane sets the bar too low. Try $22 BILLION for Splash's gift to the citizens of Boston.

Dane, I'll take your "bridg... (Below threshold)

Dane, I'll take your "bridge to nowhere" and raise you "half the state of West Virginia." And if you call that, I'll toss in "John Murtha's former district."

And as Garand noted, Boston's Big Dig started out as just under 2 billion. Last time I checked, it was passing 22 billion... and that wasn't recently.

J.

I dont recall? Was the 'bri... (Below threshold)
914:

I dont recall? Was the 'bridge to nowhere' ever completed? Or is it a bottomless money pit like the 'Big liberal Dig' or the Won's presidency?

"Boston's Big Dig starte... (Below threshold)
Dane:

"Boston's Big Dig started out as just under 2 billion. Last time I checked, it was passing 22 billion... and that wasn't recently."

You're comparing a needed transportation project in an major US metropolitan area against pure pork. The bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island would have served 50 people.

The Bridge to Nowhere is THE monument to pork. Stevens threatened to quit the Senate if the money was removed -- that's how much he loved his pork.

I came to bury Stevens, not to praise him. I guess that's obvious. The man was crooked and his conviction was overturned on a technicality. He claimed his wife was in charge and he had no knowledge that he was being bribed through gifts of construction on his personal residence. he got off on a technicality. He wasn't "framed".

Palin went ahead and spent $25 million building the Gravina Island Highway that was to connect to the Bridge to Nowhere. It's the Road to Nowhere. Given the relatively small amount of money I guess she's the hand maiden of pork.

Last I heard Boston was a major US City. I don't consider basic highway infrastructure "pork" if it's needed and people will actually use it. Major cost over-runs? Sure? Possible corruption? Likely. Pork? No.

Dane, I've SEEN the Big Dig... (Below threshold)

Dane, I've SEEN the Big Dig. It's a huge waste, and fortunately has only killed one person so far. Way over budget, huge problems, huge corruption, and overall the city would have probably been better off doing nothing.

J.

Basic highway infrastructur... (Below threshold)
914:

Basic highway infrastructure? Its a subterranian tunnel for cripes sake. Hardly basic infrastructure.

Also it is obviously a continued 'pork payout' for the porkiteer's who profit and I would not be surprised if stimulis funds were earmarked there also.

Boston is not a major city.... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Boston is not a major city. First and foremost. The fraud on the project is rampant. The work itself is shoddy and some has to be totally redone. Only a liberal can actually defend that project.

Delay and Stevens were and are targets of democrats and they are using our system of justice to bring them down. That is as worse as you can get. Delay resigned because of the charges. Rangel, Waters, Frank, etc. still serve. The left has no sense of decency. No decorum. Their motto is "Do what is best for the party, to hell with the country".

The left went after Cheney and Rove. Wasted a lot of taxpayer money doing so. The demonization of public servants has got to stop. ww

I get the feeling that "Dan... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I get the feeling that "Dane" is the new Lee. Both probably have the same lobotomy scar.

"Boston is not a major c... (Below threshold)
Dane:

"Boston is not a major city. First and foremost. The fraud on the project is rampant. The work itself is shoddy and some has to be totally redone. Only a liberal can actually defend that project."

Boston is not a major city. MMM, yeah.

I agreed in #10 that there was waste and corruption involved in the Boston Dig.

The subject was pork.

Ted Stevens' Bridge to Nowhere was a $400 million project serving 50 people. That's $8 million in pork per man, woman and child. That's bacon-wrapped pork. In comparison Sarah Palin's $25 million Highway to Nowhere only wasted $500,000 per man, woman and child. That's a sausage linkette compared to what Stevens proposed.

For all of the hand wringin... (Below threshold)
Eric:

For all of the hand wringing over the stupid Bridge to Nowhere, in my opinion the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, PA is even porkier. After all its named after John Murtha, only flies between Johnstown and Washington, D.C. and services less than 30 people a day. This was John Murtha's personal aiport to shuttle him between D.C. and his Congressional District.

The Bridge to Nowhere wasn't the Bridge to Ted's Fishing Cabin. But Murtha's airport was a pork project that primarily benefitted the Congressman that earmarked it.

"The John Murtha Johnsto... (Below threshold)
Dane:

"The John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania is mostly used for general aviation, but is also served by one commercial airline. Service is subsidized by the Essential Air Service.

The John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County (JMJCC) Airport is home to several military units. The airport houses the Pennsylvania Army National Guard 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (Company's HHC,A,C,D, and E) and Det 1, 1-169th Aviation (Med-Evac). It also houses the 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, the Marine Wing Support Squadron 471 (MWSS-471), Detachment A, and the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 (HMLA-775), Detachment A.[2] These military units use helicopters, rather than fixed-wing planes."

Do not forget the other sid... (Below threshold)
jim2:

Do not forget the other side of the coin regarding evidence and conduct by prosecutors when Dems are involved. For example, remember how the Dems fought to preserve "Cold Cash" Jefferson? How about Chappaquiddick?

Go visit Murtha's airport D... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Go visit Murtha's airport Dane. You can stand in the main lobby and see NO ONE for several hours at a time. The military facility is ADJACENT to the airport and is a separate entity.
Next excuse?

At least the Bridge to Nowhere never got built.

And the all-time high is still Splash's gift to the unions. After all, when Teddy pitched it, it was only going to cost $100 million.

