Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the indictment of Alaska GOP Sen. Ted Stevens. It's fascinating how often major players get hung up by what seem like relatively picayune transactions. Stevens directed literally billions of dollars seized by force from unwilling taxpayers all over the country and lavished it on interests in Alaska. Yet he got caught concealing $250,000 worth of renovations and gifts over several years for his vacation home. Pocket change.
Sometimes the most nefarious things politicians do are perfectly legal and even hailed as public-spirited by some. By laundering the transaction through the federal government Stevens (like most congresscritters) fuzzed the true nature of the deals, which was to take money from ordinary taxpayers and give it to friends, supporters and important interests in his home state. Stealing on behalf of others. Stealing and sharing to proceeds.
A friend of mine worked for Sen. Steven back in the 1970s when I was in Washington. His pattern was already well-established. He voted with the GOP most of the time, so he was considered reliable, but his only true conviction seemed to be that his job was to raid the federal treasury on behalf of Alaskan interests as extensively as possible. Others do the same of course, but he performed on a truly grandiose scale. Sadly,that's what a great deal of politics amounts to.