• No Sweat
  • Thursday, May 01, 2008

    The Most Corrupt Politician Alive: Ted Stevens (Senator from Alaska)

    Of all the Republicans I have discussed whose morals are severly compromised, I have to say, Ted Stevens of Alaska just might top the list. I already brought him up in the context of the VECO scandal that has crippled the Alaska Republican Party. But honestly, the VECO scandal is only the tip of the iceberg of corruption for Ted Stevens. Here are some excerpts from the "Ethics Questions" section of his Congressopedia entry...possibly the longest list of "Ethics Questions" in all of Congressopedia:

    Ethics questions

    In 2003, The Los Angeles Times published charges that Stevens had gained financially through influence peddling, steering government contracts to his associates, and insider trading (see below), all of which Stevens denied. [16]

    In 1997, Stevens invested $50,000 with developer Jonathan B. Rubini. In 2002 Rubini and his partner bought back the senator's interests in their deals for $872,000. During the time that Stevens had money invested with Rubini, Stevens steered a $450 million contract to Rubini to build and own housing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Rubini's company was one of the only in-state outfits capable of handling the contract. The senator had no financial interest in that deal. [17]


    Favors for his son

    On August 31, 2006, the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based government watchdog group, exposed a 2003 LA Times article documenting nine separate cases in which Stevens did favors for organizations which had employed his son, Ben Stevens. (See Sunlight blog for full account)

    Since this time, other favors have been reported. In late 2003, Stevens secured a $29 million earmark for the "Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board," which was chaired by Ben Stevens. In December 2005, Stevens helped secure a $10 million earmark for a fishing venture for which Ben secretly held an investment option. [20]

    In 2005, The Anchorage Daily News reported that Ben Stevens held an option to buy into an Alaska seafood company at the same time as Sen. Stevens was creating a special Aleutian Islands fishery that would supply the company with pollock worth millions of dollars a year. Ben Steven's interest was withdrawn. [21]

    Fishery connected with Ben Stevens received earmark from Ted Stevens

    In late July, 2007, it was revealed that Trident Seafoods Corp., a fishery that received a $3.5 million earmark from Stevens to build an airfield, had connections to Stevens's son, Ben Stevens. While Trident provided the elder Stevens with thousands of dollars in campaign funds, it also provided the younger Stevens with "consulting" payments as he would direct federal grants to it, and many other companies.[3]


    VECO corruption investigation

    In 2006, Ben Stevens, who at that point was serving as president of the Alaska State Senate, had his offices raided by the FBI. Federal officials were reportedly seeking information surrounding his ties to VECO Corp., an oil field-services firm the Senator had aided in the past through earmarks.[7]

    On May 7, 2007, VECO Corp.'s CEO, Bill Allen, and a vice president, Rick Smith, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy, bribery and tax charges. VECO Corp. was also used in hiring contractors in the 2000 remolding of Sen. Stevens's Girdwood, Alaska home, leading to closer investigation by the FBI and Justice Department, although the senator had not been officially targeted in the investigation. The invoices for the work were sent through former VECO CEO Bill Allen to be approved before being passed onto Stevens for payment, despite the fact that Allen himself has stated "VECO was not in the business of residential construction or remodeling."[8]

    In a June 6, 2007 interview with the Washington Post, Stevens disclosed that he had been asked by the FBI to preserve his records in cooperation with the ongoing Alaska investigation, and that he had hired lawyers regarding the matter.[9]

    In mid-June, it was revealed that in May 2007 a federal Grand Jury examined Stevens's ties to VECO regarding the remolding of his Girdwood house, a clear indication that Stevens himself was becoming the target of the FBI's ongoing Alaska corruption investigation.[10] A close friend of Stevens, Anchorage real estate developer Bob Penney, also testified before a Grand Jury regarding the bribery scandal in Alaska. Penney invited the Senator to a a real estate investment deal that made Stevens hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is also a member of an Alaska investors group called Alaska's Great Eagle which bought a race horse with both the Senator and former VECO CEO Bill Allen.[11]

    On June 19, it was revealed by a lawyer close to the case that former aides to Stevens on Capitol Hill were being questioned by the FBI regarding the Senator's ties to Bill Allen and VECO Corp.[12]

    In mid-July 2007, Stevens' approval rating, according to a poll conducted by Ivan Moore, dropped to just under 45%, while 44% of respondents stated a favorable opinion of the Senator. Previous approval ratings, between September 2005 and April 2007, ranged from 58 percent to 63 percent, demonstrating a significant change since Stevens came under investigation.[13][14]

    House raided

    On July 30, 2007, the FBI and the IRS raided Stevens's home in Girdwood, Alaska. The house had been in the news before because VECO, an oil company previously uninvolved in home construction, renovated the home to add another story to it for Stevens. The raid was a continuation of the probe into the relationship between Stevens and VECO.[15]

    Stevens stated that the investigation would not hinder his service to Alaska and called for Alaskans "not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media. The legal process should be allowed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined."[16]

    Construction deal note

    A note found after the FBI raided Stevens's Girdwood home revealed an estimate of how much Stevens had paid for the renovations to the house.[17] In the handwritten note, Stevens wrote,

    Dear Wev
    My staff tells me I did not respond to your May 23 letter. I truly believed I did as I answered a series of "thank yous" from people who wish us well in these hours of strife.
    This is a sad portion of my life -- it will take time to explain. Catherine and I personally paid over $130,000 for the improvements to our chalet in Girdwood. Someone -- or more than one -- keeps telling the FBI that's not so. Takes time to go back over five years to prove they are wrong. I do appreciate your comments.
    My best

