Last week, Robert Novak was charged with hit and run after he took down a pedestrian and kept going. When a bicyclist caught up with him and blocked his path, he claimed he didn't know he hit anyone - despite the fact the guy was described as "splayed" across his windshield. This weekend, Novak was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
I mention this because 84 year old Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has just been indicted on 7 counts of failing to disclose bribes he accepted. The indictment doesn't call them bribes but judge for yourself:
Prosecutors said Stevens received more than $250,000 in gifts and services from VECO Corp., a powerful oil services contractor, and its executives. From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said, [he] concealed "his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation."
... Prosecutors said Stevens "took multiple steps to continue" receiving things from oil services company VECO Corp., and its founder, Bill Allen. At the time, the indictment says, Allen and other VECO employees were soliciting Stevens for "multiple official actions .... knowing that Stevens could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of VECO during that same time period."
This is the same Ted Stevens who sponsored "The Bridge to Nowhere," a $498 million bridge that would connect 2 small islands in Alaska. After the bridge became a national symbol for pork-barrel spending, the project was abandoned but Stevens still managed to get more than $200 million for the state for unspecified projects:
[In September 2007] presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said pet projects could have played a role in a Minnesota bridge collapse that killed 13 people ...
"Maybe if we had done it right, maybe some of that money would have gone to inspect those bridges and other bridges around the country," McCain told a group of people in a town-hall style meeting in Ankeny, Iowa.
"Maybe the 200,000 people who cross that bridge every day would have been safer than spending $233 million of your tax dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."
This is from a Washington Post editorial in 2005:
ALASKA SEN. Ted Stevens threw the senatorial version of a hissy fit on the floor the other day. The issue was a proposal by his Republican colleague, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, to block $453 million earmarked for two Alaska bridges in the recent highway bill and instead use some of the money to rebuild the Interstate 10 bridge across Lake Ponchartrain wiped out by the recent hurricane ...
What's most impressive about Mr. Stevens's tantrum is his ability to summon up this degree of righteous indignation -- self-righteous might be more apt -- over the alleged mistreatment of a state that benefits enormously, and disproportionately, from federal spending.
Leave aside for the moment the matter of whether these two earmarks represent a wise use of federal dollars. Okay, we can't let it go; they don't. One, a partial payment for the now infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," would link Ketchikan (population 8,900) with its airport on Gravina Island (population 50). The other, the magnificently named "Don Young's Way" -- hint: Mr. Young, Alaska's sole House member, conveniently happens to chair the transportation committee -- would be a down payment on a billion-dollar bridge across an inlet in Anchorage to a nearly deserted port.
Rather, think about this spending in the larger context: Poor, mistreated Alaska. It ranks number one in per capita federal spending ... Alaskans received $1.89 in federal help for every tax dollar they sent to Washington ...
By the way, Rep. Don Young of "Don Young's Way" was also indicted.