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ANCHORAGE - An Alaska lawmaker accused of trading his legislative influence for thousands of dollars from a corrections-company consultant who recorded the dealings has been charged with felony extortion, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering.
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State Rep. Thomas T. Anderson, chained at the ankles and dressed in mustard-colored jail scrubs, pleaded not guilty to the charges at a Friday afternoon appearance in U.S. District Court.
The Anchorage Republican was arrested Thursday, a day after a federal grand jury indicted him, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said.
Magistrate Judge John D. Roberts set Anderson's release on a $10,000 unsecured bond, then granted him permission to take a planned vacation in Mexico with his family next week. The trial was set for Feb. 12. Jail officials said Anderson was released late Friday afternoon.
Anderson, 39, was represented at the hearing by attorney Jeff Feldman, who declined to comment outside the courtroom. Federal prosecutors also declined comment.
The seven-count indictment alleges that Anderson and a contract lobbyist solicited bribery payments from the consultant, a confidential FBI source who worked for the same private corrections firm as the lobbyist. According to the indictment, the lobbyist told the informer that Anderson would be "our boy in Juneau" in exchange for money from the corrections company. The Legislature meets in Juneau, the capital.
Federal officials said the unnamed corrections firm is not accused of wrongdoing and had not known about the alleged bribe demands because of the undercover nature of the operation.
Officials would not discuss whether charges were pending against the lobbyist or anyone else. They also would not discuss any possible connection with a federal investigation that led to a recent FBI raid of the offices of at least six other state legislators. Anderson's office was not among those searched.
"I can't comment on anything beside what's in the indictment," said Department of Justice spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch. "I can't comment on uncharged individuals."
The indictment alleges that from July 2004 to March 2005, Anderson and the lobbyist received $24,000 from the source in exchange for Anderson's agreement to act on behalf of the source in the Legislature.
According to the indictment, Anderson and the lobbyist created a shell corporation to funnel some of the money to the legislator. The sham company, Pacific Publishing, would "purport to construct and operate" a Web site posting articles on Alaska politics, with the bribe money recorded as banner advertisement for the corrections firm, the indictment says.
Anderson also received a $2,000 check made out to him after he complained to the source that the lobbyist had kept part of the money, according to the indictment.
Early on, the lobbyist had assured the consultant that Anderson would give his assistance for payments, stating that if "I was a Soviet spy and I was looking for a legislator to recruit . . . (Anderson would) be the one I'd get . . . (because Anderson) needs the money," the indictment says.
The most serious charges Anderson faces - three money-laundering counts - each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Anderson was elected to the state House four years ago, but did not seek re-election for a third term. He leaves office in January.
Federal authorities have been tightlipped about the investigation involving the raids on legislators' offices in late August and early September. Officials said investigators in that case were looking for possible ties between the lawmakers and a large oil field services company.