State flags not lowered for former legislator

JUNEAU — When notable Alaskans, including former legislators, die, the governor often orders state flags be flown at half-staff in their honor.

Flags were not lowered, however, with the passing of former state Sen. John Cowdery, at age 83, earlier this month.

While in office, the Anchorage Republican was one of several legislators caught up in a sweeping federal investigation of corruption at the statehouse and in 2008 admitted to conspiring with the one-time head of an oil pipeline services company to try to bribe another senator.

Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell, said Thursday that a state flag is lowered at the governor’s discretion.

While Parnell did not order flags lowered for Cowdery, she said in an email that he sent the Cowdery family a letter of condolence and a flag that was flown over the state Capitol.

Some lawmakers released public statements upon Cowdery’s death, including Sens. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, and Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage.

Huggins remembered Cowdery as a good colleague who brought many good ideas to the Legislature over the years. Meyer, who once served in the same district as Cowdery, called him a strong family man and friend who fought hard on the issues facing Alaska.

Cowdery’s legislative career included service in both the House and Senate.

In 2009, he was sentenced to six months home confinement and fined $25,000 on federal bribery charges.

Cowdery admitted to conspiring with the head of VECO Corp., Bill Allen, to bribe another state senator to back VECO’s position on pending oil-tax legislation in 2006.

The other senator, Democrat Donny Olson of Golovin, never took the $25,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

Olson had said he cooperated with the federal investigation.

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