Aug 10, 2010 4:14 PM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Former Sen. Ted Stevens, an
uncompromising advocate for Alaska for four decades who spearheaded
scores of expensive projects to one of the nation's most sparsely
populated states, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," has
died in a plane crash. He was 86.
Family spokesman Mitch Rose said Tuesday that Stevens was among
five people killed Monday night in the crash of a small aircraft
outside Dillingham, about 325 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Stevens began his career in the days before Alaska statehood and
did not leave politics until 2008, when he was convicted on
corruption charges shortly before Election Day. But a federal judge
threw out the verdict because of misconduct by federal prosecutors.
Stevens, a moderate Republican, was appointed in December 1968
and became the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. (The
late Strom Thurmond was in the Senate longer than Stevens, but he
spent a decade there as a Democrat before switching to the GOP.)
The wiry octogenarian was a legend in his home state, where he
was known as "Uncle Ted." Though he was built like a birch
sapling, he liked to encourage comparisons with the Incredible Hulk
- an analogy that seemed appropriate for his outsized place in
The crash that killed Stevens was not his first. Shortly after
being elected to his second full term in 1978, he was aboard a
private jet that went down at Anchorage International Airport,
killing his first wife, Ann.
Stevens' standing in Alaska was hurt by allegations he accepted
a bonanza of home renovations and fancy trimmings from VECO Corp.,
a powerful oil field services contractor, and then lied about it on
congressional disclosure documents.
Indicted on federal charges in July 2008, he asked for an
unusually speedy trial, hoping to clear his name before Election
Day. Instead, he was convicted in late October of all seven counts
- and narrowly lost his Senate seat to Democrat Mark Begich in the
In his farewell speech to the Senate, he said: "I look only
forward and I still see the day when I can remove the cloud that
currently surrounds me."
Five months after the election, Attorney General Eric Holder
dropped the indictment and declined to proceed with a new trial
because of misconduct by federal prosecutors. Stevens never
discussed the events publicly.
When his party held a majority, Stevens - known as a formidable
parliamentarian - was chairman of several Senate committees,
including the powerful Rules and Appropriations panels. For three
years, he was majority whip. When the Democrats took back control
of the Senate in January 2007, he lost his chairmanships but
remained ranking Republican member of the powerful Commerce
His skill in appropriating military and other federal money for
Alaska earned him the reputation among many in Washington as a
Revered in Alaska - he was named Alaskan of the Century in 1999
for having the greatest impact on the state in 100 years - he
brought in "Stevens money" that literally helped keep the remote
state solvent. The Anchorage airport is also named in his honor.
"The only special interest I care about is Alaska," he was
fond of saying.
A television reporter once quipped that Stevens could shoot
Santa's reindeer and Alaskans would applaud.
He helped shape landmark legislation on Alaska Native land
claims, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, fisheries management and
The "Bridge to Nowhere" would have connected Ketchikan,
Alaska, to an island with just 50 residents at a cost of nearly
$450 million. The proposal became a symbol of the waste associated
with earmarks, which are items inserted into bills, often at the
Congress scrubbed funding for the bridge in 2005.
The following year, Stevens became the butt of jokes and
satirical songs for describing the Internet as "a series of
tubes" and for speaking of sending "an Internet" instead of an
Most of the wisecracks portrayed Stevens as an old man who did
not understand the technology over which he wielded influence as
chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Stevens also was known for being easily angered both in private
and on the Senate floor. Stevens saw his volatile temperament as a
"I don't lose my temper," he told the Anchorage Daily News in
1994. "I always know where it is."
When critics called for his resignation after a Los Angeles
Times story detailed how Stevens became a millionaire investing in
companies he helped secure government contracts, he said: "If they
think I am going to resign because of a story in a newspaper,
Stevens also took flak for aiding groups that hired his son,
former state Senate President Ben Stevens, as a consultant and for
pushing a lease deal with Boeing after it hired his wife's law
In 2007, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided Stevens'
four-bedroom house south of Anchorage as part of the probe into his
relationship with VECO. Former company chief Bill Allen, who
pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators, testified that
he oversaw extensive renovations at Stevens' home and sent VECO
employees to work on it.
During the trial, Stevens spent three days on the witness stand,
vehemently denying any wrongdoing. He said his wife handled the
business of the renovation and paid every bill they received. He
said he paid $160,000 for the project and believed that covered
It took Stevens some time to initially win over Alaska voters.
He was the Republican nominee for the Senate in 1962, but lost in
the general election to incumbent Ernest Gruening, and six years
later he lost his party's nod to Anchorage banker Elmer Rasmuson.
But when incumbent Democrat Bob Bartlett died in December 1968,
Stevens was appointed to the vacancy by then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel,
a Republican. Stevens won his first full term in 1972, and in
subsequent elections was retained by wide margins. He won his sixth
full term in 2002 with 78 percent of the vote.
Theodore Fulton Stevens was born Nov. 18, 1923, in Indianapolis.
His parents divorced when he was young and, in 1938, he moved to
southern California to live with relatives.
After graduating from high school in 1942, he attended college
for a semester before joining the Army Air Corps. He flew cargo
planes over "the hump" in the Himalayas during World War II and
was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, Stevens finished college at UCLA and in 1950
earned a law degree at Harvard. Fresh out of law school, he moved
to Washington, D.C., to work and, in 1953, he drove cross-country
to the Territory of Alaska to take a job in Fairbanks.
In 1954, Stevens was named U.S. attorney in Fairbanks and two
years later returned to Washington to work on the statehood issue
for Interior Secretary Fred Seaton, a statehood supporter.
Eventually Stevens rose to become the Interior Department's top
He moved back to Alaska in 1961, opening a law practice in
Anchorage. After losing the 1962 Senate race to incumbent Gruening,
he won a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. He was House
majority leader when appointed to finish Bartlett's term.
Two years after the 1978 plane crash, he married Catherine
Chandler, a lawyer from a prominent Democratic family in Alaska.
When Republicans took control of the Senate in 1981, Stevens
became assistant majority leader. In 1984, he ran for majority
leader, but lost by three votes to Kansas Sen. Bob Dole. The most
senior Republican in the Senate, Stevens served as Senate President
Pro Tempore and was third in the line of succession for the
presidency until Democrats regained control of Congress in 2007.
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