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Stevens Setting Up Legal Defense Fund

As he faces the legal and political fight of his life, Ted Stevens now joins an elite Washington club as he creates a legal defense fund and begs money to help pay his lawyer bills.

Bill Clinton had one, and so did Tom DeLay, so Stevens has high profile company in this realm.

In paperwork filed today with the Senate Ethics Committee, Stevens asked formal permission to create this defense fund, which would have to be approved by the committee. All the donations would be public, so once the paperwork is ready, the public will know who's paying Stevens' legal bills.

"Senator Stevens' attorneys are now seeking approval from the Senate Ethics Committee to establish such a fund," Stevens' Senate office said. "Consistent with Senate rules, no contributions will be solicited or accepted until the fund has been authorized by the Ethics Committee."

Stevens has been charged with seven counts of failure to disclose up to $250,000 in gifts and services on his Senate financial disclosure forms. His trial begins in late September.

These legal defense funds are tightly controlled, and lobbyists, unions and corporations are prohibited from contributing. Stevens cannot solicit contributions and he's not allowed to know who has contributed until the donations are publicly disclosed.

In an Alaskan radio talk show Tuesday, however, Stevens did mention the legal defense fund when asked.

"I think, obviously I’m going to have legal bills. And I’ve told you, I’ve paid some of them myself right now out of my money and Catherine’s [Stevens' wife] money," Stevens said. "But beyond that, all of those are reported according to Senate rules and I will comply with those rules."

Earlier today, as reported in The Crypt, a federal judge denied Stevens' motion to get the trial shifted to Alaska.