Moses given cash before casting vote

Representative says VECO donation not tied to tax bill

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Days before an ailing Rep. Carl Moses flew from Anchorage to cast the deciding vote on a contentious oil and gas tax bill, six VECO Corp. executives contributed $3,000 to the Unalaska Democrat's campaign.

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Four of the six executives have been linked to an FBI investigation that resulted in raids of six legislators' offices on Aug. 31.

Moses, contacted Monday in Unalaska, denies the VECO campaign contributions had anything to do with his vote and his name has not previously been connected with the FBI raids.

"Don't worry, I'm squeaky clean," Moses said. "I don't accept contributions on that basis."

One of the 20 search warrants executed in the FBI raids links the investigation to the tax bill passed last month by the Alaska Legislature and the draft natural gas pipeline contract proposed by Gov. Frank Murkowski and BP, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

The warrant called for seizure of documents concerning any payment, contracts, agreements, gifts or employment provided by VECO or company executives Bill Allen, Rick Smith, Peter Leathard and Roger Chan.

On Aug. 2, Allen, Smith, Leathard, Chan and VECO personnel manager James Slack each contributed $500 to Moses' campaign, according to Alaska Public Office Commission records. Then on Aug. 7, Thomas Corkran, VECO's chief information officer, donated $500 more.

VECO, an oil field services company and a major political player in Alaska, typically supports Republican candidates. The contributions to Moses are among the only donations company executives have given to a Democrat this election year.

Moses faced his stiffest competition in years in a primary election that still hasn't been decided. The outcome of the race between him and Bryce Edwards is still too close to call and appears headed toward a mandatory recount by the Division of Elections.

VECO and Allen, the company's chief executive, supported the net-profits production tax plan proposed by Murkowski, but it faced major opposition in the House of Representatives. Twice before, the tax plan had been rejected. Some lawmakers disliked the structure of a tax based on company profits, some thought the tax rate was too low and others thought it was too high.

On Aug. 10, the bill seemed doomed again. It was the final day of the second special session, when the House failed by a single vote to gather the 21 votes needed to pass the measure. The only legislator missing was Moses, who was recuperating in Anchorage from a pinched nerve.

A lengthy recess was called while Moses boarded a plane and flew to Juneau. That night, the House reconvened and passed the bill. The final vote was 26-14, with several legislators changing to "yes" votes after realizing the matter had been decided.

Moses said he had a big stake in that vote: Funding for a new school in New Stuyahok and millions in power cost equalization fund money was tied to passage of the production tax bill.

With the exception of Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, all members of the Democrat-heavy House Bush caucus voted for the measure, with the rural fuel cost subsidy a major incentive.

Moses said he does not plan to return the VECO executives' campaign contributions, as other candidates have already done.

"I accepted it in good faith, and I got contributions from all over the place," he said.

Meanwhile, a retiring legislator who received tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from VECO has not responded to reporters' inquiries about those fees for nearly two weeks.

Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Anchorage, received $30,000 in consulting fees from VECO between 2003 and 2005, according to APOC filings.

Department of Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said he could neither confirm nor deny Anderson and Moses are part of the FBI investigation.

"We're not confirming any details of the investigation at this point," Sierra said.

VECO has largely been silent on the investigation. The company's only public statement came last week in a press release denying the company had participated in anything improper or illegal.

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