SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
A veteran Republican Alaska lawmaker has been convicted by a federal jury of corruption for accepting bribes from a major oil services company in exchange for his support of a state tax law that would translate into millions of dollars in profits.
The conviction is part of a widespread corruption scheme involving several Alaska legislators being investigated for accepting hefty bribes from the giant oil company called VECO. Among them is the U.S. Senateâ??s longest serving Republican, Ted Stevens, who authorities say accepted his bribe in the form of a major home remodeling.
VECOâ??s top two executives have already pleaded guilty to bribing several legislators with a total of about $400,000 and this weekâ??s conviction of state Representative Pete Kott could very well be the tip of the iceberg. The one-time Alaska House Speaker, who represented Anchorageâ??s north side for 14 years, was found guilty of accepting nearly $9,000 in bribes and a lucrative job at VECO.
The company wanted to make sure the Alaska Legislature passed a tax law that would entice major petroleum firms to build a pipeline carrying natural gas from the North Slope to the Midwest. The project would be extremely profitable for VECO, which has reaped tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts over the years.
At least five other Alaska lawmakers are under investigation in the bribery scandal, including Senator Stevensâ?? son Ben Stevens who is a state senator as well as two other state senators (John Cowdery of Anchorage and Donny Olson of Nome) and two state representatives (Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau).
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