When the Boston Dig reaches... (Below threshold)
Dane:

When the Boston Dig reaches the equivalent of Stevens Bridge to Nowhere = $8 million for every man, woman and child who use it you let me know.

I only wish that a 400 mill... (Below threshold)
Hank:

I only wish that a 400 million bridge to nowhere was the worst the dems were doing to our economy.

400 million.

Seems like pocket change now.

400 million.

Isn't that what Mrs Obama's vacations will end up costing?

Dane's certainly got his pr... (Below threshold)

Dane's certainly got his priorities straight.

$2 billion ballooning into about $24 billion and rising, one driver killed? Meh.

Millions and millions for Murtha'a airport? Sigh.

$400 million bridge that was never built? It's Teh Apocalypse!!!!

If I wanted to make Dane's tiny little head explode, I'd bring up a certain million-dollar earmark to the University of Chicago Medical Center...

J.

Stop equivocating cost per ... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Stop equivocating cost per person to overall cost.

22 Billion vs 400 Million

The actual monetary outlay for the Big Dig as opposed to a proposed outlay for something that never got built.

You're such an easy target.

Does this comment make my a... (Below threshold)
Dane:

Does this comment make my ass look big? Heck, you should see me in a red t-shirt. I'm a hellofa target.

"With the passing of former Senator Ted Stevens, we are reminded of how he left office in disgrace -- and then the "rest of the story" behind it."

Let's see, we've got comments about Obama's vacation, tiny head explosions, a Dead Kennedy, Murtha... you guys are talking about everyone BUT stevens.

Desperate to change the subject off of Stevens so soon? I guess that means I won. Thanks!

"Desperate to change the su... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

"Desperate to change the subject off of Stevens so soon? I guess that means I won. Thanks!" - Dane

Not by a long shot, child. What you refer to as a "technicality" in post #10 resulted in Steven's conviction being vacated. Vacated, for anyone, not just U.S. Senators, means those charges don't even show up on your criminal record.

The bridge was in support of an airport and "one of the world's largest seafood processing plants on the volcanic island in the Aleutians." (according to wikipedia).

I though we agreed yesterday that you weren't going to be coming back here until you grew up?

Oh, and Dane, in the silenc... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

Oh, and Dane, in the silence of your basement room, ponder on this - vacated with prejudice. No second bite of the poisoned apple.

I am biased towards Stevens... (Below threshold)

I am biased towards Stevens because the military had no greater friend in the Senate, nor will we again until we start seeing some members who do military time before political time again. Not bloody likely now that they see themselves as "the ruling class." As for The Bridge to Nowhere...there is an airport on that island and a bridge would have made it easier to get there and you have to remember that EVERYTHING is more expensive in Alaska because, IT'S ALASKA. Logistics up there alone makes everything insanely difficult.

"As for The Bridge to No... (Below threshold)
Dane:

"As for The Bridge to Nowhere...there is an airport on that island and a bridge would have made it easier to get there"

There's also a Ferry from Kethikan to Gravina Island.

The Bridge to Nowhere would have served 50 people.

Let me guess who who got millions in pork to build an airport on Gravina Island THEN tried to get $400 million more in pork to build a bridge. Some pompous Ahole who avoided a prison term on a technicality perhaps?

Amazing. I have never seen ... (Below threshold)

Amazing. I have never seen anyone debate the relative porkiness of pork before.

"Your pork is porkier than ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

"Your pork is porkier than my pork, dammit!"

You're right, Daniel. It's bizarre.

Timmer, are you familiar wi... (Below threshold)

Timmer, are you familiar with Senator Scott Brown? Or should I say, Col. Brown?

And there's a fresh political crop coming up of younger veterans, who've seen the elephant...

J.

I would include Newt Gingri... (Below threshold)
TB:

I would include Newt Gingrich in the list of Republicans subject to a Democratic Jihad. Alleged representative David Bonior spent every waking moment for several years typing up no fewer than 75 ethics charges against the former speaker. The first 74 were dismissed out of hand. The 75th involved technical aspects of the sources of funding for a college course he taught. Out of a misguided sense of chivalry, he resigned his position and agreed to pay $300,000 in legal costs out of his own pocket. The complaint was referred by the ethics committee to the IRS due to its technical nature. After a 3½-year investigation, the IRS found no improprieties.

Anyone who doesn't see a pattern here...

.... It's one thing for me ... (Below threshold)

.... It's one thing for me ... to talk about members of Congress as "guilty until proven innocent." But when prosecutors start acting like that -- and doing anything they can, whether or not it's ethical or even legal -- to convict them, then we have some real problems ...

Two good points, there. In the court of public opinion, you and I may be just as judgmental as we please, form any darned opinion that seems reasonable to each of us, give voice, at will, to whatever each of us believes -- and not be squelched by (usually) (il)liberals crying "innocent until proven guilty!"

Only in a court of law may - nay, must! - one be so protected. And Mr Stevens was, in the instance of his politically-driven prosecution, denied that protection.

I have formed the opinion t... (Below threshold)
Oldflyer:

I have formed the opinion that Prosecutors just don't give a tinker's damn about justice; all they want is a scalp.

Painting with a broad brush? Sure, but if Prosecutors don't want to be branded, then they need to clean up their professional ranks. There are too many instances to support my conclusion. The Libby case illustrates the "Grand Jury warrior" who if he/she cannot get to a real culprit, they will pick a Patsy and hang his scalp on the tent pole. Delay and Stevens highlight the egregious misconduct that has surfaced in too many instances.




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