Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ted Stevens: you wouldn't like him when he's angry

The crash of a Learjet as it attempted to land in Anchorage, Alaska, would link to many important parts of Senator Ted Stevens' life. Stevens was one of two people to survive the accident, which occurred on December 4, 1978. The jet lost control in crosswind conditions as it arrived from Juneau, breaking apart as it came down between two runways.

Stevens' wife of 26 years, Ann Cherrington, and four others were killed in the crash. As he recovered, Stevens said the incident would not discourage him from flying. He had served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, continued to hold a commercial pilot's license, and occasionally flew "just for the hell of it" (though he wasn't piloting the plane in the Anchorage crash). Stevens even parlayed the incident into a pitch for more funding at the airport, saying it was the second such crash in the past year and that a crosswinds runway was necessary at Anchorage.

Despite his nonchalant statements after the near-death experience, including the remark that frequent flying was necessary to get between Alaska and Washington, D.C., some of Stevens' colleagues in the United States Senate said he had been worried about this mode of travel. He had mentioned a premonition that he might die in a plane crash, and made frequent references to the 1972 disappearance of a plane traveling from Anchorage to Juneau, the opposite flight path of the ill-fated Learjet. Representative Nick Begich of Alaska, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana, and two others had presumably been killed when the plane went down in the remote wilderness, although the plane and its occupants were never found.

Two years after the crash, Stevens would marry Catherine Chandler, a lawyer from a well-known Democratic family. The airport where he lost his first wife would be renamed in his honor in 2000, the same year the state legislature named him the "Alaskan of the Century." He would face Nick Begich's son in a tight race in 2008, defined largely by questionable home renovations which he said his second wife had overseen. And while his premonition would not hold true in 1978, it would be fulfilled more than three decades later.

Stevens was born Theodore Fulton Stevens in Indianapolis on November 18, 1923. Early in his childhood, he moved with his family to Chicago. In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, Stevens' father lost his job as an accountant. Stevens subsequently took a job as a newsboy to help support his parents and three siblings. Following the divorce of his parents and the death of his father, he moved to Manhattan Beach, California, to live with an aunt.

After graduating from high school, Stevens began attending Oregon State College. He was there for only one semester, in 1942, before deciding to join the war effort. He enrolled at Montana State College for cadet training in the Army Air Corps in 1943, and began flying supply missions the next year. Stevens was part of the "Flying Tigers," piloting C-46 and C-47 planes over the Himalayas from India to China. When he concluded his service in 1946, he had been awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, and the Yuan Hai Medal from the Republic of China.

Ted Stevens during his service in World War II (Source)

After the war, Stevens returned to college. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1947 with a degree in political science. After a stint as a research assistant with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, he attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 1950. He was admitted to the bar in California in the same year, but got the his first job at a law firm in Washington, D.C.

Stevens' long association with Alaska began in 1953, when he drove across the country to take a job at a law firm in Fairbanks. He became the U.S. Attorney in the city a year later. Stevens would later recall that two newspaper publishers were responsible for his first foray into politics, encouraging him to return to the nation's capital to work in the Eisenhower Administration and push for Alaska statehood. He became the legislative counsel for the Department of the Interior in 1956, working his way up to Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1958 and Solicitor of the department in 1960. Alaska became a state in January 1959.

Stevens again returned to Alaska, opening a law firm in Anchorage in 1961. He would soon make another stab at national politics, earning the Republican nomination for Senate in 1962. He lost the race to the incumbent, Ernest Gruening. However, he was successful in a 1964 bid for the state house of representatives and was reelected two years later, serving as the speaker pro tempore and majority leader. Another attempt at the U.S. Senate in 1968 also fell short as Stevens lost the GOP primary to Anchorage mayor Elmer Rasmuson; Rasmuson subsequently lost the general election to Democratic candidate Mike Gravel.

But just months after this election, Stevens learned he would be going to the Senate after all. One of Alaska's seats in the Senate became vacant on December 11, 1968, when Democratic Senator E.L. Bartlett died during heart surgery. Governor Walter Hickel, a Republican, appointed Stevens to the post on Christmas Eve. In a special election in November of 1970, Stevens was elected in his own right to serve the remaining two years of Bartlett's term.

