The US Senate's longest-serving Republican, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, was convicted yesterday of lying about free home renovations and other gifts he received from a wealthy contractor who was close to the state's lucrative and powerful oil industry.
Mr Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts of making false statements on Senate financial documents. Mr Stevens is currently fighting off a strong challenge from Democrat Mark Begich and must now either drop out of the contest or continue campaigning as a convicted felon.
The verdict throws the coming election into disarray and is further bad news for the Republicans, who are seeking to hold back an expected tidal wave of defeats in Senate and House elections next Tuesday.
The conviction is widely expected to cost the 83-year-old his seat, and the Republicans' hopes of blocking the Democrats from reaching a 60 seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate are likely to go with it.
The one weapon the Republicans were counting on holding on to in the coming election was the ability to talk to death any legislation they strongly oppose. That now appears unlikely.
If the Democrats are to get to a majority of 60, they need to win in three races that are statistical dead heats, according to the pollsters: in Georgia, Mississippi and Alaska. Mr Stevens' conviction is expected to put one of those seats in their column.
The trial hinged on the testimony of Mr Stevens' long-time friend, Bill Allen, who testified that his employees dramatically refurbished the senator's Alaska home. Mr Stevens now faces up to five years in prison on each count but, under federal sentencing guidelines, he will most likely be handed a much shorter prison sentence, if he receives one at all.Reuse content