Exec: Workers Helped on Senator's Home

The Associated Press
Saturday, September 15, 2007; 12:34 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- In the latest sign of corruption problems for Republicans, a corporate executive testified Friday that his employees worked for months to remodel the Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, is under scrutiny in a corruption investigation that also is targeting Alaska state officials.

Bill Allen, former chief executive of oil services company VECO, testified that he spent more than $400,000 to bribe state legislators and for work at Stevens' house in the ski resort town of Girdwood. He said VECO also paid at least two contractors, a plumber and a carpenter, for work on the house. The project in 2000 more than doubled the size of the four-bedroom structure.

Under questioning at the trial of former state House Speaker Pete Kott, Allen said: "I don't think there was a lot of materials" bought for the Stevens remodeling, but "there was some labor."

VECO's business is providing engineering and construction services for oil companies; it does not do home construction. The key question is whether Stevens paid for the renovations or received a gift from Allen and VECO. The senator insists he paid from his own funds.

It was less than a year ago that Republicans lost control of Congress, in part because Democrats made corruption a major campaign issue. Stevens is one of several senators with ethics problems, complicating an already challenging political landscape for Republicans in 2008.

Stevens spokesman Aaron Saunders declined to comment on the testimony, but referred reporters to a previous statement from the senator.

"I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome," that statement said. "I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded."

In July, Stevens told reporters: "I will tell you we paid every bill that was given to us with our own money," referring to himself and his wife. "She works and I work. That was our own money."

In the Senate since 1968, Stevens gained prominence as a powerful and feared chairman of the Appropriations Committee while his party held the majority. He also was Senate President Pro Tem, which put him third in line for the presidency after the vice president and the House speaker.

Stevens is known for directing millions of federal dollars to Alaska, never apologizing for the pork-barrel politics that some feel has gone too far.

Even a politically wounded Stevens would mount a strong bid for re-election next year, GOP insiders say. Democrats, hoping for an upset, are urging Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to challenge him.

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