Public’s Right to Know v. Stevens


The federal court case against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska continues in Washington, D.C. Federal prosecutors accuse the long-servce of companion maids cleaning service 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.