Stevens, worker at odds over fundraising

Campaign says it has no evidence contractors worked on projects

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Stevens' campaign has no evidence a contracting firm paid workers to help run the Alaska senator's fundraisers, the campaign treasurer said, disputing one employee's claim that he parked cars and performed odd jobs while on the contractor's payroll.

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The FBI is investigating whether Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, accepted inappropriate gifts from Bill Allen, the founder of oil-services firm VECO Corp. Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers and said he paid employees to renovate the senator's home.

One of those employees told The Associated Press last week that Allen also hired him to help run fundraisers for Stevens and other candidates, an apparent violation of campaign finance laws. Robert Williams said he worked three or four fundraisers for the senator, delivering ice, arranging table rentals and parking cars.

"If he was asked to perform services, we were never told he performed those services," said Timothy McKeever, the campaign treasurer. "We pay for all fundraising expenses."

McKeever said Wednesday night that in his 20 years working for the campaign, he never recalls seeing people parking cars for guests at fundraisers and was unaware of any VECO employees sent to work at the events. Allen did host a fundraiser at his home for the senator last year, but McKeever said the campaign insisted on paying for expenses.

"I was very clear with them to send us bills for everything. We wanted to pay all costs associated with that event," McKeever said. "We got bills, which we were told for all services."

Campaign finance reports show no payments to Allen but they do indicate more than $12,000 in fundraising expenses were paid in mid-July 2006. That's around the time that Allen and other VECO executives - who typically donated at fundraisers rather than through the mail - donated $1,000 apiece to the campaign.

McKeever did not recall the date of Allen's fundraiser but said "we don't have any outstanding bills unpaid" for it.

Stevens has made a similar statement regarding his home renovation project, saying he paid every bill he received. Williams, who oversaw the project, backed that up in his interview last week, saying he recalled Stevens asking Allen to send him all the bills. But Williams now suspects Allen did not send all the bills and instead "did what he thought he could do."

The FBI raided Stevens' home in July and agents have assembled bills and other documents related to the project. Investigators also have amassed records on VECO's fundraising practices.

McKeever said the FBI has not asked or subpoenaed the campaign for records and has not approached him. The Federal Elections Commission has also not inquired about VECO, he said.

Though corporations are prohibited from donating money or services to campaigns, election lawyers have said Stevens likely cannot be held responsible if he did not know the employees were on the clock.

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