JULY 31, 2007
The home of Alaska’s most powerful political figure, Republican Senator Ted Stevens, has been raided by more than a dozen federal agents gathering evidence in a widespread corruption probe involving several bribed legislators.
Two major oil company executives and a lobbyist have already pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and federal corruption charges and are cooperating with the vast investigation which is now focusing on a handful of prominent Alaska lawmakers, including Stevens.
In fact, the investigation’s key witnesses have admitted paying nearly half a million dollars in bribes to various Alaska public officials. The men operated a huge oil services and engineering company called VECO, which has reaped tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts over the years.
VECO’s founder, Bill Allen, oversaw the costly renovation of Senator Stevens’ home near Anchorage and evidently it could have been used to bribe the lawmaker who has represented Alaska in Washington since 1968 and is the U.S. Senate’s senior Republican.
After all, VECO is considered a titan in Alaska business and a dominant political power that contributes generously to statewide campaigns.
The renovation project more than doubled the size of the senator’s home and the remodeling involved lifting the house on stilts and adding a first floor. Public records have assessed the 2,471-square-foot, 10-room dwelling at $440,900 and federal agents have asked contractors to turn over their records from the job.
This week about 15 agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service swarmed the lavish compound and took photos and video of the structure. They left with a large garbage bag full of seized materials.
The 83-year-old Stevens is up for re-election in 2008 and, although he is probably the most recognized figure under investigation, he has lots of company. Last year federal agents searched the offices of six Alaska lawmakers believed to have accepted bribes from VECO which has benefited tremendously from a recent overhaul of state oil-production taxes.
Among those targeted in the probe are the veteran senator’s son, State Senate President Ben Stevens of Anchorage, senators John Cowdery of Anchorage and Donny Olson of Nome, state representatives Pete Kott of Eagle River, Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau.
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