'Decency Senator' Ted Stevens Indicted for Making False Statements

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who famously described the Internet as a "series of tubes," but who nonetheless was the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (which deals with the Internet), has been indicted on seven counts of making false statements under oath on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms.

Stevens is best remembered in the adult community, however, for his unfailing support of legislation to restrict speech on the Internet, such as the hearing he oversaw on Jan. 19, 2006, with frequent cohort Daniel Inouye (D-HI), titled "Protecting Children on the Internet."

At that hearing, Stevens threatened prominent First Amendment attorney Paul Cambria that he had better corral adult Webmasters into agreeing to rate their sites with one of the existing Internet rating systems ... or else.

Cambria, apparently attempting to broker a deal with Congress, opined that the adult industry needed to enter into a dialog with federal legislators to find out just what they wanted to see in such a rating system, stating, "In my years of representing the adult entertainment industry, I've come to know first-hand the commitment of the industry to provide adults and not children with legal mature entertainment."

But as far as Stevens was concerned, the time for dialoging was long past.

"Well, my advice, you need to tell your clients they better do it [rating] soon, because we'll mandate it if you don't," Stevens said angrily.

Of course, in January, 2006, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was still wending its way through the court system, having been remanded by the Supreme Court for trial in mid-2004, although the high court had already decided that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) could restrict federal funds to public libraries that refused to add filtering software to their public-use computers. It is unknown how much input Stevens may have had to the Adam Walsh Act which, as far as the Internet is concerned, mainly criminalized the embedding of words or digital images in source code "with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors."

On the other hand, in mid-2006, Stevens came out in favor of network neutrality in opposing an amendment to a bill that the Senate was considering that would have allowed ISPs to charge fees to companies and individuals for higher priority access to their systems.

But apparently, when Stevens wasn't beating up on the adult Internet industry - or supporting earmarks that would have paid for the construction of "bridges to nowhere" from Gravina Island to the Alaska mainland, or across the Cook Inlet north of Anchorage - he was allowing oil-field service company VECO and its CEO, Bill Allen, to bribe him by having VECO's workers construct additions to Stevens' home in Girdwood, a community about 20 miles southeast of Anchorage, doubling the home's size, at a cost of over $250,000. In exchange, according to TPMmuckraker.com, VECO won federal contracts worth $170 million to provide the National Science Foundation with polar and arctic research support, despite having no experience in the field, and Stevens reportedly helped VECO collect $70 million for the oil pipeline it built for Pakistan in the late 1990s.

But although Stevens said that he paid "every bill that was given" to him, all of the bills for the construction VECO was performing were routed through Allen, and most were never sent on to Stevens.

Hence, the 84-year-old Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, was indicted on Monday on seven felony counts of making false statements on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms for the years 1999-2006. Specifically, he failed to report gifts valued at over $305 for any of those years, and failed to disclose any liabilities owed for the home construction greater than $10,000 - indeed, Stevens reported that there were no liabilities owed in any amount. Filing false financial disclosure statements can result in both civil and criminal penalties, including up to five years in prison for each count.

While it is unclear what the ramifications of Stevens' indictment will be, he is currently running for reelection against popular Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat who, even before the indictment was announced, was leading Stevens in polls by as much as nine points. Stevens still faces a six-way Republican primary on Aug. 26 - usually a shoo-in for the six-term incumbent - and if he wins, will face Begich on Nov. 6. It's already too late for Stevens to withdraw from the primary, but he could withdraw from the general election after the primary, allowing the Republican Party to select a new nominee - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's name has been mentioned - to run against Begich in Stevens' place. However, Palin herself is under investigation for abusing her power in firing a public safety commissioner who refused to fire Palin's brother-in-law who's currently undergoing a messy divorce from Palin's sister.

Oh, yeah: This election's gonna be fun!