Former state Sen. Stevens goes back to his roots

Ex-lawmaker to serve as a relief skipper aboard landing craft

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Former state Sen. Ben Stevens is going back to his roots.

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Stevens, who has come under scrutiny along with his father in a broad federal public corruption probe, has been hired as a crewman aboard a work boat supporting Shell's planned Arctic Ocean exploratory drilling campaign.

For years, Stevens ran crab fishing boats in the Bering Sea.

Shell contractor Bering Marine Corp. hired Stevens as mate and relief skipper aboard the 121-foot combination tug and landing craft Arctic Seal. Anchorage-based transportation company Lynden, Inc., which oversees Bering Marine, said Stevens is being paid the same as other crew members.

Lynden executives said they called Stevens and offered him the job. They said he had previously worked for the company running boats.

"He's licensed, qualified, and right now it's hard to find good experienced employees like that," said Rick Gray, president of Bering Marine. "We're real proud to have Ben working for us."

The vessel Stevens has been assigned to is supporting a Shell-hired drilling ship now sitting in Dutch Harbor, preparing for a drilling campaign later this summer in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's northern coast. Stevens is living aboard the boat.

He and the crew of the Arctic Seal have been ferrying heavy equipment and supplies from land to the drill ship Frontier Discoverer, which is anchored offshore.

Stevens, who was state Senate president until his term ended in January, has come under scrutiny amid a federal investigation that has resulted in bribery charges against four former state lawmakers, one of whom has been convicted.

Stevens, 48, was among several lawmakers whose Anchorage legislative offices were searched by FBI agents nearly a year ago. He hasn't been charged with any crime, but federal prosecutors have made reference to a "State Senator B" who took $243,250 in alleged bogus "consulting" fees from Bill Allen and his oil field services company, VECO Corp.

Allen pleaded guilty in May to bribery and other charges, and admitted that the payments to Stevens were mainly for influencing legislative action. Allen also offered to make Stevens a VECO executive, court papers say.

Stevens could not be reached for comment. His attorney, John Wolfe of Seattle, said Stevens has a background in running boats, as well as a wife and children. So when the job offer came from Lynden, he took it.

"It's like many of the jobs Ben Stevens has had. It's hard work," Wolfe said. "It's a job he's well-qualified to do. He's had years of experience on the sea."

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