- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

UPDATE 1:

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain Tuesday called for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens to resign his seat a day after the seven-term lawmaker was convicted by a federal jury of trying to conceal tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he received from friends and supporters.

“It is now clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down,” Mr. McCain said in a statement released by his campaign Tuesday morning.

“I hope my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all,” he said.

Stevens, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican and a powerful force in government spending, has vowed to push ahead with his re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, even as he appeals the verdict.

A loss by Stevens would give Democrats a major boost in their effort to control 60 seats in the 100-seat chamber, enough to attain a filibuster-proof majority.

“I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have,” said Stevens, 84. “I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial.

“I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate. I will come home on Wednesday and ask for your vote.”

Mr. McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was more circumspect on hearing of Stevens’s conviction.

Mrs. Palin said she late Monday she was confident that “Senator Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska.”

“As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system,” she added.

Mr. McCain and Stevens have been Republican Senate colleagues since 1987, but the Arizona Republican has been a crusader against federal spending excesses and congressional earmarks that the Alaska Republican has long championed.

The trial cast light both on the power that Stevens wielded as the one-time chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the influence-peddling tactics that monied interests use to gain favor with lawmakers who control government’s purse strings.

Mr. McCain in his statement said the jury’s verdict was “a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that have become so pervasive in our nation’s capital.”

Stevens sat emotionless as jurors returned guilty verdicts on seven counts of filing false Senate financial disclosure forms between 2000 and 2006 in what prosecutors said was an effort to conceal $250,000 in home renovations and gifts that the senator received from Alaska business executive Bill Allen and the VECO oil services company.

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