Monday, September 8, 2008

Stevens didn't correctly report gifts

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By JESSE J. HOLLAND / Associated Press Writer

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens didn't report getting gifts of a $3,200 stained glass window and a $2,695 massage chair from his friends on Senate records, and described a $1,000 sled dog as a $250 gift, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, goes to trial later this month. He is accused of lying on his Senate forms about hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO Corp., an influential oil-services contractor.

Two VECO executives have pleaded guilty and admitted they bribed Alaska lawmakers, using gifts, jobs and cash to curry favor with allies and undermine their enemies.

In court filings Monday, the Justice Department said Stevens allegedly did not report gifts from personal friends in 2001. It cited the $2,695 massage chair that ended up in Stevens' Washington, D.C., residence as well as a "$3,200 hand-designed, hand-constructed stained glass window, built to specifications provided by the defendant and his spouse."

Stevens also got from an unnamed friend a sled dog worth $1,000, and then "misrepresented on his 2003 Financial Disclosure Form as a $250 gift from an Alaskan nonprofit charitable organization," according to the filings.

Stevens' 2003 disclosure form lists the sled dog as a gift from the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, a 501(c)3 organization in Kenai, Alaska. The form lists the dog as a gift "given as an honorary award in recognition of public service" and notes that the dog's twin was purchased for $250.

The friends who gave Stevens the gifts were not named.

Stevens' lawyers did not go into as much detail about the gifts in their court filings Monday.

"The government further alleges that Senator Stevens knowingly and willfully failed to report an alleged gift of stained glass, knowingly and willfully failed to report an alleged gift of a dog and knowingly and willfully failed to report an alleged gift of a chair," his lawyers said in court filings.

Stevens also is paying a lobbying firm to handle finances for his campaign and leadership political action committee, the Roll Call newspaper reported Monday. Robison International, whose clients gets millions of dollars in earmarks, does not provide legal services for Stevens but does provide fundraising services for the senator, the paper said.

A Stevens spokesman called the work "administrative support."

Robison International President Randall West added: "I don't believe that anything improper has been done, nor would we do anything improper."

Pam Cann, the Robison accountant who does all the Stevens work, said she organizes an annual fundraiser, collects checks that comes into the PAC mailbox and sends out thank-you notes. She said there is a firewall between her and the firm's lobbyists.

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