Stevens would remain in the Senate for almost four more decades, winning seven general elections. He chaired his first committee during the Ninety-fourth Congress, leading the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee between 1975 and 1977. He would serve as the chairman of five additional committees during his career, including those related to appropriations, ethics, governmental affairs, and commerce, science, and transportation.

Between 1977 and 1985, Stevens held the position of Republican whip, or leader of the party within the Senate. He sought to become the majority leader in 1984, but lost to Bob Dole of Kansas by three votes. Stevens was president pro tempore of the Senate from 2003 to 2007, the third person in the line of presidential succession behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Throughout his career, Stevens became well-known in Alaska for his efforts to improve the state's standing in the nation. He fought for Hickel's appointment as Secretary of the Interior in 1969; the former governor's new role made him the first Alaskan to serve in a presidential cabinet. He backed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 to resolve land claims by indigenous residents in Alaska, many of which had not been addressed since Alaska became a state. This legislation also helped clear some barriers to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile project completed in 1977 to carry oil from the Prudhoe Bay fields to the port of Valdez.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline met with plenty of objection from environmentalists, and Stevens had a mixed record when it came to the issue of conservation. He expressed opposition to "extreme environmentalists" and supported proposals to drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, but he was particularly committed to marine environmental efforts. He co-authored the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976 to set a 200-mile economic exclusion zone from U.S. shores to regulate foreign fishing vessels and protect fisheries in this area. Stevens kept a close eye on this legislation in the ensuing years, contributing to the amendments and follow-ups made to it over the years. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Stevens led efforts to improve oil tanker designs to prevent a similar incident. In 2006, he voted against a proposed open pit mine to extract gold, molybdenum, and copper on the grounds that it would potentially threaten the salmon population in Bristol Bay.

Although formerly critical of the idea that human activities were a significant contributor to climate change, Stevens surprised environmentalists in February of 2007 by introducing a bill to improve fuel efficiency in new vehicles. Stevens said he still considered that other factors had more of an impact on the climate than humans, but he was now convinced that human activity was part of the problem. He said the altered climate was particularly noticeable in Alaska in the erosion of shorelines from rising sea levels, the disruption of salmon spawning grounds due to warmer waters, melting permafrost, and shrinking hunting grounds for polar bears and walruses.

Stevens was generally conservative in his positions, but he also had a record of more centrist or bipartisan positions as well. In June of 1971, he sponsored a bill to withdraw American troops from Vietnam within nine months; the Senate approved it on the condition that North Vietnam first free all remaining U.S. prisoners of war. He helped develop the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, which established the United States Olympic Committee as the national representative agency for the competition and set up national governing bodies and protections for individual athletes in each sport. Stevens was pro-choice in the sense that he did not believe government should intervene in the subject of abortion, saying in 1979 that it was a decision to be made by the couple and their doctor rather than "something 99 men fight over 30 times a year." Stevens also supported a ban on smoking in federal buildings, supported federal spending for public radio and Title IX legislation giving women equal opportunities in places receiving federal aid, and questioned the level of President Ronald Reagan's military spending.

The last objection was somewhat ironic, as Stevens' ability to funnel vast amounts of federal funding to Alaska became legendary. These allocations went to a variety of projects, from infrastructure to military bases to small businesses. His supporters in the state nicknamed him "Uncle Ted" for his ability to bring this money to Alaska, while critics charged him with wasting huge sums on pork-barrel projects. One out of every three jobs in Alaska was said to rely on federal funding in 2008. Taxpayers for Common Sense charged that Stevens directly sponsored or had a role in earmarks to legislation that directed $3.2 billion in federal funding to his home state between 2004 and 2008, resulting in a per capita total of $4,872 per resident of Alaska - more than 18 times the national average.

Stevens offered several defenses for his efforts to bring federal monies to Alaska. He said much of the state was federally owned anyway, and that it needed to catch up with the rest of the nation since it was one of the newer states and had spent many years as an impoverished territory. He also argued that Alaska deserved more funding due to its harsh weather, the presence of natural resources such as oil and gas, and the state's strategic importance due to its proximity to Russia.

