FBI Raids Offices of 6 Alaska Legislators
Saturday, September 2, 2006
JUNEAU, Alaska, Sept. 1 -- The offices of at least six Alaska state legislators, including that of the son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R), were raided Thursday and Friday by federal agents searching for possible ties between the lawmakers and a large oil-field services company, officials and aides said.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said 20 search warrants were being executed across Alaska, but he would not say where.
A copy of one of the search warrants, obtained by the Associated Press, links the investigation to a new production-tax law signed last month by Gov. Frank H. Murkowski (R) and to a draft natural gas pipeline contract that Murkowski and the state's three largest oil companies negotiated.
The warrant called for the seizure of documents concerning any payment made to lawmakers by Bill Allen and Richard Smith, executives of Veco Corp. Agents also looked for documents about contracts, agreements or employment of legislators provided by Veco, Allen, Smith and Veco President Peter Leathard.
Sought-after items named in the warrant included hats or other garments bearing the name "Veco" or the writing "CBC," "Corrupt Bastards Club" or "Corrupt Bastards Caucus."
Those are nicknames given to 11 lawmakers after a March opinion article, published in three Alaska newspapers, listed the contributions that legislators had received from top Veco executives, said House Speaker John Harris (R).
"I've heard it a few times," Harris said Friday, adding that "they were making fun" of the article.
In it, Lori Backes, executive director of the All Alaska Alliance, questioned whether the financial links between Veco and lawmakers created "undue influence" over the state's political process. Backes's group supports a gas pipeline proposal different from the one favored by Murkowski and Veco.
Harris said he saw Smith and Rep. Pete Kott (R) handing out hats at a Juneau hotel bar during a June special session, when lawmakers voted down an earlier Murkowski petroleum tax bill. But, he said, he did not see anything with "Corrupt Bastards Club" on it.
"All they had was 'Veco' on them," Harris said.
Veco staunchly supported the governor's production-tax plan, a version of which the legislature passed last month after twice rejecting it this summer. Lawmakers have also twice failed to pass legislation related to the governor's pipeline contract with BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.
Among the offices searched was that of Republican Senate President Ben Stevens, who has reported collecting more than $240,000 in consulting fees from Veco since 2000. Agents left his Capitol office Thursday with 12 boxes of documents labeled "Evidence" and loaded them into a vehicle.