Corruption

This Chair on Loan From the Persons Collection

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Yesterday Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and his wife, Washington lawyer Catherine Stevens, testified in his trial on charges of hiding corporate gifts, consisting mainly of renovation work on the couple's "chalet" in Girdwood, Alaska. Stevens' main defense is that his wife paid about $130,000 to a contractor she thought was doing all the work. She says she did not realize that much of the work was done by VECO Corp., an oil services company whose CEO, an old pal of the senator's, has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators. Prosecutors value the unreported goods and services provided by VECO at $250,000. Is it plausible that the senator and his wife believed $130,000 covered the entire project, which involved lifting the house, adding a new first floor with several newly furnished rooms, and building a wrap-around decks with a Viking gas grill?

First of all, Catherine Stevens said, the gifts were not gifts. Second, the gifts were not welcome:

The grill was dangerous and scared her, she testified. The furniture provided in the house by Mr. Allen was tasteless, she asserted.

And therefore she returned it? Kept it without paying for it? Kept it and paid for it even though she didn't want it? Stevens account of how she and her husband came into possession of a massage chair purchased by a friend, Robert Persons, was similarly unpersuasive:

Mr. Persons, who testified earlier about the chair, had initially tried to assert that the chair was a gift. But after learning that Mr. Stevens could not accept it without disclosing it, Mr. Persons then said it was a loan.

Mrs. Stevens tried to insist that the chair was Mr. Persons' and was on loan even though she acknowledged it had remained in the Stevens home for seven years.

"What kind of loan is that?" [prosecutor Brenda] Morris asked.

As I've said before, this penny-ante stuff about unreported gifts pales in comparison to Ted Stevens' legal grand theft from the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Alaskans during the last four decades. But even if he's not convicted, his weaselly defense may convince voters it's time to retire him.

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  1. It will be interesting to observe as the economy collapses, how pork spending continues to grow.

  2. Sounds reasonable. Wasn’t William Jefferson keeping a $95,000 loan wrapped in foil in his freezer?

  3. TallDave,

    I thought that was Vitters(R, Louisianna).

  4. A good tailor can cut your trouser cuffs so nobody will even know you have that ankle bracelet, Senator.

  5. I just hope they “loan” Stevens to the prison system. Indefinitely. Just like the chair.

  6. Bullshitters get to the point where they think they can bullshit their way out of anything.

    Of course I make them believe my story; how many people have I successfully bullshitted in my career? More than those twelve, I can tell you that.

  7. I like Senator Stevens; he has a cool massage chair. I sincerely doubt that he overtly invited these gifts. I guess when you become known for handing out juicy pork nuggets people get enticed to make sure their nugget is the juiciest. Poor guy, didn’t know the power of his own pork.

  8. “Prosecutors value the unreported goods and services provided by VECO at $250,000. Is it plausible that the senator and his wife believed $130,000 covered the entire project?”

    Short answer: Yes. It is plausible.

    Prosecutors’ appraisals are not always 100% accurate. I’ll betcha an elk steak that the reasonable valuation of the good/services Stevens received from VECO is lower than 250K. This does not exculpate Stevens. I think he’s a crook. But if I were on the jury, I couldn’t find that the disparity between the amount paid and the alleged value received = proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

  9. The grill was dangerous and scared her, she testified

    *Scared* off a gas grill? I thought Alaskan women were supposed to be made of sterner stuff.

  10. All these gifts wouldn’t be necessary if these legislators didn’t have the power to regulate and subsidize in the first place. The whole trial still sounds like bullshit anyway. They must have pissed someone off. What kind of ordinary folk would actually report tips and gifts and complimentary services to the IRS?

  11. I would if I didn’t get my “fair” share of the pork.

  12. Senator Stevens is on trial…

    he should get the chair.

  13. the entire project, which involved lifting the house, adding a new first floor with several newly furnished rooms, and building a wrap-around decks with a Viking gas grill

    You know what? Any sitting Senator that is having his house jacked up so he can put in another floor needs to go to prison.

  14. Colonel_Angus | October 17, 2008, 2:32pm | #

    All these gifts wouldn’t be necessary if these legislators didn’t have the power to regulate and subsidize in the first place.

    Actually, it would be even more necessary, because you’d have to give even more gifts in order to get the legislators to pas laws allowing them to regulate and subsidize in your favor.

    Where in the world does this delusional idea that wealthy people didn’t bribe the government to get what they want before the modern regulatory state come from, anyway?

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