Alaska Legislators Feel Heat
While three Alaska lawmakers strongly deny taking bribes, a pair of oil executives has pleaded guilty to showering them with cash, job promises and favors in exchange for supporting legislation that benefited their company.
The three members of the Alaska House of Representatives have been federally charged with bribery and tax extortion related to a scheme involving legislation to create a new petroleum profit tax structure and a new contract for a natural gas pipeline.
Prosecutors say that the indicted officials– Rep. Vic Kohring of Wasilla and former Reps. Pete Kott of Eagle River and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau – explicitly supported the pipeline and the oil company’s (VECO Corp) preferred version of the tax proposal because they had been bribed.
Kohring is accused of taking $2,600 in cash and a $3,000 job for a relative from VECO executives in exchange for his support.
Kott, the former Speaker of the House, is accused of accepting $8,993 in payments, $2,750 in polling expenses and the promise of a contract as a lobbyist for VECO in exchange for his support of the proposed pipeline and a tax proposal that favored the company. Weyhrauch, who is a lawyer, is charged with helping advance the oil service company’s causes for the promise of legal work.
Despite evidence and testimony, the three state officials vehemently deny any wrongdoing and in fact pleaded not guilty in court last week. A few days later, the oil company’s chairman and vice president pleaded guilty to the three felony charges, bribery and two counts of conspiracy.
The oil executives said they made more than $400,000 in illegal payments and benefits to public officials and their families in return for support of legislation that would benefit and enrich their company. They also admitted issuing company bonuses to executives to repay them for campaign contributions to politicians.