From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on corruption charges Tuesday throws into question his grip on a Senate seat he has held for decades and offers Democrats a chance to strengthen their hold on Congress.
Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and a towering figure in Alaska’s political history, was indicted by a federal grand jury here on charges that he concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from one of the state’s most powerful employers. The indictment accuses Stevens, 84, of accepting more than $250,000 in improvements to his Alaska home, as well as other gifts such as a gas grill and a new Land Rover, from VECO Corp., an oil field services company.
[...]Senate GOP rules [...] require members indicted on felony charges to give up leadership posts.
Stevens has served in the Senate since 1968 and has held some of its most powerful positions, including chairmanships of the Appropriations and Commerce committees. He is legendary for bringing home federal dollars to Alaska [...]
The indictment casts a shadow over Stevens’ future. He is up for reelection this year, and news reports questioning his ethics have already damaged his standing. Alaska has not elected a Democratic senator for a generation. But even before Stevens was indicted, polls showed him trailing his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
Stevens is charged with seven counts of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms for calendar years 2001 to 2006. The post-Watergate Ethics in Government Act requires lawmakers to disclose gifts over a specific monetary amount as well as liabilities in excess of $10,000.
The indictment alleges that, over a six-year period, Stevens failed to report gifts from VECO, in exchange for which he “received and accepted solicitations for multiple official actions,” including helping VECO obtain lucrative federal contracts and providing “assistance” with company ventures in Pakistan and Russia.
The indictment does not accuse him of the more serious crime of bribery.
The charges culminate a multiyear influence-peddling investigation that has led to the convictions of several Alaska state officials and the chief executive of VECO, Bill J. Allen, who last year admitted that he made more than $400,000 in payments to government officials. Stevens’ son, Ben, a former president of the Alaska state Senate, remains under federal investigation, as does Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska.
The indictment focuses on improvements to Stevens’ home in Girdwood, Alaska [...] The remodeling more than doubled the home’s size, starting in the summer of 2000, when Stevens and Allen first discussed the project, according to the indictment.
Over the ensuing six years, “Stevens accepted from Allen and VECO more than $250,000 in free labor, materials and other things of value” in connection with the home improvements, according to the indictment. “Stevens never paid Allen or VECO anything for these expenses, and Stevens never listed his receipt of these things of value on any of his yearly financial disclosure forms,” the indictment says.
Several other past and present Republican members of Congress are under investigation by Justice Department anti-corruption lawyers. Some political observers believe bringing charges in an election year could sway some voters.
At a news conference where the indictment of Stevens was announced, Matthew Friedrich, acting chief of the department’s criminal division, said the election would not affect the timing or decision to bring any additional charges.