Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens indicted on 7 counts of false statements; longest-serving GOP senator

.WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. Ted Stevens, the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator and a major figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, was indicted Tuesday on seven felony counts of concealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in house renovations and gifts from a powerful oil contractor that lobbied him for government aid.

Stevens, 84, is the first sitting U.S. senator to face federal indictment since 1993. He declared, “I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.”

He is accused of lying on his annual Senate financial disclosure reports between 1999 and 2006 – an indictment that caps a lengthy FBI investigation that has upended Alaska politics and brought unfavorable attention to both Stevens and his congressional colleague, GOP Rep. Don Young. Both are running for re-election this year.

Stevens’ indictment further damages Republican prospects in the November election as Senate Democrats, who now enjoy a 51-49 majority, try to capture a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. Stevens faces both Democratic and Republican challengers who are trying to capitalize on his legal woes.

The Justice Department accused Stevens of accepting expensive work on his home in Girdwood, Alaska, a ski resort town outside Anchorage, from oil services contractor VECO Corp. and its executives. VECO normally builds oil processing equipment and pipelines, but its employees helped do the work on Stevens’ home.