More than any other project, Stevens was ridiculed for his commitment to a pair of transportation initiatives in 2005. A highway bill in this year requested $452 million to go toward two bridges in Alaska. One proposal, the Knik Arm Bridge, sought to link Anchorage with rural Port MacKenzie, which had a single tenant and almost no population; the final price tag of the bridge was estimated to be nearly $2 billion. The more infamous proposal would connect the small community of Ketchikan with Gravina Island, which included the local airport but was home to only 50 residents. The proposed span would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow cruise ships to pass under it, measure only 20 feet shorter than the Golden Gate Bridge, require a convoluted detour to access, and replace a short and reliable ferry ride. Supporters argued that the projects would help spur economic development and improve domestic security, but the request for costly crossings to benefit a handful of citizens was quickly denounced as a "Bridge to Nowhere." Taxpayers for Common Sense gave the proposal the dubious honor of the Golden Fleece Award, presented to proposals considered to be a major waste of taxpayers' money.

Stevens vehemently opposed efforts to block funding for the projects. The bill came up for consideration not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast, and Senator Tom Coburn of Louisiana (a Republican) sought to divert funding for the Alaska bridges to repair roads damaged by the storm. Stevens threatened to end his Senate career in protest if the amendment passed.

"I will put the Senate on notice, and I don't kid people: if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I'll resign from this body," he warned. "This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I've devoted 37 years to, if one senator can decide he'll take all the money from one state to solve the problem of another."

Coburn's proposal was voted down, with 82 senators opposed and 15 in favor. The compromise, struck a month later, removed the earmark which dedicated the money specifically to the bridges, but still allocated the money to Alaska for use on transportation projects. This stipulation meant the funding could still potentially be used for the bridges. The envisioned spans remained controversial, however, as the "Bridge to Nowhere" came to symbolize uncontrolled federal spending and spurred efforts to rein in earmarks. While the Knik Arm Bridge remains under consideration, the Gravina Island proposal was recently scrapped. Lew Williams III, the mayor of Ketchikan, said it was more economically feasible to improve the ferry services and terminals than to build and maintain a bridge.

The debate over the bridges gave national exposure to Stevens' rancorous temper, but he had been regarded as a curmudgeon for many years by his colleagues in the Senate. "I am a mean, miserable S.O.B.," he once declared. However, Stevens still showed a sense of humor and camaraderie. He considered Daniel Inouye, the long-serving Democratic senator from the other young state of Hawaii, to be a close friend and the two worked together on a number of bipartisan efforts. Whenever he expected a tough fight on a bill, Stevens donned an Incredible Hulk tie.

Stevens, wearing an Incredible Hulk tie, poses with a figure of the superhero in 2003 (Source)

Stevens' cantankerous nature helped make him in inadvertent Internet meme after remarks he made before the Commerce Committee, which he chaired. Arguing against an amendment to prohibit Internet service providers from charging higher fees to companies that generated more traffic, Stevens said, "The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck; it's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled, and if they're filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line, it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material." Stevens also referred to an e-mail sent by his staff as "an Internet" and complained that it had been delayed by getting "tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially."

The description of the Internet as a "series of tubes" soon became the subject of a number of parodies. Some commentaries suggested that the remarks exposed the 82-year-old Stevens as being hopelessly out of touch with the subject of net neutrality, despite being the head of the committee charged with overseeing the issue. Stevens' defenders argued that he had been speaking metaphorically in trying to illustrate his concerns.

Not long after these remarks, Stevens became the longest serving Republican in the Senate. He reached this milestone in April of 2007 and was lauded by his fellow senators for his service and bipartisanship. Inouye nicknamed him "The Strom Thurmond of the Arctic Circle," a reference to the fact that Thurmond would have held the honor if he hadn't spent two terms as a Democrat before switching parties. Stevens thanked his family and staff for their support, noting how he once flew back and forth between Alaska and the nation's capital 35 times in a single year. "I am surrounded by friends on both sides of the aisle, and I am still very honored to be here," he said.

By this time, Stevens had been accused of a number of conflicts of interest during his many years in office. He was criticized for advocating a lease deal with Boeing after they hired his wife's law firm in 2003, and for helping groups that hired his son Ben as a consultant. Investigators would later look into federal funding that had been directed to Ben's company to promote efforts to trim Alaska's crab and salmon fishing fleets as well as monies that supported the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, of which Ben was the first chairman. There had even been calls for Stevens to resign after the Los Angeles Times detailed how he had become a millionaire by investing in companies after he had secured government contracts for them. Stevens responded, "If they think I'm going to resign because of a story in the newspaper, they're crazy."

