Topic: Government & Politics

Ted Stevens, Republican Icon

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was just indicted, and it is pretty hard to see how he’s going to avoid jail time. Stevens is accused of getting a new first floor on his home, a new garage, a deck, and lots of other home improvements from a political supporter and supplicant, Veco, which is an oil services company. Stevens never reported these as gifts, and in fact actively concealed them, according to the grand jury.  Given that Veco was asking for and receiving special favors, grants, contracts and other considerations from Stevens while he was getting all these things “for free,” it seems clear that Stevens could fairly be charged with bribery.  

If this surprises you even a little, you don’t know the career of Senator Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, and a Machiavellian to the core. He is famous on Capitol Hill for his vendetta against any Senator who dares to try to block the pork barrel spending he regularly ships off to the 49th State.  Cozy relationships with lobbyists are his calling card; mutual back-scratching with political donors is his creed. He never saw an ethics reform that he didn’t try to block. To him, politics means the old school, bare-knuckles politics of the 1880s. Ethics? What the hell are they, and who cares? 

Of course his colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, knew Ted Stevens, and must have known that he was to ethics like a slug is to salt: they don’t mix well at all. The Democrats were a little afraid of him, it seems, and the Republicans, who similarly ignored the obvious ethical misconduct of others like Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley until they were exposed and disgraced, just looked the other way, During the entire Bush Administration, the party has built a culture that is antithetical to ethical values, responsible government, fairness, honesty, and conflicts of interest, choosing instead to emphasize cynicism, influence and the pursuit of power. Well, to paraphrase the book that so many of the party’s true-believers purport to worship, you reap what you sow. In an unethical culture, political bullies with greed in their souls run amuck, until they get careless and arrogant, and inevitably go down. The Republicans will try to make this story about Ted Stevens, an old lion who stayed too long, but it is really about the distain for ethics in government encouraged by the party’s leaders and willfully ignored by conservative cheerleaders in the media. 

The Democrats gouged the ethical fabric of the our government when they marched in lock-step to deny the seriousness of Bill Clinton’s cover-up of his juvenile sexual escapades. But no party in a the 20th Century so thoroughly established a culture of greed, disrespect, and dishonesty in the legislature as the GOP has in the 21st. It is fitting and predictable that Stevens is so far refusing to resign, making it likely that the Democratic sweep on the horizon will include a new senator in Alaska. He doesn’t get ethics. He never did. And instead of becoming an anomaly in his party, he came to typify it. 

We need to be grateful for Stevens’ fall. Not because it gives joy to see a powerful old man sent to jail, but because it is conclusive proof that the Republican experiment in unethical government has failed. Imagine if the culture of power, influence and greed had succeeded! But it couldn’t succeed…in the long run, it never does. That’s how, in the final analysis, we know what is ethical.  

Because ethics works.


Comment on this article


Business & Commercial
Sports & Entertainment
Government & Politics
Science & Technology
Professions & Institutions

The Ethics Scoreboard, ProEthics, Ltd., 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA 22305
Telephone: 703-548-5229    E-mail: ProEthics President

© 2007 Jack Marshall & ProEthics, Ltd     Disclaimers, Permissions & Legal Stuff    Content & Corrections Policy