    This number appeared to be a suspicious estimate, as it was reported that the carpentry work alone cost $100,000. This would mean that the rest of the construction, including raising the house to make room for the new floor, moving earth to prepare the ground for construction, plumbing work, electric work, and roofing all was either done for less than $30,000, a very good deal, or was paid for by other sources.[19]


    F.B.I. investigates Veco contract

    In mid August, the F.B.I. began investigating a $170 million contract given to Veco to provide the National Science Foundation with polar and arctic research support. Just as Veco had no history of home construction before building additions to Ted Stevens's home, they also had no experience in polar and arctic research support.[22]

    At the time, no evidence had been unearthed to prove Stevens was responsible for securing the federal contracts for Veco, though as a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, he would have had authority over such funding.[23]

    Allen testifies Veco's involvement in Stevens' Home Renovation

    Former CEO Bill Allen acknowledged that the more than $400,000 he admitted spending in the bribery charge included the work done at the home of Stevens. "I gave Ted some old furniture," Allen said. "I don't think there was a lot of material, There was some labor." He then added that the labor came from Veco employees and that he paid for these bills.[24]

    FBI taped conversations between Stevens and Allen

    On September 21, 2007, it was revealed that the FBI had secretly taped conversations between Sen. Stevens and VECO executive Bill Allen. While sources revealed that Allen had agreed to taping conversations with Stevens after he was confronted with evidence that he had bribed Alaska legislators, it remained unclear as to what the content of the conversations were as well as how many conversations were recorded. Allen had pleaded guilty to bribery and has since been a key witness in cases against Alaska lawmakers.[25]


    Ferry project boon to those close to Stevens

    A $20 million earmark inserted into the 2008 Defense appropriations bill by Stevens and signed into law by President Bush on November 13, 2007 could be a boon to those close to the senator. The earmark was listed as funding for an “expeditionary craft” for the Navy, but it would ultimately be used as a commercial ferry between Anchorage and the Knik Arm. The Knik Arm is a remote piece of land which takes over two hours to reach by car but 15 minutes by boat.[27][28]

    Appropriators made cuts to many of the earmarks in the bill, but Stevens’ earmark was untouched even though the Navy did not request the money and rejected the experimental craft in 2002 as impractical. The ferry would be built by Lockheed Martin and would connect downtown Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, bringing cars and passengers to Knik Arm. Bill Bittner, Stevens’ brother-in-law, spent years as a registered lobbyist in Washington with Lockheed Martin as one of his clients. Despite the Navy’s rejection of the craft, Stevens inserted nearly $50 million for the project into appropriations bills from 2002-2006. [29][30]

    Several former and current members of Stevens' staff own undeveloped land on the Knik Arm including Chief of Staff George Lowe with a 2.6-acre parcel of undeveloped land which rose over $10,000 in appraised value from 2005 to 2006 and former top aide and re-election campaign worker Lisa Sutherland with just under 4 acres with her husband. The value of their land rose from $38,400 in 2005 to $65,000 in 2006. [31]

    Earmark infraction

    New documents emerged showing that a $1.6 million earmark in 2005 by Stevens was engineered so it would lead to the purchase of property owned by his former aide, Trevor McCabe, an Anchorage fisheries lobbyist.

    Recently-disclosed public records show that Brad Gilman, a Washington lobbyist who once worked for Stevens, allegedly acted as the go-between for the 2005 earmark infraction, connecting an unnamed ‘Senate aide’ with his two clients based in Seward, Alaska: the city of Seward, and the Alaska Sealife Center, a federally supported marine research facility. According to Gilman, the ‘Senate aide’ was shopping for a guarantee that McCabe’s property would be purchased if it received the earmark. The apparent result was the sudden shift of the earmark by Stevens' office in 2005 from the City of Seward, which wouldn't promise to buy the property, to the Alaska SeaLife Center, which had more discretion, according to Seward officials.[32]

    Tobacco issues
    This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch, sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation. Join our team of citizen journalists researching and exposing tobacco industry secrets.

    Senator Stevens has introduced public-health oriented bills with respect to tobacco issues:

    In 1985, Senator Stevens amended a defense appropriations bill to prevent any federal funding of military commissaries that do not charge a price for cigarettes equal to the lowest average retail price in the area less state and local taxes. The minimum price at commissaries outside the US would be based on the average national retail price of cigarettes.[22]

    In 1986, Senator Stevens introduced S. 1440, the Non-Smokers Rights Act, which required the designation of smoking areas in all branches of federal government. The full Senate did not act on the bill.[23]

    The notes, as well as a few things I left out, can be found in the full entry on the Congresspedia site.

    Keep in mind, Ted Stevens isn't just any Republican. As President pro tempore of the Senate was part of the leadership of the Republican Party whose corruption was the main reason the Democrats swept Congress in 2006. During that time, Ted Stevens was third in the line of succession for the Presidency, following the Vice President and the Speaker of the House...think about that. The Republicans put this corrupt criminal in such a high leadership position.

    Crime doesn't pay...unless you're a Republican. Then crime gets you appointed to the highest positions of government.

    Mark Begich is the Democrat running aganst Ted Stevens. Clean up the Mark Begich!


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