The Veco Corruption Scandal. Who’s Next?

31 10 2008

New information and new names have surfaced in the Veco corruption scandal, that has been rocking Alaska’s political world for the past two years.  Bill Allen, former CEO of Veco Corp. made a deal to trade all the dirt in exchange for immunity for his son Mark, and others relatives involved in the scandal.  He had lots to tell.  Former lawmakers are in prison, and more are on the way.  The biggest fish ensnared in the net so far, of course, has been Senior Senator Ted Stevens, now convicted on seven felony counts.  But the FBI isn’t finished yet.

Newly filed court documents outline the extent of Allen’s initial revelations to the FBI, including his interactions with public figures that haven’t previously been reported — and who haven’t been charged.

In his first interview, the same day he learned of the investigation, Allen told the FBI about financial favors sought by and given to politicians.

Land deals were made, lawyers were hired, gas tanks were filled, floors were refinished, cash exchanged hands, pigs were roasted.

The new documents — summaries of Allen’s initial interview with the FBI and a subsequent interview — were filed earlier this month during the trial of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in Washington, D.C. The summaries were attached to motions filed by Stevens’ lawyers. The summaries recount what Allen told investigators, and make no attempt to verify his assertions.

The first interview occurred on Aug. 30, 2006, after agents brought Allen into FBI headquarters in downtown Anchorage and he agreed to cooperate. The broad, multi-faceted investigation into Alaska corruption wouldn’t become public knowledge until the next day, when federal agents swarmed legislative offices with search warrants. The FBI had been monitoring Allen’s phone calls for months.

Allen pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in May 2007.

One of the conclusions reached by Allen, was that Rep. Don Young, who is currently running for re-election against Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz, “couldn’t be bought.”  Interesting, considering that after the investigation of Allen began, Young tried to reimburse Allen for more than $37,000 in pig roast expenses for Youn’s annual fundraiser.  Yes, folks, the King of Pork had an annual pig roast fundraiser, paid for by an oil service company.  Perhaps they should have hired a skywriter to surmount the event with the words “INVESTIGATE ME!”   When Allen didn’t cash this belated reimbursement check, Young sent it directly to the U.S. Treasury.  Then he got out a “wet wipe” and tried to get all that pig money off his hands.

Don Young has spent well over a million dollars in campaign money on legal fees….and he hasn’t even been indicted yet.

The other notable name mentioned in the new paperwork is Ben Stevens, son of Ted Stevens.  I remember breaking the news to a couple people when Ted Stevens was indicted.  The response from each person was, “Wait….TED Stevens or BEN Stevens??”  Everybody was expecting Ben would be first.  There’s a lot to cover with Ben, but these documents talk about the fact that Ben was getting paid for a lucrative “consulting” position, even when he wasn’t “consulting.”

Bill Allen told Ben Stevens (president of the State Senate at the time), when he needed money, to bill Veco $10,000 a month.  Stevens stopped sending invoices after his Senate offices were raided.  Go figure.

Think of all this as “scenes from next week” in the never-ending saga of Alaska political corruption.

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You Want Fries With That Invoice? More from the Stevens Trial.

15 10 2008

Senator Ted Stevens’ legal team continues with the “He paid all the bills that were given to him” defense. Stevens himself has been saying this since months before the trial began. It’s like their little piece of driftwood in Alaska’s boiling sea of political corruption. If there was no bill for the illegal gift, then there must be no crime, or so the thinking goes.

The defense today called Augie Paone, a contractor who says that Bill Allen asked him to “eat” an invoice for more than $13,000 worth of work he did on the Stevens residence at Allen’s behest. Allen is the former CEO of oil services company VECO, who pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers and supervised and paid for massive renovations to the Stevens’ “chalet” in Girdwood, Alaska. Stevens stands accused of not reporting over $250,000 in gifts and home renovations that he did not report on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

After Paone “ate” the invoice, he was hired to work on the Allen residence and was over-compensated by $13,000 for the work there, to make up for the “eating” of the other bill. So why was Paone called as a defense witness? Presumably to illustrate how Stevens was unaware of all this work that was being magically accomplished while he was away in Washington D.C.

