Why Ted Stevens’ Indictment Matters, Part 1

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A lion of the U.S. Senate falls. It is difficult to overstate Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ power, especially when it comes to how Congress spends taxpayer dollars. Stevens’ exit from politics, if it occurs, could have major ramifications.

Consider just this one: Stevens helped to create and has long protected one of the most outlandish loopholes in federal contracting law: The Alaska-Native Corporation exemption. This rule allows companies that are only nominally controlled by Alaskan tribes to earn no-bid federal contracts for work of unlimited value, even if they partner with major corporations, like the old Halliburton subsidiary KBR. The taxpayer loses spending controls and a lot of people pocket a lot of money before the benefits filter down to the impoverished members of the Alaskan native tribes.

Two stories I have written about this problem can be found here and here. It has long been conventional wisdom in Congress that no one could touch this loophole with Stevens still in town.