Legislators seek wider VECO probe

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Two Anchorage legislators are asking the Alaska Public Offices Commission to continue to investigate VECO Corp. campaign contributions and pursue criminal charges if possible.

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Reps. Les Gara and Harry Crawford, both Anchorage Democrats, urged APOC Executive Director Brooke Miles to pursue the investigation, despite a one-year statute of limitations on violations of campaign finance laws.

"No one-year statute of limitations applies to criminal conduct, so there is no justification for failing to pursue these campaign violations under state law," the two legislators wrote.

VECO executives testified they had bribed several legislators, as well as made illegal campaign contributions.

Gara and Crawford acknowledged that some legislators had intentionally tried to weaken APOC, the state's campaign regulatory agency, by shortening the deadline for civil violations.

On Monday, APOC decided to look into allegations that VECO paid for campaign polling for favored candidates, but commissioners raised concerns that if they found violations they might not be able to prosecute them because of the one-year statute of limitations the Legislature adopted in 2003.

The commission, and some legislators, have said they will seek a new four-year statute of limitations.

Crawford and Gara said their concerns go well beyond the secretly funded polls that APOC is looking at and include illegal corporate campaign violations made by reimbursing executives for campaign contributions they made on the company's behalf.

Also, VECO violated the ban on corporate contributions by paying for campaign fundraisers for candidates.

"The scope of this misconduct is unprecedented, and taking no action simply condones this conduct," the legislators wrote to Miles.

Miles was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

VECO was sold by former owner Bill Allen to CH2M-Hill Corp. of Colorado after Allen pleaded guilty to bribery charges in May.

Tuesday, former Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, was found guilty in federal court in Anchorage of accepting bribes from VECO executives. Kott was House speaker when the Legislature shortened the statute of limitations.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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