VECO papers suggest more to come

Legislators mentioned in federal complaint only by code letters

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The complaints against two top executives of politically powerful VECO Corp., who pleaded guilty to felonies Monday, suggest that further charges may be filed against unidentified public officials.

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VECO CEO Bill Allen and Vice-President Rick Smith were charged with several counts of bribing state legislators.

In charging documents unsealed Monday and earlier, federal prosecutors said VECO joined with unidentified state senators and a "state elected official" to conspire to promote the version of an oil tax sought by VECO and the big oil producers that provide much of VECO's business.

Members of the Legislature are mentioned in the complaint but identified only by code letters. The documents also provide an intriguing reference to a state official, however.

"Allen had an in-person meeting with State Senator A and the state elected official in which Allen and State Senator A outlined a scheme in which the state elected official would receive financial benefits from VECO in exchange for the state elected official's agreement to take official acts requested by Allen, Smith and VECO," according to information filed by federal prosecutors.

Alaska has only two statewide elected officials, the governor and lieutenant governor. It is not clear, however, whether the prosecutors were alluding to one of them.

During the last legislative session Gov. Frank Murkowski was seen as a strong advocate for producers in a deal for a natural gas pipeline. A deal on oil tax rates was seen as a precursor to that, prosecutors said.

Murkowski left the state immediately after his term in December on an around-the-world cruise. His immediate whereabouts are unknown.

One senator, identified Monday as Senator B in the charging documents, has financial records that are similar to those of former Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, and son of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. No charges against Stevens or any other member of the Senate have been publicly announced. Stevens did not return a call placed to his Anchorage home Monday evening, and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

Senator B is identified as serving from 2001 to 2006, a description that fits only Ben Stevens, who was appointed to his seat Aug. 6, 2001.

The charging documents also describe a series of payments from VECO to Senator B that were purportedly for business "consulting" but which were allegedly payments to buy influence.

"Payments to a company owned by State Senator B that, while ostensibly for "consulting" services were in fact for obtaining State Senator B's official support on matters pending before the Alaska Legislature," according to the charges against Allen.

A company then owned by Stevens, Advance North LLC, reported in state financial disclosure reports that it received $57,000 from VECO in 2005. Prosecutors said Senator B's company was paid $57,000 in 2005.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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