Theodore Fulton Stevens (born November 18, 1923) is the senior United States Senator from Alaska, serving since December 24, 1968. As the longest serving Republican in the Senate, Stevens served as President pro tempore from January 3, 2003, to January 3, 2007.
Stevens has had a six-decade career in government, beginning with his service in World War II. In the 1950s, he held senior positions in the Eisenhower Interior Department. He has served continuously in the Senate since December 1968. He played key roles in legislation that shaped Alaska's economic and social development, including the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. He is also known for his sponsorship of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which resulted in the establishment of the United States Olympic Committee.
When the 110th Congress convened and Democrats took control of the chamber, he was replaced as President pro tem by Robert Byrd, and thus took Byrd's previous honorary role of "President pro tempore emeritus". He is one of three persons, alongside Byrd and Strom Thurmond, who served previously as president pro tem and remained in Senate.
On July 29, 2008 Stevens was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of failing to report gifts received from VECO Corporation and its CEO Bill Allen on his Senate financial disclosure forms, formally charged with violation of provisions of the Ethics in Government Act. Stevens pled not guilty and asserted his right to a speedy trial, which began on September 25 in Washington DC, to have the opportunity to clear his name before the November election.
In 1934, Stevens' grandfather punctured a lung in a fall down a tall flight of stairs, contracted pneumonia, and died. By the time Stevens was fifteen, in 1938, his father had died of cancer. Stevens and his cousin Patricia moved to to live with Patricia's mother, Gladys Swindells. Stevens attended Redondo Union High School, participating in extracurricular activities including working on the school newspaper and becoming a member of a student theater group, a service society affiliated with the YMCA, and, during his senior year, the lettermen's society. Stevens also worked at jobs before and after school, but also had time for surfing with his friend Russell Green, son of the president of Signal Gas and Oil Company, who remained a close friend through Stevens' life.
After graduating from high school in 1942, Stevens enrolled at Oregon State University to study engineering, attending for a semester. With World War II in progress, Stevens attempted to join the Navy Air Corps, but failed the vision exam. He corrected his vision through a course of prescribed eye exercises, and in 1943 was accepted for a Army Air Corps Air Cadet program at Montana State College. After scoring near the top of an aptitude test for flight training, Stevens was transferred to preflight training in and received his wings in early 1944. He went on to Bergstrom Field in Texas, where he trained to fly P-38s, but due to an incident during graduation, in which a graduate booed at the colonel who delivered the graduation address, Stevens never flew a fighter in combat. Instead, Stevens later recalled, "Suddenly we were copilots in a troop carrier squad."
Stevens served in the China-Burma-India theater with the Fourteenth Air Force Transport Section, which supported the "Flying Tigers," from 1944 to 1946. He and other pilots in the transport section flew C-46 and C-47 transport planes, often without escort, mostly in support of Chinese units fighting the Japanese. Stevens received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying behind enemy lines, the Air Medal, and the Yuan Hai medal awarded by the Chinese Nationalist government. He was discharged from the Army Air Forces in March 1946.
While at Harvard, Stevens wrote a paper on maritime law which received honorable mention for the Addison Brown prize, a Harvard Law School award made for the best essay by a student on a subject related to private international law or maritime law. The essay later became a Harvard Law Review article whose scholarship Justice Jay Rabinowitz of the Alaska Supreme Court praised 45 years later, telling the Anchorage Daily News in 1994 that the high court had issued a recent opinion citing the article. Stevens graduated from Harvard Law School in 1950.
On December 4, 1978, Stevens survived the crash of a Lear Jet 25C at Anchorage International Airport. The crash killed five people, including his first wife, Ann. In 2000, the Alaska Legislature voted to rename the airport the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Aside from Ben, Stevens and his first wife Ann had two daughters, Susan and Beth, and two sons, Walter and Ted. He and his second wife Catherine have a daughter, Lily.
Stevens' current home in Alaska is in Girdwood, a ski resort community near Anchorage. However, he lives in Washington for most of the year.
