Ex-Senator's Friends Say His Victory Is Bittersweet
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Ted Stevens, not the U.S. Department of Justice, should now get to write the last chapter of his storied political career.
While helping oversee the legal battle to overturn his felony convictions, the former Alaska senator has been working on his memoirs, splitting his time between Washington and Anchorage, according to friends. In the yet unnamed tome, Stevens hoped to tie together his personal journey from the Army Air Corps in China during World War II to his role as one of the most powerful members of Congress in the modern era.
Now, Stevens's friends and former colleagues say, the last word will be one of vindication -- albeit bittersweet -- over an unjust prosecution that ended his tenure as the longest-serving Republican in Senate history.
"We're delighted that it's been demonstrated that Ted was telling us the truth all along. Obviously, we're a little disappointed that this didn't come out before the election," said Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), who served for years with Stevens on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Bennett paraphrased former Labor secretary Raymond J. Donovan, who beat back an indictment in the mid-1980s: "I think he can get his reputation back. I don't know where he goes to get his legal fees back," Bennett said.
Stevens gave his last Senate address Nov. 20, two days after turning 85 and conceding to Sen. Mark Begich (D) in a hard-fought race that he lost by fewer than 4,000 votes. He had been convicted of a felony days before the election.
Since then, he and his wife, Catherine, have spent half their time in their home here and the rest at their self-described "chalet" near Anchorage. Friends said Stevens left Washington late last week to return to Alaska, where he finished up repairs to his deck.
That's the same wrap-around deck that was built for Stevens by workers from Veco, the now-defunct oil services company whose former chief executive testified that he plied Stevens with more than $250,000 in gifts including home remodeling.
Originally expected to return to Washington after Easter, Stevens has changed his schedule to come back in time for his appearance next week in federal court, when the corruption charges could be formally dropped.
In recent months Stevens has rented space in a downtown lobbying office, one of many overseen by his former aides. He does not have a corner office, according to a friend, who declined to name the firm; the former senator has a desk, a computer and a view of an alley.
Stevens has not been a wallflower. A few weeks back, he ate with his wife in the Senate Dining Room, running into old friends and producing an unusual air of contentedness for a man facing possible time in federal prison.
"I thought he seemed very calm and subdued," Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) recalled yesterday.
After the news broke that the charges would be dropped, Stevens "sounded elated," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). "Here's a guy who gave 60 years of service to this country, and he was screwed [by federal prosecutors]. . . . How does he get his reputation back?"