Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, whose name is synonymous with "pork" and who was convicted earlier this year on seven counts of corruption for accepting gifts from an oil services company, has narrowly lost his re-election bid, according to various news accounts.
The vote-counting isn't over, but the margin has widened so far that even if every remaining vote to be counted goes to Stevens, his Democratic opponent, Mark Begich, will win, according to the numbers in the New York Times. Begich claimed victory, though Stevens has not conceded, and he could decide to pay for a recount.
In his career as the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator, Stevens became known as a shrewd and ruthless politician who relentless sought federal cash for his state. He was the king of pork, and was referred to as a pillar of the Alaskan economy, so lavish was the federal spending he arranged.
The trial focused on whether Stevens received $250,000 of free work on his house courtesy of VECO, the oil services company that had benefited from the senator's earmarks.
Alaska is a state with an incestuous relationship with oil, seeing as how its unparalleled wild spaces yield enough oil revenue to keep taxpayers from being, well, taxpayers, at least where incomes taxes are concerned.
Together with the Democrats' decision to reconcile with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who supported Republican John McCain in the election, the defeat of Stevens puts them within two votes of a so-called filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Two Senate races remain to be decided.
Lieberman did lose his seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, opening a slot for another Democrat on a key committee for environmental initiatives. Democrats are still deciding who will lead its counterpart in the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee, where avowed green Henry Waxman of California is trying to unseat John Dingell of Michigan, known best as a longtime supporter of the U.S. auto industry. The outcome of that political battle could prove important to both global warming legislation and any government bailout of the auto industry, as the Atlantic describes.
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