Instead, Stevens was offered a job with the law firm of Emil Usibelli's Alaska attorney, Charles Clasby, whose firm, Collins and Clasby, had just lost one of its attorneys. Stevens and his wife had met and liked both Usibelli and Clasby, and decided to make the move. They loaded up their 1947 Buick and, traveling on a $600 loan from Clasby, they drove across country from Washington, D.C. and up the Alaska Highway in the dead of winter, arriving in Fairbanks in February 1953. Stevens later recalled kidding Gov. Walter Hickel about the loan. "He likes to say that he came to Alaska with 37 cents in his pocket," he said of Hickel. "I came $600 in debt." Ann Stevens recalled in 1968 that they made the move to Alaska "on a six-month trial basis."
In Fairbanks, Stevens cultivated the city's Republican establishment. He befriended conservative newspaper publisher C.W. Snedden, who had purchased the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 1950. Snedden's wife Helen later recalled that her husband and Stevens were "like father and son." "The only problem Ted had was that he had a temper," she told the a reporter in 1994, crediting her husband with helping to steady Stevens "like you would do with your children" and with teaching Stevens the art of diplomacy.
Stevens soon gained a reputation as an active prosecutor who vigorously prosecuted violations of federal and territorial liquor, drug, and prostitution laws, characterized by Fairbanks area homesteader Niilo Koponen (who later served in the Alaska State House of Representatives from 1982-1991) as "this rough tough shorty of a district attorney who was going to crush crime." Stevens sometimes accompanied U.S. Marshals on raids. As recounted years later by Justice Jay Rabinowitz, "U.S. marshals went in with Tommy guns and Ted led the charge, smoking a stogie and with six guns on his hips." However, Stevens himself has said the colorful stories spread about him as a pistol-packing D.A. were greatly exaggerated, and recalled only one incident when he carried a gun: on a vice raid to the town of Big Delta about southeast of Fairbanks, he carried a holstered gun on a marshal's suggestion.
Stevens also became known for his explosive temper, which was focused particularly on a criminal defense lawyer named Warren A. Taylor who would later go on to become the Alaska Legislature's first Speaker of the House in the First Alaska State Legislature. "Ted would get red in the face, blow up and stalk out of the courtroom," a former court clerk later recalled of Stevens' relationship with Taylor.
In 1956, in a trial which received national headlines, Stevens prosecuted Jack Marler, a former Internal Revenue Service agent accused of failing to file tax returns. Marler's first trial, which was handled by a different prosecutor, had ended in a deadlocked jury and a mistrial. For the second trial, Stevens was up against Edgar Paul Boyko, a flamboyant Anchorage attorney who built his defense of Marler on the theory of no taxation without representation, citing the Territory of Alaska's lack of representation in the U.S. Congress. As recalled by Boyko, his closing argument to the jury was a rabble-rousing appeal for the jury to "strike a blow for Alaskan freedom," claiming that "this case was the jury's chance to move Alaska toward statehood." Boyko remembered that "Ted had done a hell of a job in the case," but Boyko's tactics paid off, and Marler was acquitted on April 3, 1956. Following the acquittal, Stevens issued a statement saying, "I don't believe the jury's verdict is an expression of resistance to taxes or law enforcement or the start of a Boston Tea Party. I do believe, however, that the decision will be a blow to the hopes for Alaska statehood."
Efforts to make Alaska a state had been going on since 1943, and had nearly come to fruition during the Truman administration in 1950 when a statehood bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, only to die in the Senate. The national Republican Party opposed statehood for Alaska, in part out of fear that Alaska would elect Democrats to Congress. At the time Stevens arrived in the Washington, D.C. to take up his new job, a constitutional convention to write an Alaska constitution had just been concluded on the campus of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. The 55 delegates also elected three unofficial representatives, all Democrats, as unofficial delegates to Congress: Ernest Gruening and William Egan as U.S. "senators" and Ralph Rivers as U.S. "representative."
President Eisenhower, a Republican, regarded Alaska as too large and sparsely populated to be economically self-sufficient as a state, and furthermore saw statehood as an obstacle to effective defense of Alaska should the Soviet Union seek to invade it. Eisenhower was especially worried about the sparsely populated areas of northern and western Alaska. In March 1954, he had drawn a line on a map indicating his opinion of the portions of Alaska which he felt ought to remain in federal hands even if Alaska were granted statehood.
