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Stevens Dies in Plane Crash

Updated: 2:34 p.m.

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator, has died following a plane crash Monday in his home state of Alaska. He was 86.

Mitch Rose, a spokesman for the Stevens family and former staffer for the Senator, told the Associated Press that the family had been notified of Stevens’ death.

Stevens’ 40-year career in the Senate was marked by the accumulation of power and influence as chairman of the Appropriations Committee and a dizzying fall from grace when he was indicted on federal corruption charges.

Stevens was found guilty by a jury in Washington, D.C., but that verdict was thrown out by a judge amid charges of prosecutorial misconduct. All along, Stevens vowed he would be vindicated.

Stevens was also one of two survivors in a 1978 plane crash at Anchorage airport that killed his wife, Ann, and several others.

The airport has since been renamed the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in recognition of his career as one of the most influential figures in the history of his state.

Stevens was first appointed to the Senate in December 1968 to fill the seat of Sen. Bob Bartlett (D), who died in office. Two years later Stevens won an election to complete Bartlett’s term, then won a full term of his own in 1972, and he served continuously until he was narrowly defeated in his 2008 re-election bid by former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D).

Stevens came to Alaska in the 1950s, serving as U.S. attorney in Fairbanks and an official in the Interior Department.

Stevens first pursued a Senate seat in Alaska in 1962, earning the Republican nomination but taking just 42 percent of the vote against Democrat Ernest Gruening that fall.

He won election to the Alaska House in 1964 and later served as Majority Leader.

Stevens made his name as a fierce defender of his state and an unapologetic font of federal earmarks for Alaska. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee he steered billions of dollars of federal money to Alaska projects, and he was a tireless advocate for oil and mineral development in the state.

But his reputation as a power broker and provider for his home state was tarnished by a raucous corruption trial in 2008.

The Justice Department charged Stevens with seven counts of accepting illegal gifts from friends and contractors, primarily in the form of tens of thousands of dollars of renovations to his home in Girdwood, Alaska. The indictment was issued in July, but Stevens was still able to win the Republican primary for his re-election in August.

In October 2008, a jury found Stevens guilty of failing to disclose the gifts on his financial disclosure forms, but the government’s case began to unravel before he could be sentenced. Prosecutors ultimately admitted to mishandling evidence in the case, and an FBI agent turned whistle-blower to complain that members of the Alaska FBI team had inappropriate personal relationships with some witnesses. In April 2009, the judge threw out the case against Stevens.

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