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Ted Stevens Circling The Drain

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Although smart money has stopped flowing into Ted Stevens' campaign coffers -- many people prefer not to donate to candidates who are likely to be using it to enrich criminal lawyers in messy, scandalous trials -- he had already raised over $4 million before he was indicted and is still sitting on over $1.6 million, double what Democrat Mark Begich has on hand. Between July 1 and last week Begich, who is leading in voter polls, did much better than Stevens in fundraising -- $412,549.02 to $269,274.00.

But not everyone is abandoning ship as the SS Stevens heads for the bottom. Other than law firms, Big Oil has been the biggest financier of Stevens' political career, having stuffed $469,440 into his campaigns, even more than lobbyists (at $455,506). This year Big Oil, which he has served so faithfully, and lobbyists are still there for him, respectively at $108,900 and $182,584.

Although Stevens has made sure that Big Oil has gotten everything -- from billions of dollars in tax breaks to the kinds of legislation that have guaranteed that they could raise the price of gasoline beyond $4/gallon -- after today's news, even they may decide to stop financing his doomed campaign. The front page of this morning's Anchorage Daily News has startled even Alaska residents who are now used to hearing about their political leaders being arrested, indicted, tried and imprisoned. For anyone who was buying into Stevens' claims that the case against him was no big deal and that the charges weren't serious... well, that's over. The Feds have started presenting evidence that is so damning that it now seems likely that Stevens is going to have to spend some of that immense cash-on-hand to actually win his primary!

Federal prosecutors offered a glimpse of previously unseen evidence against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in new court filings Thursday, including allegations that Stevens used insider help to turn a secret $5,000 investment in a Florida condo development into more than $100,000 in quick profits.

The government also dismissed assertions by Stevens that his conduct was shielded by the constitution as a member of Congress, citing nine examples of Stevens' "errands" and requests involving Veco that had nothing to do with protected lawmaking.

Among them: an intercepted telephone call in which Stevens discusses how his son Ben, then the state Senate President, planned to push a bill favored by the oil industry as a prelude to gas development.

The new filings go substantially further than the indictment handed up against Stevens last month charging him with seven counts of failing to disclose gifts from 1999 through 2006. Most of the alleged gifts were from the former Alaska-based oil field service company Veco and its politically active chairman, Bill Allen. Allen and Veco vice president Rick Smith have pleaded guilty to bribing elected officials and are working with government prosecutors and are expected to testify at Stevens' trial, tentatively scheduled to start with jury selection Sept. 22.

Stevens wants the trial moved from DC to Alaska, where there would probably be a hung jury. I suspect Democrats would like the same thing since contesting a battle with Stevens after a hung jury outcome would likely turn Begich's current 13 point lead into a 20-25 point landslide.

The Daily News story spotlights damning new allegations against Stevens, allegations that go right to the heart of reformers' demands that the entire campaign finance system be overhauled from top to bottom to eliminate the epidemic Culture of Corruption outrages which has been actually been made even worse by McCain's fake "reforms."

Stevens is demanding the case be thrown out, hoping, no doubt, for some sympathetic right-wing ideologue judge Bush has degraded the Justice system with. But a far more likely outcome is that Alaska voters will throw him out of office and that he'll spend the rest of his miserable, hypocritical life behind bars, a warning to other members of Congress that the public trough isn't a perk of elective office. There is virtually no chance that Rep. Don Young will not be following him to prison.

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