Former Stevens aide benefits from earmark

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Newly uncovered documents show a generous earmark in 2005 by Sen. Ted Stevens was manipulated to lead to the purchase of property owned by his former aide, Trevor McCabe, now an Anchorage fisheries lobbyist.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the arrangement appeared to ensure that McCabe would be bailed out of a money-losing real estate venture by U.S. taxpayers.

The money came in the form of a $1.6 million grant to the SeaLife Center in Seward. The center later bought McCabe's property for $558,000 in 2006.

The Seward land sale is under investigation by the FBI and inspectors general from the federal Interior and Commerce departments.

Federal agencies had rejected previous attempts by McCabe and two partners to develop or sell the property, site of a derelict building, for a government visitor center and office complex.

The earmark was shifted from the City of Seward, which wouldn't promise to buy the property, to the Alaska SeaLife Center, according to a phone log written by a Seward official and minutes of the SeaLife Center board.

SeaLife Center board member and Seward Councilman Willard Dunham said he thought the site would be good for expansion of the SeaLife Center, not a plaza.

"That is absolutely not true that anybody was ordered to buy the goddamned Arcade," Dunham told the Daily News. "The SeaLife center was looking for places to buy or look at or lease because we needed expansion."

SeaLife Center executive director Tylan Schrock, who announced two weeks ago he would leave his post later this year, has not responded to requests for interviews by the Daily News since the documents came to light.

The Alaska SeaLife Center has been a favorite of Stevens, who has steered more than $50 million in federal funds to the nonprofit facility since it opened in 1998, including more than $3.5 million in the most recent appropriations bills. Schrock has been executive director for more than seven of those years.

McCabe, who worked eight years for Stevens in Washington, D.C., also has close ties to the marine research and aquarium facility. He is a past board member and helped provide financial backing when he was head of the At-Sea Processors' Association, a factory trawler group.

McCabe's attorney, Michael White of Seattle, said his client "has been instructed by his lawyer to continue to cooperate with investigators and make no public comments."

A spokesman for Stevens said the senator wouldn't comment, noting an ongoing political corruption investigation by federal authorities that has included Stevens. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.

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