Sen. Ted Stevens Indicted

Posted July 29, 2008 at 12:06pm

Updated: 2:50 p.m.

Justice Department officials announced Tuesday that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has been indicted on seven counts of making false statements related to his financial disclosure forms.

The indictment charges Stevens with concealing the receipt of more than $250,000 from oil firm VECO Corp. and former Chief Executive Officer Bill Allen.

Among the items Stevens received between 1999 to 2006 were improvements to his home in Girdwood, Alaska, new automobiles and household goods.

“The indictment also alleges that Sen. Stevens, during the same time that he was concealing his continuing receipt of these things of value from VECO and Allen, received solicitations for official actions from Allen and other VECO employees, and that Sen. Stevens used his position and office on behalf of VECO during that same time period,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant attorney general for Justice’s Criminal Division, explained that the indictment was on making false statements on federal disclosure forms and that the charges do not include bribery.

“This indictment does not allege a quid pro quo,” Friedrich stressed.

Phone calls to Stevens’ Senate office were not immediately returned Tuesday, and at times a message said the office was closed. His attorneys could not be immediately reached.

Stevens apparently will have to give up his position as ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Under the rules of the Senate Republican Conference, “In the event of an indictment for a felony, the chair/ranking member … shall step down until the case is resolved.” It is unclear how his other committee seats will be affected.

“The Republican Conference like most of you just learned of this news. … We’ll no doubt have more to say about it later,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

For the moment, McConnell said, Republicans were attempting to stay focused on getting a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to consider the energy bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats reacted soberly to the news of one of their veteran colleagues facing a legal struggle.

Reid informed the caucus about the indictment at the Democrats’ weekly luncheon, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said there was a “somber reaction to it.”

Durbin said we “fight like cats and dogs over the issues … [but] we can’t wish ill to Sen. Stevens or his family.”

“I believe in the presumption of innocence,” Durbin added.

The Stevens indictment is part of an ongoing investigation in Alaska that has netted seven criminal convictions to date.

Allen and former VECO Vice President of Community Affairs and Government Relations Richard Smith pleaded guilty in May 2007 to providing more than $400,000 in payments to Alaska state officials.

On Capitol Hill, Stevens was spotted leaving the weekly GOP luncheon through the garage at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A throng of reporters and camera crews was waiting outside.

“We simply got a report that it had happened,” said Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) as he left the NRSC meeting. “Sen. Stevens was not there and we all decided to say, ‘No comment.’”

Reactions from his colleagues had already begun trickling in even before the announcement became official.

“I’ve known Ted Stevens for 28 years and I’ve always found him to be impeccably honest,” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said.

When asked if he believes Stevens is innocent, longtime friend Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said, “I do.”

Inouye also said that he wasn’t surprised by the expected indictment given the scrutiny Stevens has been under. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because he’s been under investigation for so long.”

“I think he has shown tremendous leadership in the Senate. … We all have unexpected moments in our careers,” Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) said. “We have to work through them. I wish him the best.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Ethics Committee, said she would make no comment until she had more information.

Several state legislators have been indicted on bribery charges related to VECO. Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing officials and is cooperating with the investigation. The investigation also apparently has included Stevens’ son, Ben Stevens, a former state Senator, though he has not been charged in the case.

Ted Stevens, 84, reported on his most recent financial disclosure form that he owes between $15,000 and $50,000 to the law firm of Williams & Connolly, but no one at the law firm returned calls requesting comment.

Emily Pierce and Tim Taylor contributed to this report.