Ted Stevens, the irascible former Senator from Alaska, died Monday in a small plane crash in the state while en route to a fishing trip some 300 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Stevens, though from Alaska, was a long-time ally of The Boeing Co., and was instrumental in beginning the KC-767 tanker lease deal in 2001 that later became a scandal that sent an Air Force procurement office and the chief financial officer of Boeing to jail.
Stevens could be counted on strong support for Boeing commercial and defense programs until he was defeated for reelection in 2008 in the wake of a federal conviction for improprieties. A court later overturned the conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct on the part of the Bush 43 Justice Department. The Obama administration declined to retry Stevens.
Stevens was also a strong friend to the oil industry, given Big Oil’s footprint in the state, and the senator often tried to bully his way and run roughshod over other senators to get his way with legislation. He crossed swords with Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, when she worked to block a Stevens-supported measure that would have allowed super-oil tankers into the environmentally sensitive Puget Sound to offload at an oil refinery in Anacortes, 60 miles north of Seattle. When Cantwell succeeded in blocking Stevens, he vowed to defeat her for reelection in 2006. His meddling in Washington politics from his position in Alaska bombed and Cantwell was reelected comfortably.
Although widely disliked and often despised by his colleagues because of his history of holding grudges and his cranky persona, nobody could deny Stevens held enormous clout and he was famous for bringing to Alaska billions of dollars in earmarks over his long career. The airport at Anchorage is named after him.