TIME on Ted Stevens, Through 40 Years

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08 Jan 2001, Austin, Texas, USA --- Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska speaks to reporters at a press conference after a meeting with President-Elect Bush and other congressmen on issues of Defense. --- Image by © Bob E. Daemmrich/Sygma/Corbis

Alaska’s Ted Stevens, the GOP’s longest-serving senator, died in a plane crash today, according to CNN. He was 86.

TIME was there through his storied, and sometimes scandalous, career. Below are the highlights of Ted Stevens’ coverage.

Critiquing his environmental stances:

— Arguing for fast development of his state’s oil-rich North Slope, Stevens referred to his dictionary. “Ecology,” he declared, “deals with the relationship between living organisms.” Then he added triumphantly: “But there are no living organisms on the North Slope.” Stevens missed the whole point: the arctic ecosystem is full of life (including Eskimos) but is so vulnerable to pollution that the North Slope threatens to become a classic example of man’s mindless destruction. (Feb. 2, 1970)

On challenging President Carter’s military policy:

— Said Senate Acting Minority Leader Ted Stevens of Alaska: “If the Carter Doctrine had been in effect before Afghanistan, we’d be at war with the Soviet Union now. We’re attempting to speak strongly while carrying a short stick.” (Feb. 04, 1980)

On Stevens’ infamous pork barrel legislation:

— $500,000 for a NORDIC SKI CENTER in Alaska. Inserted by Ted Stevens, the state’s senior Senator and the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman, who insists that the cash is needed to upgrade a training facility and ski trail used by U.S. Olympic athletes. (Dec. 17, 2004)

On his efforts to enforce decency on television:

— Most frightening to media executives are the warnings of Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska and the powerful chairman of the Commerce Committee, that he may push his own legislation to curb cable. “Eighty-five percent of the people watching televisions today are watching through cable, but they think they’re watching local TV,” he says. “They have to have some protection.” (Mar. 20, 2005)

On his fashion choices:

— [He] wore an Incredible Hulk neck tie to the Senate floor in 2005 to advocate for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. (Sep. 25, 2008)

On his 2008 conviction of ethics violations:

— If this was a crippling blow to his legacy, Stevens didn’t let on. The Senator, who is currently up for re-election, treated the verdict like it was just another attack ad in a political season, issuing a statement that hit right back at “prosecutorial misconduct.” He promised, as he has in the past, to fight for his election to the finish, and to “fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have.” Said Stevens: “I am innocent.” (Oct. 28, 2008)

On the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” project:

— There is no real way to prevent projects like the Bridge to Nowhere, the controversial $185 million earmark requested by former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens for an island with a population of 50. Though the bridge was never built, the earmark became a symbol for congressional excess and waste. (Jan. 16, 2009)

On his dedication to Alaskans:

— To only focus on Stevens’ venality is to miss the deep — and requited — love he had for his constituents during his more than 40 years in public office. (Oct. 28, 2008)

On Alaska’s admiration for him:

— At a Federation of Natives meeting on the weekend before the verdict–more than 4,000 native leaders in a massive convention hall in Anchorage–Stevens sent a video message in which he asked for their prayers and apologized for missing the meeting. Julie Kitka, a Chugach native who is the federation’s president and was a character witness for the defense in Stevens’ trial, predicted that the state’s 125,000 natives–about 20% of the population–will stick by him. At the end of his video, she said, the entire audience rose and gave Stevens a standing ovation. (Oct. 31, 2008)