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Stevens' Senate career hurt by 'bridge to nowhere'

  • Story Highlights
  • Ted Stevens of Alaska is the oldest serving GOP U.S. senator
  • He drew criticism over his proposed 'bridge to nowhere' legislation
  • Stevens' career in public service spans more than six decades
  • He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II
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From Ed Hornick
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Ted Stevens, indicted Tuesday on seven counts of making false statements on Senate financial disclosure forms, has a long history in the Senate.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was charged Tuesday with making false statements on financial disclosure forms.

And in the last few years, the Alaska Republican has been a poster boy for congressional spending critics.

In 2005, legislation backed by Stevens to build a so-called "bridge to nowhere" became a lightning rod for those critics. The proposal called for construction of a $223 million bridge to connect Alaska's Gravina Island -- population 50 -- to the mainland.

The allocation was backed by Stevens and Alaska Rep. Don Young, then the powerful GOP chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Congress later rescinded the earmarked funding for the bridge.

The project also drew the ire of Sen. John McCain, now the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, who has long chastised Congress for wasteful spending. He has cited the "bridge to nowhere" in several campaign speeches this year.

During the primaries, McCain said politicians' pet projects could have played a role in the Minnesota bridge collapse in early 2007.

"Maybe if we had done it right, maybe some of that money would have gone to inspect those bridges and other bridges around the country," McCain said in Ankeny, Iowa, on August 4, 2007. "Maybe the 200,000 people who cross that bridge every day would have been safer than spending ... your tax dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."

While the Arizona senator has long fought earmarks, he never specifically went after the "bridge to nowhere," and he was absent for key votes on its funding, according to FactCheck.org.

Stevens, 84, is the oldest Republican senator and second in age only to Sen. Robert Byrd, the 90-year-old Democrat from West Virginia.

Stevens is up for re-election in 2008. The former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has represented Alaska in Washington since 1968 and is renowned for his prowess in steering federal funds to his vast, sparsely populated state.

Stevens is the Senate's president pro tempore emeritus; co-chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee; vice chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and ranking member of the Disaster Recovery Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee.

"During World War II, he joined the Army Air Corps and flew support missions for the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force. Stevens was awarded numerous medals for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross," according to his Senate Web site.

After the war, Stevens attended and graduated from both UCLA and Harvard Law School, and later practiced law in Alaska.

He later moved to Washington to work in President Dwight Eisenhower's White House.

After his stint in the White House, Stevens moved back to Alaska and ran for state representative. He was elected to the Alaska House in 1964.

Four years later, Stevens was appointed to the U.S. Senate. In 1970, he was elected to finish his term in a special election mandated by state law, according to Stevens' Web site. He has since been re-elected six times.

All About Ted StevensU.S. SenateU.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

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