Seaton and Stevens worked with Gen. Nathan Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had served in Alaska, and Jack L. Stempler, a top Defense Department attorney, to create a compromise that would address Eisenhower's concerns. Much of their work was conducted in a hospital room at Walter Reed Army Hospital, where Seaton was being treated for back problems. Their work concentrated on refining the line on the map that Eisenhower had drawn in 1954, which became known as the PYK Line after three rivers — the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim — whose courses defined much of the line. The PYK Line was the basis for Section 10 of the Alaska Statehood Act, which Stevens wrote. Under Section 10, the land north and west of the PYK Line — which included the entirety of Alaska's North Slope, the Seward Peninsula, most of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the western portions of the Alaska Peninsula, and the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands — would be part of the new state, but the President would be granted emergency powers to establish special national defense withdrawals in those areas if deemed necessary. "It's still in the law but it's never been exercised," Stevens later recollected. "Now that the problem with Russia is gone, it's surplusage. But it is a special law that only applies to Alaska."
Stevens also took part — illegally — in lobbying for the statehood bill, working closely with the Alaska Statehood Committee from his office at Interior. Stevens hired Margaret Atwood, daughter of Anchorage Times publisher Robert Atwood, who was chairman of the Alaska Statehood Committee, to work with him in the Interior Department. "We were violating the law," Stevens told a researcher in an October 1977 oral history interview for the Eisenhower Library. "[W]e were lobbying from the executive branch, and there's been a statute against that for a long time.... We more or less, I would say, masterminded the House and Senate attack from the executive branch." Stevens and the younger Atwood created file cards on members of Congress based on "whether they were Rotarians or Kiwanians or Catholics or Baptists and veterans or loggers, the whole thing," Stevens said in the 1977 interview. "And we'd assigned these Alaskans to go talk to individual members of the Senate and split them down on the basis of people that had something in common with them." The lobbying campaign extended to presidential press conferences. "We set Ike up quite often at press conferences by planting questions about Alaska statehood," Stevens said in the 1977 interview. "We never let a press conference go by without getting someone to try to ask him about statehood." Newspapers were also a targeted, according to Stevens. "We planted editorials in weeklies and dailies and newspapers in the district of people we thought were opposed to us or states where they were opposed to us so that suddenly they were thinking twice about opposing us."
The Alaska Statehood Act became law with Eisenhower's signature on July 7, 1958, and Alaska formally was admitted to statehood on January 3, 1959, when Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Proclamation.
In a special election in 1970, Stevens won the right to finish the remainder of Bartlett's term. He won the seat in his own right in 1972, and was reelected in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002 elections. His current term will expire in January 2009. Since his first election to a full term in 1972, Stevens has never received less than 66% of the vote. He is currently the fourth-longest serving member of the Senate, after Democrats Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy and Daniel Inouye.
Stevens is running for re-election to his Senate seat in 2008. He won the Republican primary in August and will face Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in the general election. Stevens' campaign political action committee is called the "Northern Lights PAC."
Stevens chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2005, except for the 18 months when Democrats controlled the chamber. The chairmanship gave Stevens considerable influence among fellow Senators, who relied on him for home-state project funds. Due to Republican Party rules that limited committee chairmanships to six years, Stevens gave up the Appropriations gavel at the start of the 109th Congress, in January 2005. He chaired the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during the 109th Congress. He resigned his ranking member position on the committee due to his indictment.
Due to Stevens' long tenure and that of the state's sole congressman, Don Young, Alaska is considered to have clout in national politics well beyond its small population (the state was long the smallest in population and is currently 47th, ahead of only Wyoming, North Dakota and Vermont.
Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) cosponsored and spoke on behalf of an amendment that would have inserted strong network neutrality mandates into the bill. In between speeches by Snowe and Dorgan, Stevens gave a vehement 11 minute speech using colorful language to explain his opposition to the amendment. Stevens infamously referred to the Internet as "not a big truck," but a "series of tubes" that could be clogged with information, and may have confused the terms Internet and e-mail. Soon after, Stevens' interpretation of how the Internet worked became a topic on the blogosphere, with many writers and commentators deriding Stevens' understanding of Internet technology and his qualifications to form strong opinion on a topic which he may not have fully understood. This Internet phenomenon sparked mainstream media attention, and was prominently featured on several episodes of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. "Series of tubes" has now become an Internet meme.
