Public’s Right to Know v. Stevens

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The federal court case against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska continues in Washington, D.C. Federal prosecutors accuse the long-serving lawmaker of lying on Senate forms to conceal more than $250,000 in renovations on his home in Alaska and other gifts from a former chief of an oil services company. According to our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), every charge brought against the Senator relates to his failure to disclose gifts and debts on his Senate financial disclosure form. It’s critical to the public’s right to know “where and from whom our public servants receive gifts, loans, and payments,” as TCS writes. “The government, in its opening statement and throughout the trial, has maintained that the public right to know is an important element in this case and that Stevens’ failure to disclose was a breach of this right.”

TCS reports that Stevens’ defense attorneys are arguing that the public’s right to know is not relevant since the prosecution’s charges fall under the False Statements Act, which carries criminal penalties but applies only to statements made to government.  They argue that these laws deal only with disclosure to the Senate. The defense say that prosecutors could press the public right to know provision under the Ethics in Government Act, which carries only civil penalty. The judge presiding in the case has yet to rule on the matter.

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  • Dem02020

    If I’m understanding this correctly, it sounds like the prosecution is unnecessarily drawing itself away from the charge of Sen. Stevens’ failure to disclose to the U.S. Senate (a charge he seems guilty of), toward some broader and more vague charge of “not informing the Public”, or of keeping the Public unknowing, or whatever other way you might try and describe a violation of “the Public’s right to know” (a right that if enumerated in the aforementioned Ethics in Government Act, I’ll take your word for it).

    Why do that?

    Or maybe they (the prosecution) aren’t doing that at all, but are instead being baited by Stevens’ defense team, trying to draw the focus of the prosecution away from the disclosure charge, and toward the more diffuse and confusing “right to know” issue (and I am mostly unaware of the supposed “right to know” law, having never seen any such right enumerated in our Constitution, nor can I imagine how such a right would ever result in a criminal conviction).

    Why be distracted by two birds in the bush, when you have the danged old buzzard in hand, having lied about the “things of value” he received from VECO?

    I’m dubious.

    Either the prosecution is trying to intentionally bungle the matter, by shifting focus away from Sen. Stevens’ failure to disclose these VECO “things of value” to the U.S. Senate (and the old buzzard seems nailed on that charge), or they are being baited by the defense into such a bungle, by having some stupid “right to know” distraction dangled before them.

    It’s about failing to disclose, to the U.S. Senate, which carries a criminal penalty.

    Don’t let go of that bird in your hand, by being distracted by two birds in the bush, with the strange non-criminal name of “the Public’s right to know”.