The Eye almost - ALMOST - has to feel sorry for the GOP: Just when it seems that things can't get any worse ... they do.
The latest blow to the party's prestige and credibility came with the conviction yesterday of Alaska's veteran Republican Sen. Ted Stevens on seven federal counts of corruption for letting an Alaska oil business pick up the tab for extensive renovations of the senator's home.
The Jeff Merkley campaign lost no time in seizing the opportunity to try to tie the Alaska corruption case to incumbent Sen. Gordon "I'm Not Really a Republican" Smith. In a statement issued yesterday, the Merkley camp called on Smith to return all $39,000 in campaign money he's gotten in recent years from Stevens, who's one of the GOP's champion fund-raisers.
"Gordon Smith has benefited personally and politically from Ted Stevens and his fountain of cash," said Matt Canter, Merkley campaign spokesman. "Smith should have done the right thing and returned the money when Stevens was first indicted, but he should certainly do the right thing now."
There could be a problem with that, because Smith says nearly half of the money has already been spent.
According to politicker.com, Smith turned $10,000 over to charity after Stevens was indicted in July plus another $10,000 in September after he went through donations to a previous campaign. "As for the remaining $19,000, Smith spokesman Brooks Kochvar has said that money was spent in a prior campaign."
But the Merkleyites are claiming the second $10,000 was "redirected to Smith's pocket." Politicker.com said Smith's office could not be reached for comment.