Stevens bristles at corruption question

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens lived up to his reputation as irascible Monday when reacting to a question about the ongoing federal investigation into corruption.

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"You mentioned the word investigation. I don't talk to you," Stevens said, when asked about how the investigation has affected his working relationship with Gov. Sarah Palin.

That relationship appeared to have been strained when Palin two months ago called on Alaska's senior senator to shed light on why the FBI is investigating the remodel of his home in Girdwood and ties to former VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen.

It was the first time since Palin's call for answers on Sept. 21 that Stevens and Palin were scheduled for the same event. They did not appear together. They did not share the podium.

Palin finished her remarks at Aviation Day at Fort Richardson, an event to promote more interest among young people in careers in aviation, and left through one door. Stevens, R-Alaska, made his entrance a short time later through another door.

Shortly after Stevens' exchange with a reporter as he left the event, he called to apologize for being curt. He said he just does not want to answer questions about the investigation.

Palin - who also has called for the resignation of Stevens' son Ben as an Alaska representative on the Republican National Committee since he's also under investigation - said again Monday she would like to see the elder Stevens be more forthcoming.

"I am still of that mind. I think Alaskans are," the governor said.

Neither Ted Stevens nor Ben Stevens have been charged.

Palin, a fellow Republican, said she wasn't aware that Stevens was to be at the event. If she had, she would have been happy to share the podium, she said.

She described her working relationship with Stevens as "cooperative" and "respectful."

Palin took office last December on a platform that included the importance of ethical, transparent government.

Stevens has repeatedly said he will not answer questions about the corruption probe because it would look as if he was trying to influence the investigation.

Palin said Stevens must be considered innocent until it is proven otherwise. She said in the meantime her office is in communication with Stevens on a number of issues affecting the state.

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