My turn: The true value of Stevens' cabin

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Didn't the federal government check Anchorage's real property records before indicting Sen. Ted Stevens? After all, real estate values are easily known. When I read the federal indictment, I was disappointed at the charges, but more so I was curious to find the $230,000 VECO allegedly added to the value of Ted's cabin in Girdwood.

Just as anyone can, I looked up 138 Northland Road on The Municipality of Anchorage provides comparable sales to prove current values and to document all assessments. Municipal assessments, by Alaska Statutes, must be at full market value.

According to the municipality, in fiscal year 2001, Ted's land and cabin in Girdwood were valued by the city at $142,600. In fiscal year 2003, the land and cabin were valued at $271,300. Netting out the $5,000 increase in land value, the building's value went up $123,700. The municipality issued construction permits to document the improvements, adding a new first floor at 1,139 square feet, a 440-square-foot garage and a 364-square-foot deck.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Stevens wrote checks for $130,000 to the contractor who did the job. Usually, a contractor is paid for materials, labor, his overhead, profit and outsourced or subcontracted costs such as project management, architecture and engineering. It appears that Stevens paid the contractor $130,000 for what the municipality valued at $123,700. The difference likely would be new appliances and furniture.

If you were the homeowner and paid what professional city assessors documented as the full increase in value, would you think you were square? I would. If VECO was shorted, the newly sold company should send Stevens a bill. I'm certain that he would pay it as he did every other bill received.

So, how could VECO add another $230,000 to the project? Did CEO Bill Allen secretly lay the bathroom floor in diamond and ruby-encrusted gold bullion? If he didn't, how could he spend another $230,000 on the cabin? The feds should have visited the assessor's office. Their investigation would have lasted a day, not a year.

Instead, Washington sends six battalions of Washington lawyers to prosecute Ted. Pardon me, but Washington bureaucrats will not determine whether our senator, the former chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, has ethics. The federal Hatch Act forbids federal employees, specifically those from the Department of Justice, from playing campaign politics. The U.S. Attorney, the FBI and Justice Department are playing campaign politics. Dirty campaign politics. Huey Long, Louisiana-style, hardball, campaign politics. They violated the Hatch Act they are charged to enforce.

Stevens was a federal prosecutor prior to his long public service to Alaskans. The odds of Ted knowingly violating criminal law are slim and none. Federal attorneys have been manipulated into a partisan political attack on Stevens. Shows you why you just can't trust those Washington boys. But, Alaskans, rich carpetbaggers from Florida aside, know Ted Stevens' honor and should not buy this terrorist attack.

When I was on staff 30 years ago, Ted taught me three lessons in politics I'll always remember:

1. Learn to count, because if you can't, you'll never win a race or pass a bill.

2. Give your word and keep your word. Politics is a process of honor, so if your word is not good, no one will trust you.

3. Don't tick off the ladies of Alaska.

Now, I am hopeful that the ladies (and gentlemen) of Alaska are getting a bit cranky at the persecution of the man who protected, loved and served us for generations. At trial, Stevens will prove his innocence just as the true valuation of his cabin demonstrates. Mayor Begich should put campaign politics aside and testify at Ted's trial to verify the integrity of the Municipality of Anchorage's assessments.

In his public service, Ted has demonstrated the many reasons why Alaskans can believe in and fight for his honor and re-election. Ted has served Alaskans honorably for four decades. Let's show Washington that their slipshod investigation and bad math do not work in Alaska.

• Jim Crawford is a senior underwriter for Alaska Mortgage Solutions. He lives in Anchorage.

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