Down the Toobz: Ted Stevens Indicted on Seven Counts

TV news is reporting that Ted "Toobz" Stevens has been indicted on seven counts of public corruption. (Update: A DOJ press conference is scheduled for 1:20.)

Wouldn’t you know that "Toobz" would go down based on electronic surveillance?

The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting it was reported late last year, according to people close to the investigation.

The secret recordings suggest the Justice Department was eyeing Stevens long before June 2007, when the Republican senator first publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny. At that time, it appeared Stevens was a new focus in a case that had already ensnared several state lawmakers.

The recorded calls between Stevens and businessman Bill Allen were confirmed by two people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. They declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.

Stevens has two primary challengers, one who just started dumping money into the race and another self-financing millionaire. Update: There are six other Republicans on the primary ballot with Toobz. But the deadline for new candidates has passed, so the Republicans will be stuck with either Indicted-Toobz or one of the other six.

Update: CBS says they’re false statements charges.

A federal grand jury in Washington has handed up the indictment against Stevens — which the Justice Department is set to announce very shortly.

Stevens faces seven counts of false statements involving VECO, the oil services company in Alaska, and the renovations done on his home.

Update from the press conference–and with the indictment itself.  

Acting AAG, Criminal Division Matt Friedrich (he replaced Alice Fisher) said they didn’t go for bribery here bc they didn’t have a clear quid pro quo for VECO. It was more like Stevens was just VECO’s Senator.

Friedrich said they didn’t charge a tax violation bc these were gifts, and you don’t have to declare gifts on your taxes. 

Instead, they charged him generally for false statements, and then with one tied to each yearly financial disclosure from 2001 to 2006.  

“Library” Rhymes with “Bribery,” Ted Stevens Edition

The story of Stephen Payne–who just got canned from his DHS Advisory Committee position because he was selling access in exchange for donations to the Bush Library–makes it clear what a cesspool of political corruption secret and unlimited donations to Presidential libraries can be.

Which is why it is utterly unsurprising that Ted Stevens, a standout in corruption even in Alaska, has placed a hold on a bill designed to make the donations to Presidential libraries transparent.

The argument for keeping the names of donors secret is that some admirers might not want their generosity on public display. But a presidential library is no ordinary charity. It is built with private money and turned over to the National Archives to operate. If requiring disclosure might deter a generous patron with a penchant for anonymity from giving, so be it.

There ought to be a law. Actually, there would be one if it weren’t for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. A measure requiring disclosure of library donations — during a presidency and for four years afterward — has twice passed the House. But Stevens blocked the measure in March, arguing that it was unfair to "change the rules" on Bush — even as library officials claim they haven’t really started fundraising.

I mean, I can totally understand how, to a guy like Ted Stevens, asking the President to refrain from selling our foreign policy to the highest bidder would seem like "changing the rules."

Which is why I’m glad the Blue America-endorsed Mark Begich, the guy running to replace Stevens, is making it a campaign issue.

The American people deserve to know who is giving money to politicians at all levels of government, but especially the presidency. It’s time for Senator Stevens to stop blocking legislation that would require fundraising for presidential libraries be done out in the open. This move – on legislation that has already passed the House – is yet another instance where Stevens is choosing secrecy over transparency. He should lift his hold and let the light of day into back into Washington.

It’s hard to embarrass a guy like Ted Stevens. But I’m all in favor of piling on the charges of corruption against Mr. Toobz.