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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

Stevens faces arraignment in corruption case


WASHINGTON - Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is due in federal court to answer charges that he lied about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from an oil services contractor.

Stevens is the Senate's longest-serving Republican and has been a dominant figure in congressional politics for a generation. After being indicted on seven counts of lying on Senate disclosure forms, Stevens was ordered to surrender in federal court and appear before a judge Thursday.

Stevens has said little about the corruption investigation that has dogged him for more than a year. Thursday's court hearing was expected to be no different. He was expected to plead not guilty, but initial appearances are usually brief affairs.

The indictment is a blow to the senator's re-election bid. Once a seemingly invincible political figure, he now faces both Democratic and Republican challengers who hope his legal woes make him vulnerable to defeat.

Though some GOP colleagues have distanced themselves from Stevens, he has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and his campaign has pledged to continue.

To do so, he would have to ask U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan for permission to travel. Stevens was expected to remain free while he campaigns and attends to Senate business, but Sullivan was to decide what rules the senator must abide by while he awaits trial.

Stevens, 84, is accused of concealing more than $250,000 in gifts and home remodeling services he received from VECO Corp., a once powerful contracting firm. Two top VECO executives have pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers. The executives cooperated with the FBI and provided information about Stevens.

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