Stevens Fears Impact of Current Probe
Monday, July 9, 2007; 9:10 PM
WASHINGTON -- Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator and once the chief power broker for dispensing federal dollars, says he's worried that a corruption investigation "could cause me some trouble" in running for re-election next year.
The 83-year-old Alaska Republican has drawn Justice Department scrutiny over a renovation project in 2000 that more than doubled the size of his home in a resort town surrounded by glaciers.
The remodeling was overseen by Bill Allen, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators. Allen is founder of VECO Corp., an Alaska-based oil field services and engineering company that has reaped tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts.
Allen is cooperating with the FBI, and investigators appear to be looking at whether VECO got anything in return for the home improvement help.
Sen. Stevens, who has served since 1968, has been caught up in a larger probe that included FBI raids last summer at offices of six Alaska legislators _ including Stevens' son, Ben, who was then the president of the state Senate.
"The worst thing about this investigation is that it does change your life in terms of employment potential," Stevens said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It doesn't matter what anyone says, it does shake you up. If this is still hanging around a year from November, it could cause me some trouble.
"I'm working to get this concept out of my mind that someone is trying to make something illegal out of all this, That's what's really disturbing."
Stevens is a powerful insider in the clubby U.S. Senate.
Prior to the Democratic takeover this year, Stevens' longevity made him president pro tempore, a mostly symbolic title but one that made him third in line for the presidency after the vice president and speaker of the House.
He's known for wearing cartoon ties with characters that signify his mighty image, like the Incredible Hulk.
The senator who once described himself as "a mean, miserable SOB," was chairman of the Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2005, except for 18 months when Democrats controlled the Senate.
That meant every senator was beholden to him for federal funding of projects in his or her state, and Stevens was known for the money he sent back home. It's hard to find a major Alaska business that he hasn't helped and that hasn't donated to his campaigns and political committees.