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Facing Indictment, Sen. Stevens Claims Innocence

The nation's longest-serving Republican in Senate history and a major figure in Alaska politics is facing seven felony counts. Ted Stevens, 84, is accused of concealing more than a quarter million dollars in gifts from a powerful oil contractor. But he says he never knowingly submitted a false financial disclosure form.

For 40 years, Stevens has championed Alaskan causes in the Senate, funneling billions in federal money to the state. But federal prosecutors say Stevens benefited, too: They say he let a private company remodel his home and failed to disclose the gift as required by law.

The indictment doesn't come as a surprise to Alaskans; they've been waiting for this shoe to drop for a while now. The whispers started two years ago, when federal prosecutors charged several state legislators with selling their votes to an oil services company called VECO. As the trials played out, Alaskans found themselves listening to FBI surveillance tapes of their state lawmakers making nice with VECO executives, and they started wondering whether bigger fish might also have friendly ties with VECO. Then, last summer, federal agents raided Stevens' house in Alaska. The agents spent a whole day taking pictures and videos of the remodeling job.

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"I have not done anything that is wrong in the process of my official activities," Stevens said Monday, one day before the indictments, in an interview with Alaska Public Radio Network.

It's undeniable that the indictment could spell the end of Stevens' political career. He's up for re-election this November, and he's facing the strongest Democratic challenger in years.

But in Anchorage, many older attorneys and retired politicians — people who've known Stevens since the 1960s — say he's a relatively honest man who allowed himself to get too comfortable around certain well-heeled and generous business interests.

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