(Why, look dear! While we were away, the elves came and raised up the house, inserted another story beneath it, remodeled the bathrooms, tiled the fireplace, and left us this cool Viking barbecue grill! If only we knew how to compensate them for their magical elf labor…)

The bottom line is, of course, that if Stevens took any gifts or services worth over $250, without reporting it, he broke the law. So no matter how they try to chip away at the bill (or the Bill), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s looking like Stevens crossed the threshhold in a big way.

After Augie Paone is cross-examined, the defense will call additional witnesses including his wife Catherine, and perhaps Stevens himself. If Stevens does take the stand, sounds like he’ll be there for a while. He will testify about more than 200 exhibits, 104 from the defense and 101 from the prosecution.

UPDATE:  Stevens WILL testify.





Stevens Indicted! No…the other one!

29 07 2008

Speculation was running rampant about who the next to fall would be in the ongoing corruption investigations by the FBI here in Alaska. The general consensus was that it would be Ben Stevens, son of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and former State Senate President.

I almost ran off the road when I heard the announcement on CNN. Ted Stevens has been indicted. This is HUGE.

The Justice Department will shortly be announcing the 7 count indictment all dealing with statements that were not deemed truthful to investigators. The announcement will come at 1:20pm EST….that’s in just a few minutes. Stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE 1: The Anchorage Daily News has posted a pdf copy of the 28-page indictment is available HERE. Stevens was charged with 7 felony counts of making false statements. Stevens apparently didn’t admit on his senate financial disclosure forms to receiving gifts totaling upwards of $250,000 (including a new Land Rover, a Viking barbecue grill, and extensive renovations to his home) from Veco. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the raid of his Girdwood residence, referred to in the indictment as ‘the chalet’.

UPDATE 2: Just listened to a live press conference held in DC by the Department of Justice.  Here’s the gist.

As a member of the Senate Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms with the Secretary of the Senate.  The purpose of these forms is to disclose conflicts of interest and maintain public confidence in the US senate.  Stevens is alleged to have received “substantial amounts of material and labor” used to renovate his residence in Girdwood from Veco Corp.  This included:  First floor multiple bedrooms & bathroom & full basement, architectural design, assistance in lifting the residence to add a first floor, electrical, plumbing and framing, the addition of a wrap around deck, a plastic roof, heat tape system on the roof, gutter repair,  and electrical work. In addition were household goods – furniture, a gas range, and a tool storage cabinet.  Also mentioned was exchanging an old vehicle for a new one worth much more. The total amount is $250,000+  These items were not disclosed on forms which he filed under penalty of purgery.  He didn’t reimburse or repay Veco or Bill Allen for any of these items.  This is only the beginning of the criminal process, and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigation began in 2004 and covers the years 1999-2006. 7 convictions – Kott, Allen, Smith, Bobrick, Anderson, Kohring

From the Q&A with the press:

He has not been charged with bribery. Bribery requires specific evidence of quid pro quo.

A summons will be issued and he will be allowed to turn himself in, and will not be arrested.  Where and when this will happen is being negotiated.

Stevens was informed when his attorney received a call earlier today.

They wouldn’t talk about sentencing or how Stevens’ age might affect that, nor would they discuss a potential plea agreement.

The final question asked about the timing of the indictment, during an election year, and close to the primary.  The answer? “We bring cases based on our evaluations of the law and when they are ready.”  “Politics should play no part either in charges or the timing of indictments.  Policy has been followed to the letter.”





Another One Bites the Dust – Cowdery Goes Down.

14 07 2008

Take a week off and see what happens?!  John Cowdery is the latest member of the Corrupt Bastards Club to taste the bitter pill of come-uppance from the FBI raid of Alaska legislators’ offices in 2006.  Has it been two years already?  Almost, according to the “Alaska Corruption Scandal Timeline.” The fallout from that legendary raid seems like one huge, glacially slow soccer game.  We get a goal once every six or eight months.

This also goes to prove that my semi-reliable friend of a friend of a coworker who heard a rumor that Ben Stevens was the next to drop, was wrong… grumble, grumble.  I’ve been on “Ben Watch” since June 1st, fueled by this rumor that his indictment would come in the next 30 days.  But other than the fact that it was 40 days, not 30…and John Cowdery, not Ben Stevens…my source nailed it!

