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Stevens Indictment Boosts Consolidation Foe to Commerce Committee Vice-Chair

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican and an opponent of media consolidation, is set to become the top Republican on the key Senate Commerce Committee with the July 29 federal indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Republican Senate rules call for any senator under felony indictment to resign leadership positions in committees. Stevens, facing seven counts for allegedly failing to report gifts on home renovation and furnishings, has resigned from the top Republican slot on the committee.

The next Republican in line, John McCain, is already the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and party rules prohibit one senator from holding the top party spot in more than one of the top-tier committees.

Next in line after McCain is Hutchison, who has teamed with the likes of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to fight Bush Administration measures that would increase consolidation of media ownership.

Elected in a 1993 special election on an anti-Clinton platform and re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006, Hutchison is the most senior woman in the Senate. She has said she will consider stepping down from her seat before her next election (in 2012) to allow a successor to build seniority.

She’s chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee—the fourth highest spot in the party’s Senate leadership.

Media industries are not among her top political contributors although people affiliated with Clear Channel Communications have donated $23,100 to her campaigns since 2003, according to, a nonpartisan Web site that uses Federal Elections Commission data.

Stevens pled not guilty Thursday and was granted a September trial.