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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin's public call on Stevens to "do the right thing" may mean "publicly commit to resign if the trial judge upholds the jury's verdict"

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com hazards a guess as to what Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is saying privately to just-convicted U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. It involves a resignation letter.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

I was amazed earlier this year, in trying to educate a friend about the record of Gov. Sarah Palin as a reformer who'd taken on her own party's most powerful politicians in Alaska, when he poked a finger in my chest and said, "Yeah, but what about Don Young and Ted Stevens?" He was referring to the remaining two senior and powerful members of the "Alaska GOP Troika" that had dominated Alaskan politics for many years before 2006. "They're still representing Alaska in Congress!"

I calmly pointed out to my friend that Gov. Palin had already defeated the third member of the Troika, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, and that she then went on to win the general election and take over the Governor's Mansion in Juneau. "She can only defeat them at the polls one at a time," I said, "because even as terrific and courageous a reformer as Sarah Palin is, they just won't let her run for Governor, Congressman, and both Senate seats all at once!"

Over a year ago, in September 2007 — long before he was indicted, or before she was on anyone's mind as a vice presidential nominee — Gov. Palin publicly called upon Sen. Stevens to come clean and explain for Alaskans in much more detail the series of transactions between him and an Alaska energy company, VECO, that had come into serious question. Relations between them have been cool and distant since then. And Gov. Palin has been very circumspect and scrupulously appropriate in declining comment on the charges against Stevens since his indictment.

In response to Sen. Stevens' conviction today on seven counts of making false statements on ethical disclosure forms, however, Gov. Palin has issued the following statement on the Alaska gubernatorial website:

October 27, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today released the following statement on the felony convictions of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens:

“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. That control was part of the culture of corruption I was elected to fight. And that fight must always move forward regardless of party or seniority or even past service.

“As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I'm confident Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska.”

Several points ought to be noted on this.

First, even though the jury has found Stevens guilty on all seven counts, that verdict has not yet been reflected in a formal judgment of conviction. (To answer the silly question posed by ABC News' Jake Tapper on his blog, that means that yes, Stevens can still vote for himself next week, but I don't think one vote is going to decide the election.) The trial has been anything but smooth, however, with prosecutors having to admit to repeated blunders throughout. So there are obvious and non-trivial grounds for Stevens' very capable legal team to urge in seeking a new trial rather than the entry of a judgment of conviction. (Please don't mis-read me here: I think it's more likely than not that the jury verdict will indeed be upheld, both by the trial judge and on appeal. And I'm personally unpersuaded by Stevens' defense and impressed by the evidence, at least as summarized by the press, which the prosecution presented. But I do believe in due process, and Stevens hasn't yet had all the legal process that's due to him under the Rule of Law.)

Second, keep in mind that these were convictions in federal court for violations of federal laws, but the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent Stevens from also being prosecuted for violations of Alaska state law based on the same or similar conduct. As such, it would still be inappropriate for Gov. Palin to be commenting in depth on the merits of Sen. Stevens' guilt or innocence under either state or federal laws: Doing so could jeopardize any future state prosecution of Sen. Stevens under Alaska state law.

Third, it's reasonable to assume that what Gov. Palin is saying to Sen. Stevens in private is more pointed than anything she's permitted to say for public consumption. And indeed, the last sentence in Gov. Palin's public press release today — "I'm confident that Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska" — is what we might call "pregnant with implication." Here's my guess as to what Gov. Palin saying privately, because it's what I would say to him if I were in her position:

"Ted, for now, I'm going to continue to be restrained and appropriate in what I say in public. But you owe it to your party, and to the people who've voted for you in years past, not to take everything down with you in flames.

"Accordingly, now — before Election Day — you need to hand to me, as the Governor of Alaska, a formal, irrevocable letter of resignation which is automatically effective as of the instant that your post-verdict (pre-appellate) motion for new trial in the federal district court is denied (even though you may still have appellate avenues open at that point to challenge that judgment).

"Having made that commitment and signed that binding letter, Ted, then you can again ask the voters of Alaska to give you their votes — and they, in turn, can vote for you secure in the knowledge that one of either two things will happen: (a) The jury's verdict will be overturned, your presumption of innocence will be restored, and you'll have another day in court. Or else: (b) As Governor of Alaska, either I or perhaps Sean Parnell (as my successor) will appoint a qualified, honest Republican who will carry forward the Republican Party's best policies and ideals in the U.S. Senate seat you have occupied for so long."

With due respect to my friends at RedState.com, the response of principled conservatives to corruption in our own party ought to be to work to replace the corrupt actors with honest Republicans — not to endorse Democrats! Character is critical, but party policies are too, and we ought not throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Or to use a different metaphor: There are more ways to skin this cat, which I agree needs skinning, and there are better ways for Sen. Stevens and the voters of Alaska to "do the right thing" without handing the Democrats a larger legislative majority in 2009.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:31 AM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Palin, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Palin's public call on Stevens to "do the right thing" may mean "publicly commit to resign if the trial judge upholds the jury's verdict" and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 28, 2008 3:40:26 AM | Permalink

Stop! The judge made an error.

How did the judge make this error? Wasn't there a point in the trial, when the proper thing would have been to toss the case? (Not sure if it was the prosecution that didn't turn over evidence.) But "something happened" because there were headlines. The judge decided, however, to proceed.

Up ahead? Could be, Stevens will be vindicated by the APPEALS process.

So, I'll vote "no" he doesn't have to step down.

Of course, in Alaska, the people will be voting. And, they really hold all the cards, here.

Palin wants a chance to put someone she knows in the "vacated ballot spot?" Too cute for words.

Or? In politics you're called upon to "say something." And, it's routine to "pull out the usual suspects of words" ... and make statements of no import.

Sorry, but there's no heroism if you can't defend the real system.

Even senators don't deserve to be railroaded.

(2) unseen made the following comment | Oct 28, 2008 8:38:57 AM | Permalink

The best thing for Stevens to do is say he will resign after the election. Ask Alsaka to vote for a generic rep seat with the knowledge that the gov with 80% approval ratings will get to pick a rep which in all likelihood will be the Lt. Gov.

(3) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 28, 2008 11:23:47 AM | Permalink

Why tamper with 80%?

Stevens knows the judge should have ruled a mistrial. Because the prosecutor withheld evidence.

What evidence? Evidence over an acknowledged payment attempt. By Stevens. Error? Belonged to the witness.

And, unless there's a major rules change, when the prosecutor withholds evidence ... and the judge proceeds ... then? You just might be gambling with the whole corrupt system?

You think prosecutors can do mischief, and years from now this won't be bounced out by the Circuit Court?

What would you call judges, who had "jobs for life," who sat on the Circuit, and went along "only for popular demand?"

Turns out if you crap on the system hard enough, you end up not even needing law schools!

Of course, where you get lucky is with most of the public. I'm just one lone-holdout juror, that's all.

(4) guyfromworcester made the following comment | Oct 29, 2008 11:06:35 AM | Permalink

"unseen," after Frank Murkowski became governor and appointed his daughter to succeed himself, Alaska decided (either by referendum or through the legislature; I don't remember) thst future vacancies would be filled by special election. Your scheme doesn't work.

The best thing Stevens could do is lose to Mark Begich and let the coutry climb its way out of the crapper.

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