DOWN THE TUBES…. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the first sitting senator to endure a criminal trial in 27 years and an ally of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, was found guilty today on seven felony counts.

Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican in history and patriarch of Alaska politics, was found guilty of felony charges for making false statements.

The verdict could spell the end of a 40-year Senate career for a man who rose to be one of the most dominant figures in the upper chamber and who helped transform Alaska in its 50 years of statehood. The verdict was reached after the jury deliberated since Wednesday and found the 84-year-old senator guilty of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from Bill Allen, the former head of Veco Corp., and other friends.

The jury did not seem to buy the explanation from Stevens that Allen showered him with gifts he didn’t want and was unaware of, and that he believed the $160,000 he gave to another contractor covered all costs for the home renovations.

Roll Call noted that the decision came “on the same day that an alternate juror was placed back on the jury — and just over a week before Stevens (R) will face voters in Alaska as he seeks re-election.”

The AP added that Stevens “faces up to five years in prison on each count but, under federal sentencing guidelines, will likely receive much less prison time, if any.” His lawyers will, undoubtedly, appeal today’s outcome.

As for the political implications, this will seriously diminish Stevens’ re-election chances — call it a hunch — and make it that much more difficult for the GOP to stay competitive in the Senate. Palin, meanwhile, is also likely to face new questions — assuming she ever actually speaks to the media — about her support for and long-time association with Stevens, whose political group Palin helped run and whose support she relied on to get elected.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.