With VECO fall, a new name tops political donor list

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A real estate development company is now the biggest contributor to Alaska congressional campaigns, following the demise of VECO Corp. in an ongoing political corruption investigation.

Donations from the family-owned business Penco came to about $51,100 in 2007, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The firm is owned by Bob Penney, an old friend and past business partner of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Penney appeared last year before the federal grand jury investigating Stevens.

All the Penco-related donations listed were from Penney family members. Bob Penney, who gave the bulk of the contributions, did not return messages left by the Daily News.

Henry Penney, Bob's son, said the family contributions are about helping Stevens, who is up for re-election in the fall and could face Anchorage mayor Mark Begich, who is considering entering the race as a Democrat.

"It's about showing support for Senator Stevens, who has done a lot for this state," Henry Penney said.

Federal agents raided Stevens' home in Girdwood last summer in connection with a renovation job managed by VECO. Stevens has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

Penney also is a longtime acquaintance of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a connection that placed the senator in an awkward position last year after she purchased property from Penney at a very good price.

Murkowski denied wrongdoing but decided last summer to sell back the Kenai riverfront lot, located next door to Penney's home, as a result of the controversy.

According to the Daily News, Penney has long been a campaign contributor, giving money to Alaska candidates as well as Outside politicians including former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington, Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, former Montana Sen. Conrad Burns and South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

But Penney's 2007 giving is far more than he's contributed in any year at least since 1990, the furthest back Federal Election Commission records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics go.

Penney is co-founder and a current board member of the nonprofit Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Congress has earmarked $4.7 million of Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund money over the past four years to be spent under KRSA's direction on fisheries research and habitat work.

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