BREAKING: Ted Stevens Indicted (UPDATED)

The face of corruption

Breaking news–Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) has been indicted on 7 criminal charges relating to political corruption.

Stevens is up for re-election this fall against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D).

UPDATE: You can donate to Begich’s Senate campaign here.

UPDATE II: Though Stevens is up for re-election this year, there will be a primary on August 26th to determine who the Republican candidate will be.

As it stands, Stevens’ most credible opponent is former state legislator Dave Cuddy, who mounted a failed primary challenge against Stevens in 1996.

UPDATE III: All seven indictments are for giving false answers to federal investigators.

UPDATE IV: The DOJ is giving a presser right now. Here are the main points:

The indictments concern false statements made on Stevens’ financial disclosure forms from 1999-2006. As a Senator, he’s required to file those forms with the Senate in order to disclose potential conflicts of interest and to maintain public confidence.

Stevens failed to disclose that he received gifts from Veco, an oil company and one of the largest employers in Alaska. Veco paid for extensive renovations to Stevens’ home, including an entire new story and a furnished basement. Stevens’ undisclosed gifts are estimated to be worth upwards of $250,000.

UPDATE V: RNC Chair Mike Duncan calls the allegations serious, but says he wants to hear from Stevens before making any judgments. When asked whether or not he thinks this will impact the Presidential race, Duncan says that this election is not about the senior Senator from Alaska.

UPDATE VI: According to the rules of the Republican Senate caucus, if a member is indicted, he/she can no longer be the chairman or ranking member of a committee.

Stevens is presently the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, a position he’ll likely lose due to these indictments. Interestingly enough, the next Republican in line for that position is John McCain.

Per Republican Senate caucus rules, if a member is indicted, he or she can no longer serve as chairman or ranking member of a committee.

Stevens is a ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

UPDATE VII: Both Pollster and FiveThirtyEight show Begich currently ahead; barring Stevens’ defeat in the GOP primary, this could very well seal the deal for the Alaska Senate race.

UPDATE VIII: A credible Stevens challenger has emerged in the form of  dark horse Vic Vickers, a wealthy self-funder who just bought $400,000 worth of airtime to attack Stevens’ corruption.

UPDATE IX: Stevens is, of course, denying the charges:

“My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. … I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that,” Stevens said in a statement released by his office.

Then again, that’s what Mark Foley said:

Jason Kello, a spokesman for Foley’s campaign, portrayed the controversy as a political attack.

“There have not been any allegations made by ANYONE except by Tim Mahoney and the Democrats who are attempting to misrepresent a series of innocent communications to prop up a failing political campaign,” Kello said in a statement.

“This is nothing more than a political attack and an attempt at the worst kind of character assassination.”

And Dennis Hastert:

HASTERT: [U]ltimately, any time that a person has to, as a leader, be on the hot seat and he is a detriment to the party, you know, there ought to be a change. I became speaker in a situation like that. I don’t think that’s the case. I said I haven’t done anything wrong, obviously.

And even Tom DeLay himself:

“I have done nothing wrong. … I am innocent,” DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference during which he criticized the Texas prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, repeatedly. DeLay said the charges amounted to “one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history.”

Stevens is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but things are not looking up for the longest-serving Republican Senator in history.

UPDATE X: Stevens has stepped down as ranking member of two Senate committees.