Alaska Senator pleads ignorance

I have to scratch my head at the defense used by Senator Stevens. An AP article called Cabin remodel detailed at Stevens corruption trial has the story:

“We reach for the yellow pages, he reached for VECO,” prosecutor Brenda Morris said Thursday during opening statements. “And the defendant never paid a dime.”

Defense attorney Brendan Sullivan countered that his client’s wife controlled the pursestrings and paid every bill received for the project, $160,000 in all. The senator was in Washington, 3,300 miles away from the job site, and Sullivan said Stevens can’t be held responsible for any freebies or work done by Allen that wasn’t billed.

“You cannot report what you don’t know,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is right, but he is actually condemning his client rather than supporting him. Stevens should be held 100% accountable. He is a Senator, and he is expected to keep his affairs clear of corruption. Turning a blind eye to corruption is no excuse.

Why on earth (pun not intended) would a company go to great lengths to provide free renovations and upgrades to an Alaska politician’s property if they thought that person would be so ignorant as to not even notice? Sounds like an absurd twist to me. He had to have been aware, or they would never have made the changes. Are we supposed to believe that VECO operated as a charity towards Senators in need?

This is exactly the kind of unethical and irresponsible leadership that Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) was intended to put an end to…if you are elected or appointed to a leadership position, then you should be accountable to the happenings under your watch. SOX basically says executives should be punished if they knowingly or unknowingly publish false information in financial statements.

Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael G. Oxley had the Act approved in 2002 by a House vote of 423-3 and Senate vote of 99-0. Stevens was in favor back then. And now?

Instead of “I don’t know, so don’t blame me” we should instead hear “I did not know, so I clearly I failed in my duties. Sorry for being out of touch when I was supposed to be a leader and in charge of financial affairs.”

More details can be found in an amusing TheZoo blog post called “Somebody call the Waa-ambulance

In the new documents, the government also dismissed Stevens’ assertions that his conduct was shielded by the Constitution as a member of Congress, citing nine examples of the senator’s “errands” and requests involving a former Alaska oil-services company that had nothing to do with protected lawmaking.

Among them: an intercepted phone call in which Stevens discusses how his son Ben, then the state Senate president, planned to push a bill favored by the oil industry as a prelude to natural-gas development.

The new filings go substantially further than a July indictment that charges Stevens with seven counts of failing to disclose gifts from 1999 through 2006. Most of the alleged gifts, including the renovation of the senator’s Girdwood, Alaska, home, were from former oil-service company VECO and its politically active chairman, Bill Allen.

TheZoo also quotes Bill Maher:

“Let’s ask Sarah Palin about Sarbanes-Oxley. What would she say? ‘I shot one the other day’?”

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