This old senator

Sarah Steimer

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was found guilty Monday of violating federal ethics laws for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he had received from friends. This man, at 84 years old, is currently running for his seventh term in Congress as the Republican party’s longest sitting member.

What exactly could make a person want to put his career on the back burner? What kind of gift makes you snort at all the years working hard on your reputation?

For Stevens, it was home renovations for his Girdwood, Alaska, abode, a sled dog and an expensive massage chair, the New York Times reported. Pictures of the exterior of his house can be found online. I would like to assume that these renovations happened on the inside because his place is just not that impressive. Or maybe that’s what you get when it’s free. Or maybe Alaska just has an odd taste that the continental, HGTV-watching United States just doesn’t understand.

But still I have to ask, what was so important about this renovation that he had to disregard ethics codes?

Perhaps if it were something for the betterment of another. Perhaps if Stevens accepted free medical care for an ailing family member this whole ordeal could be forgotten. How can you be mad at someone who just wanted to give his mother/cousin/uncle at least a few more good months to live? Charges would be dropped and movie scripts written before the legal process even had a chance to begin.

How about something extremely exotic and hard to come by (read: illegal)? Personally, I would rather be yanked out of my house absolutely dripping in blood diamonds with my coffee table hidden under a mountain of drugs while my green card-lacking, immigrant boyfriend screams out for me – instead of getting a phone call saying I’m in a bit of trouble while there’s a photographer from the Washington Post outside my house snapping pictures of my new wrap-around deck. If you’re going to go down, might as well go down with a bang.

Or, if he really wanted a nicer-looking house, perhaps he should have built it in the Bahamas. This way, by the time the work was done and these corruption charges made, he could have been out of the country and sipping coconut milk on the beach.

But Stevens didn’t think of any of these things. He just wanted more rooms, a dog and a comfortable chair without having to pay for it. He didn’t think Fido could make the Senate filibuster-proof for the Democrats. He didn’t think a vibrating La-Z-Boy would ruin his re-election campaign.

Or maybe he did.

Stevens is old. Older-than-McCain-old. He should be moseying toward retirement soon. The gifts he received do nothing more than to make for a comfortable post-career lifestyle. Maybe he just didn’t give a damn and knew that by the time anyone would start making a fuss about these things, he’d be ready to just kick back with the missus anyhow. Maybe this was his plan all along.

“Forget ethics!” he would have thought when his friend, Bill Allen, offered him the money for his house. “This won’t hurt anyone. I’ll serve my time in the Senate and then put my feet up.” None too soon, either. After being handed a sentence, he’ll hand it right back when he’ll most likely be pardoned by President Bush – whose own time in Washington is about to end.

Ted Stevens may be the most corrupt politician right now, but he just may also be the smartest.

Sarah Steimer is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].