by Todd Beeton, Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 01:27:10 PM EDT
In the wake of his indictment, Sen. Ted Stevens has declared his innocence:
I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator. In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.
Sounds like he won't be dropping out of the race any time soon -- great news for Mark Begich -- but he did have to resign his ranking member status on two committees in the wake of the indictment. Who knew the GOP was actually enforcing ethics rules?
Consistent with GOP bylaws that require Members who are under felony indictment to relinquish their ranking posts on committees, Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator, has officially stepped down as ranking member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
In addition, Democratic senate challengers are starting to demand that the GOP incumbent senators they're running against return donations from Ted Stevens. Road To 60 challenger Kay Hagan released a statement insisting that Elizabeth Dole return or donate to charity $21,000 she personally received from Stevens between 2001 and 2007. Emphasis below mine:
"First there was Jack Abramoff, and now Ted Stevens is this cycle's scandal-prone Washington insider -- it's a habit they just can't help themselves break. This is business as usual for Washington career politicians like Ted Stevens, and indicative of exactly why people in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country are so disgusted with the people they elect to represent them," said Colleen Flanagan, Hagan Campaign Communications Director. "Elizabeth Dole should immediately return, or donate to charity, the $21,000 she received from Ted Stevens - we recommend sending the money to help low-income families afford the skyrocketing gas prices Dole has failed to address for the past six years. Ted Stevens and Elizabeth Dole have been in Washington for 40 years, and quite frankly, both have shown the proclivity to put special interests and lobbyists ahead of the folks who elected them. People in Alaska, North Carolina and across the country deserve leadership that is beholden to the people who elected them, not the special interests and lobbyists in Washington."
Surely, more will follow. Marc Ambinder reminds us that Norm Coleman is particularly vulnerable on the issue of having taken Alaskan money.
It means that any senator who got VECO money -- Norm Coleman? -- will be called to account.
What does this mean for Democrats' senate chances? At the very least the narrative is shifting, as Roger Simon put it on Hardball moments ago:
If the magic number for Democrats is getting to 60 in the senate, they thought it wasn't possible, it may not be impossible anymore.
Help out our Road to 60 challengers over at our Road to 60 ActBlue page.
Update [2008-7-29 17:40:52 by Todd Beeton]:That was fast. Elizabeth Dole has just dumped $10k of Stevens money. From TPM:
Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley just told Election Central that the campaign has written a $10,000 check -- the amount Dole has received this cycle from Stevens' leadership PAC -- to the Society of St. Andrew.
Stevens' PAC has donated to every incumbent GOP Senator seeking re-election this year. That's one down. Will others follow?
Update [2008-7-29 18:4:48 by Josh Orton]: A couple more bits of Stevens indictment-related fallout:
- List of his PAC's expenditures this year here. Paging Pat Roberts, Gordon Smith...
- CQ changes Stevens' race rating from "leans Republican" to "leans Democrat."