Sen. Stevens Indicted On 7 Corruption Counts
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Alaska's Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, was indicted yesterday on seven charges of making false statements about more than $250,000 that corporate executives doled out to overhaul his Anchorage area house.
A federal grand jury in the District accused Stevens of concealing on financial disclosure statements lucrative gifts from the now-defunct oil company Veco and its top executives, including a Viking gas grill, a tool cabinet and a wraparound deck. At one point, Veco employees and contractors jacked up the senator's mountainside house on stilts and added a new first floor, with two bedrooms and a bathroom, the indictment says.
The senator, who once oversaw more than $900 billion in federal spending each year as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he has "temporarily relinquished" his senior posts on several committees, in accordance with Senate rules, while he focuses on the legal battle ahead.
Stevens, 84, the first sitting U.S. senator to face criminal charges in 15 years, adamantly denied the allegations in a statement yesterday afternoon.
"I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator," said Stevens, whose more than five decades of public service date to the missions he flew for the Army Air Corps during World War II. "The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that."
He is the highest-profile lawmaker to be indicted in an Alaska political corruption investigation that began in 2004 and has resulted in seven convictions. Before the federal probe started, emboldened legislators in Juneau had worn baseball caps with the initials "CBC," which stood for "Corrupt Bastards Club."
Interest by federal officials, including the FBI and the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, became public in 2006, when law enforcement agents executed search warrants at the offices of six state legislators, including Stevens's son, Ben Stevens, a former state Senate president. The following year, agents arrived with warrants to search Ted Stevens's house in Girdwood, Alaska, which he calls "the chalet."
Ted Stevens is among more than a dozen current and former members of Congress who have come under federal investigation in recent years because of their connections to lobbyists and corporate interests. His indictment further imperils Senate Republicans, who hold 49 seats now but face the possibility of losing at least half a dozen in the November elections.
Stevens's spokesman said yesterday that the senator will continue to seek another term. He is locked in a tight reelection battle with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D), who in recent polls had edged slightly ahead. Stevens's main opponent in the Aug. 26 Republican primary is a little-known businessman.
Elements of the Veco investigation also have ensnared Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), a former chairman of the House transportation committee who, since taking office in 1973, has worked with Stevens to bring federal money to Alaska. Young remains under government scrutiny but has not been charged.
Former Veco chief executive Bill J. Allen, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and bribing public officials, figured prominently in yesterday's indictment. In one instance, court papers said, he agreed to exchange a new 1999 Land Rover for a much less valuable 1964 Ford Mustang owned by the lawmaker after Stevens expressed interest in finding a new vehicle for his daughter.
In return, Allen and other unnamed Veco officials for years sought Stevens's help with partnerships in Pakistan and Russia, with grants from the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, and with a variety of other issues, prosecutors said. The assistance was sometimes provided by Stevens or staff members, they said, but at times no help was offered.