Rep. Don Young under investigation

Newspaper reports criminal probe into alleged VECO ties

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ANCHORAGE - U.S. Rep. Don Young is under criminal investigation, the second member of Alaska's congressional delegation to be part of a federal corruption probe, a newspaper reported.

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Young is being investigated for his alleged ties to VECO Corp., the Anchorage-based company whose former top two executives - including former CEO Bill Allen - have pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state lawmakers, the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported on its Web site late Tuesday.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Young or U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens took bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifts from VECO, the newspaper reported, citing only "people close to the case."

A message left by The Associated Press late Tuesday at Young's Washington, D.C., office was not immediately returned.

"Federal agencies have conducted a broad ranging investigation in Alaska for almost a year. I believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome," Stevens said in a statement provided to the AP Tuesday. "I will continue this policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded."

The Wall Street Journal said Allen held fundraisers called "the Pig Roast" for Young every August for 10 years. Public records show Young received $157,000 from VECO employees and its political action committee between 1996 and 2006.

Young, a Republican, amended campaign-finance filings earlier this year to reflect $38,000 in payments to Allen, the Journal reported. The refunds were labeled "fundraising costs" in documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Young has spent more than $250,000 of his campaign contributions on legal services since he put a Washington, D.C., law firm on retainer this year, according to recent regulatory filings.

As part of a widening corruption probe, the FBI is looking closely at a 2000 construction project that more than doubled the size of Stevens' home in the ski resort community of Girdwood, about 40 miles south of Anchorage.

A contractor who did work on the house has said he was directed to send bills to VECO. The contractor said someone at the company would examine them for accuracy before sending them to Stevens, the longest serving Republican in Senate history.

"I urge Alaskans not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media," Stevens said. "The legal process should be allowed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined."

Allen and another former VECO executive, Rick Smith, have pleaded guilty to extortion and bribery related to their dealings with state legislators. They are said to be cooperating with investigators. No sentencing date has been set.

Three former Alaska lawmakers charged with bribery will face trial later this year.

Meanwhile, the state's junior senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, has come under scrutiny by watchdog groups for allegedly benefiting from a questionable land deal.

She and her husband purchased a prime piece of property on the banks of the Kenai River at about $100,000 below market price. The land was purchased from the lot's adjacent neighbor and longtime Murkowski friend, Bob Penney, who also is a friend and a longtime business associate of Stevens.

Penney, who recently testified before a federal grand jury in the Stevens' investigation, said he was satisfied with the sale to Murkowski and her husband and received three times more than he paid for the property.

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