- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Senate’s top Republican said Wednesday there was “no question” former Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens would have won re-election last year if the Justice Department had thrown his corruption case out before the vote.

“No question that if this decision had been made last year he’d still be in the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, told a small group of reporters on Capitol Hill.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the government was dismissing its case because of prosecutorial abuse. Mr. Stevens, a political legend in his state, narrowly lost a bid for a seventh term to Democrat Mark Begich after his initial conviction last fall and had been appealing the verdict.

Back in the Last Frontier, angry voters demanded a “re-do” of the November election.

“He should have another chance,” said Steve Runyan, manager of 3 Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla, Alaska. “If the trial was a sham, he is vindicated, he is innocent. What has our justice system become?”

Few Democrats were eager to comment on the turn of events, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada among those declining comment.

Mr. Stevens, 85, the highest official in a generation to be convicted of federal corruption charges, released a statement that said he was “grateful” to be cleared.

“I always knew that there would be a day when the cloud that surrounded me would be removed. That day has finally come,” he said.

Mr. Begich, a former Anchorage mayor who beat Mr. Stevens by a 1.25 percent margin, said the decision by President Obama’s Justice Department was “reasonable.”

“I always said I didn’t think Senator Stevens should serve time in jail and hopefully this decision ensures that is the case,” Mr. Begich said. “It’s time for Senator Stevens, his family and Alaskans to move on and put this behind us.”

But the ranks of friends and political allies Mr. Stevens still has in Congress were not as eager to forgive and forget.

“I am deeply disturbed that the government can ruin a man’s career and then say ‘never mind.’ There is nothing that will ever compensate for the loss of his reputation or leadership to the State of Alaska,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican.

“Our nation is governed by the rule of law, and violations of our civil liberties cannot be tolerated. Prosecutors and law enforcement have the power to bring the full weight of the government to bear on individuals. If they are willing to bend the law, they put all of our civil liberties at risk,” she said.

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