Things just got a whole lot worse for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator ever.
Already facing a tough road to reelection this fall, at 1:20 p.m. EDT the Department of Justice is holding a press conference to announce a seven-count indictment against Stevens for transgressions related to the "holding of public office." Two weeks ago, during a Salon conversation I moderated with three expert electoral handicappers to forecast the upcoming 2008 Senate races, the Hotline’s Amy Walter pegged Stevens as the Senate incumbent, of either party, most likely to lose this fall. Some have New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu ranked more likely, but Sununu is in a Democratic-trending state. For Stevens to be in hot water in Alaska, you know things are bad. And the temp is rising.
According to acting assistant attorney general Matthrew Friedrich, speaking live on television now, a grand jury filed "seven felony counts of making false statements … on his mandatory financial disclosure forms between 1999 and 2006."
The indictment says Stevens accepted private gifts from VECO, an oil field services company and one of the largest employers in Stevens' home state. The gifts were in the form of free contracting services for a vacation home Stevens owns, as well as household goods, furniture and a favorable automobile exchange, with a total estimated retail value of more than $250,000 -- none of which he claimed on his tax forms.
If Stevens' seat, the seat of Gordon Smith of Oregon and the two open seats in New Mexico and Colorado all flip to the Democrats this fall, that will be six Western seats to flip in just three cycles.