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Tom Anderson bribery trial begins Monday

Attorney prepares for public scrutiny in corruption case

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

Former state Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, goes on trial Monday in Anchorage, in a case which may be linked to the ongoing political corruption investigation involving VECO Corp. executives and other state legislators.

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Also involved, likely without her knowledge, may be Anderson's wife, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.

Regardless of VECO's involvement, Anderson's attorney has already begun preparing for a trial under increased public scrutiny of political corruption cases.

Paul Stockler, an Anchorage attorney representing Anderson, has already asked a federal judge for permission to question potential jurors about how much they know about "this and other well publicized cases."

He also wants to be able to ask about what they know about Anderson "or the other well publicized witnesses."

The FBI investigation in Alaska, led by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Public Integrity became publicly known in August of 2006. At that time FBI agents served search warrants on the offices of six members of the Alaska Legislature, though not Anderson, as well as VECO and other offices.

Three of the six legislators and two top VECO executives have been indicted on corruption charges. The executives have pleaded guilty, while the legislators have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

A series of indictments, guilty pleas and legal maneuverings have kept those VECO-related issues in the news for months.

According to documents filed by U.S. attorneys to outline their case, the investigation had been in the works for more than two years before the raids.

It was in the summer of 2004 that an unnamed lobbyist with ties to Anderson approached a confidential source working undercover for the FBI with a scheme to bribe Anderson, the documents say.

The confidential source's "efforts at the time were directed to other, unrelated investigative matters," the DOJ documents said.

It did not specify whether those matters involved VECO.

The charges against Anderson accuse him of using his position as a legislator, including the chairmanship of the Administrative Regulations Review, to benefit Cornell Companies, a Texas-based firm which operates private prisons.

In Alaska Cornell was seeking state approval to build a private prison and a juvenile psychiatric treatment facility, as well as regulatory changes to help its Alaska operations, which include a string of halfway houses around the state.

The court documents allege that Anderson pressured state officials, such as former Department of Corrections Commissioner Mark Antrim, to benefit Cornell. He also advocated for Cornell at a public meeting in Anchorage, but said he was there not on the company's behalf but as chair of the regulatory review committee.

Cornell is not accused of any wrongdoing, federal and Cornell officials have previously told the Empire.

Prosecutors said they expect to take a week to present their case.

At the time of the alleged bribery, Anderson, chairman of the Labor and Commerce Committee, was single but known to be romantically involved with McGuire, at the time chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The same lobbyist who approached the FBI's informant suggested that by paying Anderson, they'd likely get support from McGuire as well.

"We'll get two, you know. The chair of Labor and Commerce and the chair of Judiciary, that's the minimum we're going to have next year," the lobbyist told the informant.

The federal documents contain no allegations of wrongdoing by McGuire, or any indication she knew of the alleged schemes involving Anderson.

McGuire has asked Senate leaders to excuse her from her legislative duties during the period of the trial.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com or 523-2250.



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