The FBI opened "Operation Polar Pen," the investigation which would eventually lead to criminal charges against Stevens, in 2004. Two years later, Governor Frank Murkowski announced that negotiations with Alaska's three main oil producers had resulted in an agreement for these companies to build a gas pipeline if the state would modify the way the producers were taxed. The VECO Corporation, an oil services engineering and construction company which was also a major financial supporter of Republican candidates in Alaska, stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars from this pipeline. Stevens was an associate of VECO's founder and chief executive officer, Bill Allen. The two men sometimes dined together, and they were part of a group of investors who owned a racehorse named So Long Birdie.

The investigation targeted VECO for its scheme to influence state legislators and other Alaska officials on matters related to the pipeline. The company sought to bribe legislators with incentives such as cash, services, and promises of future employment in exchange for votes on legislation favorable to VECO, including the construction of the pipeline, the adoption of its favored oil tax formula, and the rejection of efforts to increase this tax. Several VECO executives and Alaska legislators were charged with involvement in this corruption, and the FBI began making arrests in the spring of 2007.

In May, Allen and VECO vice president Rick Smith pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators. Allen agreed to testify against other defendants in the probe. He admitted that he had paid $243,250 to Ben Stevens, then the president of the Alaska state senate, between 2002 and 2006. Allen said the payments were ostensibly for consulting work, but were actually meant for "giving advice, lobbying colleagues, and taking official acts in matters before the Legislature." Several other witnesses said Ben had received illegal payments from Allen, but the senator's son was never charged with a crime.

At the September trial of Pete Kott, the former speaker of the Alaska house of representatives, Allen directly implicated Stevens. He testified that he had used more than $400,000 to bribe state legislators and do favors for Stevens over the years. By this point, the FBI had already started to scrutinize Stevens' finances. Several people were called before a federal grand jury in the spring and summer of 2007, including Stevens' neighbor, a financial clerk of the Commerce Committee, and a businessman who was an associate of the senator. In July, Stevens filed a financial disclosure form after getting an extension to fix what he said were technical errors. At the end of the month, FBI agents raided his home in Girdwood.

On July 29, 2008, the federal grand jury indicted Stevens on seven felony counts of violating the Ethics in Government Act by making false statements on financial disclosure forms between 1999 and 2006. Prosecutors charged that he failed to report about $250,000 in favors provided by VECO and others. It was the first time a sitting senator had been indicted in 15 years, and the charges were handed down before the Republican primary. Stevens won the party's nomination despite the indictment. He had the option of stepping down to let the Republican State Central Committee choose a candidate, but opted not to do so.

Stevens' mugshot following his indictment (Source)

The bulk of the charges against Stevens stemmed from his relationship to Allen. In the year 2000, Stevens' home went through extensive renovations which more than doubled the size of the original two-bedroom structure. The house was put up on stilts to add a new first floor, and contractors also put in a sauna, wine cellar, and wraparound porch. The workers said they billed Allen for the work and received checks from Stevens. The senator had expressed concerns about the renovations in a phone call to Allen which was recorded by the FBI, but reassured himself, "[T]he worst that can happen to us is we round up a bunch of legal fees and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little jail time."

Allen had given Stevens several gifts including a Land Rover, furniture, tools, a generator, and a gas grill. None of the gifts had been reported on his financial disclosure forms. He had also received a $2,695 massage chair, $3,200 stained glass window, and husky puppy from his friend Bob Penney without reporting them. The Kenai River Sport Fishing Association had given him a bronze fish statue valued at $29,000.

The indictment was issued a little more than three months away from Election Day, which was shaping up to be a pivotal contest. The Democrats had regained majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate in 2006. In the 2008 election, they had the potential to pursue a robust legislative agenda if they managed to recapture the White House and get enough seats in the Senate for a filibuster-proof majority. Hoping to be tried and acquitted before Election Day, Stevens asked for a speedy trial. This request was granted, but he was unable to get the proceedings transferred from Washington, D.C., to Alaska.

During the lengthy trial, Stevens spent three days on the stand. He said his wife was in charge of the renovations at the Girdwood home and that he was unaware that Allen had aided the project in any way. Stevens said they had paid every bill they received with their own money, and that he assumed the $160,000 in expenditures had covered all costs. He did express some irritation with the billing process, saying he had sometimes never received an invoice even after requesting it. "Catherine paid for the work that was done at our house," he concluded. "She paid the bills, and that's all there is to it."

