Ensign to keep Stevens’ gifts

WASHINGTON — Sen. John Ensign of Nevada has no plans to divest $28,000 in political donations he has received over the years from indicted Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, his spokesman said Thursday.

Ensign considers the money “already spent” since it was received for past elections, spokesman Tory Mazzola said.

The Nevada Republican is not up for re-election this year and has received no recent donations from Stevens, a Republican who faces trial in September on seven felony counts of making false statements.

Stevens, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges of making false statements about more than $250,000 in renovations to his Anchorage-area home and was granted an unusually early trial date after requesting the chance to win acquittal before this fall’s election.

Stevens’ lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, requested the accelerated schedule to allow the 84-year-old senator to “clear his name” before the general election on Nov. 4. “This is not a complex case, and it should move quickly,” he said.

With no objection from prosecutors, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan set Stevens’ trial date for Sept. 24.

At least 11 Republicans who have received contributions from Stevens this year have moved to distance themselves financially by indicating they will donate the money to charity, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the GOP conference chairman.

All of the senators who are forfeiting contributions are facing election this year.

John McCain will donate a $5,000 presidential campaign donation he received from Stevens to the Flight 93 Memorial Fund, the Politico Web site reported Thursday.

Ensign received $10,000 in 2005 from the Northern Lights Political Action Committee, which is Stevens’ leadership PAC.

Earlier, Ensign received $5,000 in 2000, $8,000 in 1999 and $5,000 in 1998, according CQ Moneyline, a campaign finance database.

Ensign’s two political finance funds carry balances accumulated from earlier years. The Nevadan’s campaign account contained $1.1 million as of June 30. Ensign’s political action committee, Battle Born PAC, held a $143,823 balance.

Still, Mazzola said Ensign considers the money from Stevens to have been consumed because it was given in past election cycles.

“That money already has been spent,” he said.

Thursday afternoon, Stevens, wearing a gray suit, blue shirt and a tie decorated with the American flag, brushed past reporters and entered the courthouse. He and his attorney declined to comment before and after the hearing.

When the arraignment began, Stevens stood briefly with Brendan Sullivan, who answered “not guilty” for him.

Stevens then sat quietly at the defense table as his lawyer asked for a speedy trial date and told the judge he intended to file a motion seeking to move the case to Alaska, where, he said, “90 percent” of the witnesses reside.

The judge indicated he probably would not grant that request.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, faces a five-year maximum prison term on each of the seven counts in the indictment. He is a larger-than-life figure in Alaska, where he is revered for bringing the state billions of dollars in federal aid.

The Washington Post contributed to this report

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