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At least one House GOP leader said the news of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) being indicted for allegedly making false statements on official forms is a “sad day” not just for Republicans, but for Congress itself.

“It’s clearly another kick in the gut to the institution of government,” said House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.).

Regardless of a lawmaker’s party affiliation, indictments erode public “trust and confidence” in Congress, Putnam said. “It’s bad for both parties. … It’s just bad all the way around.”

Stevens was indicted Tuesday on seven counts of failing to disclose $250,000 in services from VECO, am oil services company.

House GOP aides quietly conceded that the timing of the Stevens’ indictment could have been better. Republicans had planned to spend the final week before the August recess hammering away at their message on offshore drilling.

In that vein, Putnam was planning to hold a news conference Tuesday with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to discuss drilling and to talk about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is meeting with House Democrats later tonight.

But as news of Stevens’ indictment broke, Alexander unexpectedly dropped out of the event and Putnam turned the news conference into his regular weekly meeting with reporters.

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