The prosecution and defense had different interpretations of an October 2002 letter Stevens wrote to Allen, asking for a bill. "When I think of the many ways in which you make my life easier and more enjoyable, I lose count!" the letter read. "Thanks for all the work on the Chalet. You owe me a bill - remember Torricelli, my friend. Friendship is one thing - compliance with the ethics rules entirely different. I asked Bob P to talk to you about this, so don't get PO'd at him - it's [sic] just has to be done right." In referencing Torricelli, Stevens was recalling a former colleague, Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, whom the Senate had admonished for receiving illicit gifts from a campaign donor three months before the letter was written. Torricelli had been re-nominated by the party after the scandal, but dropped out of his race in September.

Allen alleged that the letter was simply a way for Stevens to cover his tracks, and that a friend of the senator had even urged him to ignore the request for a bill. During one exchange, Stevens testily asked prosecutor Brenda Morris, "If it was a gift, why did I ask for a bill?" Morris replied, "To cover your butt." Stevens' lawyers argued that the letter was nothing more than a friendly communication and effort to account for all costs related to the renovations.

Catherine also took the stand and testified that she had paid $160,000 to contractors other than VECO employees for the work. When it came to the unreported gifts, Stevens said he had never asked for them. The fish statue was supposedly destined for a library that would one day honor the senator. Stevens' daughter said that Allen sometimes used the Girdwood home when Stevens was in Washington, and that some of the gifts were for his own personal use as well. She also avowed that VECO had not unfairly rewarded the family; her son had been hired by the company, but subsequently fired for using drugs. Several witnesses called by the defense spoke to Stevens' character, including Inouye, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

On October 27, 2008, the jury found Stevens guilty of all seven charges against him. The verdict came down just eight days before the election, too late for the GOP to take him off the ballot and replace him with another candidate. However, Stevens was under no obligation to resign or withdraw from the race. Since there was no rule against convicted felons serving in Congress, he would be able to take his seat if he won another term and could only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Calls for Stevens' resignation came down from both major parties. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, declared, "It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the American people and that he should now step down." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama also asked for Stevens to resign. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and McCain's running mate, did not specifically ask Stevens to step down but said she was confident he would "do the right thing for the state of Alaska." She suggested that if he decided to stay in the race and won, he should resign so a new candidate could be selected in a special election.

Had Stevens decided to resign after his conviction, Alaska rules would have required a special election to take place 60 to 90 days after he vacated his seat. But Stevens remained defiant, vowing to "fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have." He also said he was determined to remain in the race against Democratic candidate Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. "I am not stepping down," Stevens said. "I'm going to run through and I'm going to win this election."

While Stevens had won easy victories against Democratic opponents in his previous races, his conviction appeared to have a significant impact on the election. Stevens was popular enough to win a large share of the nearly 300,000 votes cast in the Senate race. Nevertheless, he would be ousted in the contest; Begich won the seat by less than 1 percent, or about 2,300 votes. In a farewell speech on November 30, Stevens declared, "Working to help Alaska achieve its potential has been and will continue to be my life's work." He left the Senate on January 3, 2009, with his conviction still under appeal.

The Democratic victory in Alaska would contribute to a major shift of power in the nation's capital. In addition to winning the White House, the party took five Senate seats away from Republican incumbents. After Democratic candidate Al Franken was sworn in as the winner in a close race in Minnesota and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties in April of 2009, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof share of 60 seats in the Senate. This supermajority would only last until January of 2010, when Republican candidate Scott Brown won an upset victory in a special election to succeed Ted Kennedy after the longstanding senator's death in August 2009. Yet the Senate was easily able to approve the Affordable Care Act in December 2009 without the support of a single Republican senator.

Soon after the election, cracks began to appear in the prosecution's case against Stevens. The judge had rebuked prosecutors several times during the trial, and Stevens' defense team planned to question their methods as part of their appeal. In November 2008, former VECO employee David Anderson wrote to the judge to admit that he had been lying when he made the sworn statement that he did not have an immunity deal with prosecutors. In fact, he said, prosecutors had helped coach him by leaving him alone in a room with confidential documents. The Justice Department denied the claims.

On December 2, 2008, FBI agent Chad Joy filed a whistleblower report questioning the conduct of the prosecutors. He said they had tried to hide one witness and intentionally withheld evidence that would have been beneficial to the defense. In particular, they had not disclosed that Allen had formerly told FBI agents that Stevens would have paid an invoice for the work on his home; Allen had made the exact opposite statement during the trial. The information had been made known to the defense during the trial, but the disclosure had taken place right before Allen's cross-examination.

