OCTOBER 14, 2008
The nation’s longest serving Republican senator, Alaska’s Ted Stevens, may testify in his corruption trial which has featured testimony from political heavy hitters such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In July Stevens was charged with hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from an oil company seeking lucrative government contracts as well as favorable legislation. A 27-page indictment says Alaska’s most powerful political figure “knowingly and intentionally sought to conceal and cover up his receipt of things of value by filing Financial Disclosure Forms that contained false statements and omissions.”
In all, Stevens is charged with seven counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms from 199 to 2006. Two major oil company executives and a lobbyist have already pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and federal corruption charges and have cooperated with the vast investigation which has focused on Stevens and a handful of prominent Alaska state lawmakers.
The operators of the huge oil services company called VECO have admitted paying nearly half a million dollars in bribes to various Alaska lawmakers. In return the public officials helped VECO obtain tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts as well as legislation favorable to the multi billion-dollar titan company.
At the senator’s trial, which is expected to conclude this week in Washington D.C., VECO’s founder (Bill Allen) testified that he gave Stevens thousands of dollars in gifts, including a massive home renovation that transformed the lawmaker’s Alaska house. Recordings of conversations between Stevens and Allen were also played in court and, in one, the senator tells his friend that they both risked going to jail.
Stevens is heard saying: "The worst that can happen to us is we run up a bunch of legal fees, and might lose and we might have to pay a fine, might have to serve a little time in jail. I hope to Christ it never gets to that, and I don’t think it will."
The senator’s attorneys have twice asked the judge to declare a mistrial after accusing federal prosecutors of repeatedly concealing information that could help his defense. Stevens, who has held his U.S. Senate seat for 40 years, is up for reelection in November.
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