WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Stevens accused the Justice Department of trying to smear his character Monday as he prepared to defend his seat in a crowded Republican primary election.
Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, is scheduled to stand trial next month for lying on Senate records about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations he received from VECO Corp.
Prosecutors also want to present somewhat unrelated evidence that they believe shows the Alaska senator got a sweetheart condominium deal, his daughter got a discounted car and his son got a job from VECO.
In court documents filed Monday, Stevens suggested the Justice Department was making accusations haphazardly, hoping to damage his reputation at trial. Those accusations have nothing to do with the crime he's charged with, attorneys said.
"They are an obvious attempt to smear the Senator's character," defense attorneys wrote, adding later that the Justice Department was "continuing its assault on the senator's family."
Alaska's political patriarch, Stevens faces six challengers Tuesday in Alaska's primary. Despite the indictment, he has drawn crowds at campaign events and is expected to make it through the primary.
In a letter to the Anchorage Daily News, one supporter said Stevens has done more for the state than anyone in history.
Concerning Stevens' home remodeling, "shame on all of us for not helping with the project," wrote Richard Rhyner, who has lived in Anchorage for 50 years. "After all he has done for us, every man, woman and child should have chipped in to build our greatest Alaskan ever a home the size of the White House."
The Justice Department filed court documents of its own Monday, outlining its suspected motive for why Stevens would have kept home repairs and other freebies off his Senate financial records: Doing so would have touched off ethics investigations and news stories that could have jeopardized Stevens' political future.
Reporters, ethics officials and watchdog groups would have discovered that when VECO needed help, company founder Bill Allen had a direct line into the office of one of Capitol Hill's most powerful lawmakers, prosecutors said.
"Most importantly, however, disclosure of the things of value and the negative repercussions flowing from that disclosure would have threatened the defendant's future stream of things of value from VECO, Bill Allen and others," prosecutors said.
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