This latest indictment hits close to Senate Leadership.  The crowd is thinning out, and Lyda Green with fewer and fewer buddies around her, is standing in the middle of the field looking reeealy conspicuous.  After the indictment came down, and after finding out that among other atrocities, Cowdery told corrupt Veco executive Bill Smith he thought it would be “easy and clean” to bribe Senator Donny Olson (owner of Olson Air Services)  with gasoline for his airplanes to win a vote on the Petroleum Profits Tax, Governor Sarah Palin asked Cowdery to step down.  (*Note to Mr. Cowdery – Nothing involving petroleum products in Alaska is EVER easy OR clean)

But Senate President Lyda Green would have none of that ‘stepping down’ talk.  She said that she didn’t think Cowdery should step down from his senate seat.  Why?  Take this little Mudflats Quiz.

Q:  Lyda Green thinks that indicted Corrupt Bastard John Cowdery should stay in the Alaska State Senate for the following reason(s). Check all that apply.

a) He is a friend of hers.

b) He’s held that position for a long time.

c) He’s in bad health and hasn’t been there much lately anyway.

d) Give him a break. He’s at the end of his career soon.

e) Sarah Palin wants him to step down so I DON’T! Humph.

Mind-numbing as it is, Lyda’s official rationale, according to her quote in the Daily News includes A through D, but I’m going with All of the Above.

Cowdery is scheduled to appear in District Court on August 11th. 

And “Ben Watch” begins again.  Check out this awesome post from TPMMuckraker.  What will they ever do when all our scoundrels are behind bars?





Ray Metcalfe Gave Me $2 Million Cash!

27 06 2008

 

‘Tis the season for political events, meet & greets, and luncheons with candidates.  It’s always interesting to check out the promotional stuff that circulates around. I thought I’d take an inventory of my political loot to date from events without a ‘suggested donation’, just to see how they stack up.

Diane Benson – Campaign button in my choice of blue on red, or red on blue.

Ethan Berkowitz – Button. One style fits all.

Mark Begich – Bumper sticker, two-sided sign (blue & white), 2 slices of pretty good pizza and a slice of cake.  Not bad…

Ray Metcalfe – 2 crisp $1,000,000 bills!

Each bill features Mr. Metcalfe’s face and “Which Earmark Did You Get?” on the front, with “In Ray We Can Trust” on the back, along with info on Veco, bribery, Ben and Ted Stevens and Ray’s part it investigating all of it. While Mr. Metcalfe won’t be getting my vote, he definitely wins the prize for creativity this primary season, and gets my appreciation for a good laugh. Let’s face it, there’s nothing funny about an Ethan Berkowitz button.





Kohring Heads to Sunny California.

31 05 2008

 

We learned this weekend that ‘corrupt bastard’ and former Alaska lawmaker Andy Griffith  Vic Kohring will serve his time in sunny California.  Convicted of bribery, extortion and attempted conspiracy, he was sentenced to 42 months in prison earlier this month.  Kohring, who said his conscience is “absolutely clear” and will fight his conviction “from his jail cell” still has that sad aura of someone who isn’t quite sure what’s actually going on.  I almost feel sorry for him ….sometimes.  But at least he knows he’s not alone. 

Consider if you will that there are currently HUNDREDS of notable Republican felons and others under indictment in the last 10 years.  You can check out Republican Offenders, an alphabetical listing starting with Jack Abramoff and finishing up with Al Zimmerman.   You can even sort them by crime – Embezzlement, Drugs/Prostitution, child pornography, corruption/bribery, lewd conduct, pedophilia, assorted felonies, and more!  And yes, Vic Kohring is on the list…two spots up from Pete Kott. 

It’s interesting to speculate how the new mailing addresses of these jailed Republican politicians will affect their opinion on the importance of prison reform, and the need for serious reevaluation of the  for-profit prison system.  Because, after all, thinking about the rights of prisoners is so…..librul.  We may, perhaps, be treated with some jailhouse political conversions.  It’s a shame we won’t be able to count on their votes in future elections, though, because….well…felons can’t vote.  Maybe that’s another issue they’ll take a look at.