Crooks in Congress: What’s New?

Recently, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was convicted on seven counts of fraud – and yet the law does not require him to resign from his seat and allowed him to still run for Congress!  It’s of little comfort to me to know that the Senate could decide to censure Stevens (as it’s done to nine other senators in the past) because unfortunately this action would not remove him from office.  It’s a little more encouraging to know that if Stevens were elected (he barely lost), the Senate could expel him by a two-thirds vote; however, it’s not clear whether they would actually vote him out of office . . .

Although four senators before Stevens have been convicted of crimes, two resigned, one died, and one’s term expired before the Senate had a chance to vote on his expulsion.  According to Senate historian, Don Ritchie:  “The Senate is a very collegial body and really doesn’t like to act in that sense.”  As such, they would probably wait for any appeals to be decided before taking action.  So, when will Stevens be considered “convicted”?  A majority of scholars believe a jury’s verdict seals the deal; however, most precedent says a judge’s formal entry of judgment and sentence is definitive. 

At least Stevens couldn’t cast a vote for himself – or anyone – for now since Alaska law denies felons convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude the right to vote until they’re “released from all disability arising under a conviction and sentence, including probation and parole.” 

It baffles me that questions have been raised as to whether Stevens’ crimes involve moral turpitude.  According to the Alaska statute, felonies involving moral turpitude include crimes that are “immoral or wrong in themselves such as murder  . . . extortion, coercion . . . theft, forgery . . . scheme to defraud, falsifying business records . . . bribery, receiving a bribe, perjury, perjury by inconsistent statements . . . and criminal mischief.”  Given that bribery is listed as a crime qualifying under the statute, it seems clear to me that Stevens was engaging in more than enough “moral turpitude” to be covered by the law.

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