Palin Wants Stevens to Address Probe

The Associated Press
Friday, September 21, 2007; 6:38 PM

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday she wants some answers from U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, a fellow Republican, who is under federal investigation.

Federal law enforcement officials are investigating the remodeling of Stevens' home in Girdwood, south of Anchorage.

Stevens has said he has paid every bill presented to him, but in testimony at a federal corruption trial of a former state lawmaker, former VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen testified he sent workers from his oil field services company to work at Stevens' home.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the FBI, working with Allen, secretly taped telephone calls involving Stevens. The sources who described the operation declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.

As details of the investigation and Stevens' relationship with Allen continue to emerge, Palin said she wants Stevens to shed some light for the public.

"I can't guess what that information would be, but I think I join others in wanting to know of the senator's innocence," Palin said.

"Right now, we are not hearing anything," she said. "We are going to give him the benefit of the doubt because that's appropriate, and that's deserved."

Stevens' spokesman declined to comment Friday. Stevens has said he won't discuss the investigation for fear it will look as if he's trying to influence it.

Allen testified last week he provided favors and money for Alaska lawmakers, and labor and furniture for the remodeling project at Stevens' home.

Allen was testifying in the corruption trial of former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott, a Republican accused of accepting bribes in exchange for favorable influence on an oil tax bill.

Palin took office last December, winning on a platform that included ethics reform.

Since then, one former lawmaker has been convicted of bribery, another is on trial and two others await trial on federal bribery charges.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also is under investigation for campaign finance practices, according to a federal law enforcement source.

This week, Palin said the Alaska Senate Republican leadership should consider stripping GOP state Sen. John Cowdery of his plum committee assignment after his name surfaced at the Kott trial. He hasn't been charged.

She also said Stevens' son, Ben, should resign his post as an Alaska representative on the Republican National Committee since he's also under investigation but not charged. Ben Stevens, a former state Senate president who didn't run for re-election last year, hasn't attended an RNC meeting for more than two years.

The state's political culture has come under a national spotlight that won't likely dim anytime soon.

Palin isn't suggesting that the elder Stevens jeopardize the investigation, but wants him to do what he can to put the state's residents at ease.

"This goes to a bigger picture," Palin said. "Alaskans are anxious to hear any information that can be provided regarding his innocence."

© 2007 The Associated Press