Joy also accused prosecutors of knowingly using false VECO records to help establish the argument that Stevens received an improper benefit from Allen and failed to turn over information that would have undermined Allen's credibility. The former head of VECO had been investigated by police for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute, and he had tried to get two witnesses to perjure themselves so they would not be able to testify against him. Joy's report also suggested that another FBI agent had had an inappropriate relationship with Allen.

On April 7, 2009, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the verdict at the request of newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder. The alleged misconduct by the prosecutors was the reason cited for the dismissal, and the government announced that it would not seek a retrial. Stevens' attorney was enraged by the revelations, deeming the prosecutors' behavior "stomach-churning corruption." Stevens said the decision had restored his faith in the justice system, but commented, "It is unfortunate that an election was affected by proceedings now recognized as unfair."

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility began an internal inquiry into the prosecutors in Stevens' case. Sullivan also appointed a special prosecutor to look into the allegations of misconduct. The latter report was completed in March 2012, concluding that there was "systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens' defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government's key witness."

The special prosecutor specifically targeted prosecutors Joseph Bottini and James Goeke, saying they "intentionally withheld and concealed" evidence. The report noted that prosecutors had been under pressure to quickly assemble a complex case to meet Stevens' request for a speedy trial, but did not conduct an effective search for potentially exculpatory evidence. Lower level prosecutors who worked on the case were essentially exonerated, though no conclusions were made with regard to a prosecutor who had worked closely on the case and committed suicide in September 2010.

The Justice Department issued its own report in May 2012. It differed from the special prosecutor's report mainly in its conclusion that the prosecutors had not intentionally withheld evidence, suggesting that this action was a result of the confusion of several attorneys working on the case and the efforts to quickly assemble evidence against Stevens to meet the request for a speedy trial. However, it did declare that Bottini and Goeke had engaged in "reckless professional conduct." The report did not recommend that either man be fired, but instead suspended Bottini without pay for 40 days and Goeke for 15 days. Stevens' lawyers were not satisfied, saying the Justice Department's punishment "demonstrated conclusively that it is not capable of disciplining its prosecutors."

By the time these conclusions had been issued, Stevens had died in Alaska. On August 9, 2010, he was one of eight people traveling on a float plane owned by the GCI Communication Corporation. The plane was scheduled to fly from a GCI-owned lodge on Lake Nerka to a sport fishing camp on the Nushagak River. The plane crashed northeast of Aleknagik, killing Stevens and three others on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the crash was unclear, determining only that pilot Terry Smith (one of those killed) became temporarily incapacitated. The NTSB theorized that Smith had fallen asleep, had a seizure, or otherwise become briefly unaware of the situation and was unable to reach a safe altitude before the plane hit a hillside. The report on the accident criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for re-certifying Smith's pilot's license two years before the crash, saying their medical review had not been thorough enough.

Stevens is buried at Arlington National Cemetery (Source)

Although the verdict against Stevens was dismissed, some were not convinced that the senator's relationship with Allen was not improper. The federal investigation in Alaska had found plenty of corruption in the state government; it ended in October 2011 after seven years with the convictions of 10 people, including six state legislators. One alternate juror in Stevens' case said the determination of prosecutorial misconduct was not quite enough for him to consider the former senator to be innocent. The report had only gone into the allegations of work at Stevens' home in Girdwood, not the gifts he had received but not declared on his financial disclosure forms. The former juror also felt that Stevens' lawyers had done more to defend the senator's character than explain Stevens' cozy relationship with Allen and his questionable e-mail record regarding the renovations.

Many continue to see Stevens in a positive light, however. The Ted Stevens Foundation, established in 2001, continues to "recognize [his] career and honor his legacy of public service by working to ensure a stable and vibrant Alaska for future generations." In 2011, the Alaska Legislature deemed the fourth Saturday of every July to be Ted Stevens Day and encouraged Alaskans to "get out and play" by enjoying the outdoors. In recognition of his legislation to protect Olympic athletes, Stevens was inducted into the Olympics Hall of Fame in 2012; two years later, the U.S. Olympic Committee named a training facility in Colorado Springs in his honor.

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