Stevens has been a long-standing proponent of logging. He championed a plan that would allow of roadless old growth forest to be clear-cut. Stevens has stated that this would revive Alaska's timber industry and bring jobs to unemployed loggers; however, the proposal would mean that thousands of miles of roads would be constructed at the expense of the United States Forest Service, judged to cost taxpayers $200,000 per job created.
However, in September 2007, Stevens said:
We're at the end of a long, long term of warming. 700 to 900 years of increased temperature, a very slow increase. We think we're close to the end of that. If we're close to the end of that, that means that we'll starting getting cooler gradually, not very rapidly, but cooler once again and stability might come to this region for a period of another 900 years.
Additionally, he received criticism for introducing a bill in January 2007 that would heavily restrict access to social networking sites from public schools and libraries. Sites falling under the language of this bill could include MySpace, Facebook, Digg, Wikipedia and Reddit.
On July 29, 2008 Stevens was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of failing to properly report gifts. The charges relate to renovations to his home and alleged gifts from VECO Corporation, claimed to be worth more than $250,000. The indictment followed a lengthy investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for possible corruption into Alaskan politicians and was based on his relationship with Bill Allen. Allen, then an oil service company executive, had earlier pled guilty, with sentencing suspended pending his cooperation in gathering evidence and giving testimony in other trials, to bribing several Alaskan state legislators, including a disputed claim about Stevens' son, former State Senator Ben Stevens. Stevens declared, "I'm innocent," and pled not guilty to the charges in a federal district court on July 31, 2008. Stevens asserted his right to a speedy trial so that he could have the opportunity to promptly clear his name and requested that the trial be held before the 2008 election.
US District Court Judge in Washington DC Emmet G. Sullivan, on October 2, 2008 denied Steven's chief counsel, Brendan Sullivan's mistrial petition due to allegations of withholding evidence by prosecutors. Thus, the latter were admonished, and would submit themselves for internal probe by the United States Department of Justice. Brady v. Maryland requires prosecutors to give a defendant all information for defense. Judge Sulllivan had earlier admonished the prosecution for sending home to Alaska a witness who might have helped the defense.
In June, the Anchorage Daily News reported that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., heard evidence in May about the expansion of Stevens' Girdwood home and other matters connecting Stevens to Veco. In mid-June, FBI agents questioned several aides who work for Stevens as part of the investigation. In July, Washingtonian magazine reported that Stevens had hired "Washington’s most powerful and expensive lawyer", Brendan Sullivan Jr., in response to the investigation. In 2006, during wiretapped conversations with Bill Allen, Stevens expressed worries over potential misunderstandings and legal complications arising from the sweeping federal investigations into Alaskan politics. On the witness stand, "Allen testified that Veco staff who had worked on his own house had charged 'way too much,' leaving him uncertain how much to invoice Stevens for when he had his staff work on the senator's house ... that he would be embarrassed to bill Stevens for overpriced labor on the house, and said he concealed some of the expense.
The Ted Stevens Foundation is a charity established to "assist in educating and informing the public about the career of Senator Ted Stevens". The chairman is Tim McKeever, a lobbyist who was treasurer of Stevens' 2004 campaign. In May 2006, McKeever said that the charity was "nonpartisan and nonpolitical," and that Stevens does not raise money for the foundation, although he has attended some fund-raisers. When he is discussing issues that are especially important to him (such as opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling), Stevens wears a necktie with The Incredible Hulk on it to show his seriousness. Marvel Comics has sent him free Hulk paraphernalia and has thrown a Hulk party for him. On December 21, 2005, Senator Stevens said that the vote to block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "has been the saddest day of my life," . In May 2006, the Senate Majority Project, a partisan political organization, nominated Stevens as "Drama Queen of the US Senate" for his "entertaining tactics". On April 13, 2007, Senator Stevens was recognized as being the longest serving Republican senator in history with a career spanning over 38 years. His colleague, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), referred to Stevens as 'The Strom Thurmond of the Arctic Circle'. November 18, 2003, the senator's 80th birthday, was declared "Senator Ted Stevens Appreciation Day" by the Governor of Alaska, Frank H. Murkowski. Stevens delivered a eulogy of Gerald R. Ford at the 38th President's funeral ceremony on December 30, 2006.