Thursday, August 16, 2007

FBI investigates Sen. Ted Stevens

FBI investigates link involving Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican
WASHINGTON | The FBI is investigating the National Science Foundation’s award of $170 million in contracts to the oil field-services company that oversaw renovations on U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ home, McClatchy Newspapers has learned.

Veco Corp. in 1999 captured a lucrative five-year foundation contract to provide logistics and support for polar research, although it had no previous experience in that field. In the same period, Veco’s top executive managed renovations that doubled the size of the longtime Republican senator’s Girdwood, Alaska, home — raided July 30 by the FBI.

Foundation spokesman Dana Cruikshank told McClatchy Newspapers the FBI had looked into the 1999 award, worth up to $70 million, and a 2004 follow-up contract for as many as seven years that the company values at up to $100 million.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra and an FBI spokeswoman, Deborah Weierman, declined to comment.

Veco’s founder and chief executive officer, Bill Allen, pleaded guilty in the spring to making $400,000 in illegal payments to Alaska lawmakers, including Stevens’ son, Ben Stevens, then-president of the Alaska Senate. Allen is cooperating in an FBI corruption investigation that also has led to the conviction of a second Veco executive, a lobbyist, and a former Alaska state representative. Three other state lawmakers are awaiting trial on bribery charges. Ben Stevens has not been charged.

Alaska’s sole congressman, U.S. Rep. Don Young, a Republican, is also under investigation for his ties to Veco.

There had been little hint as to how Veco might have benefited from the relationship its CEO had with the elder Stevens, who served for several years as the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. Stevens also oversaw the foundation on the Senate Commerce Committee.

No evidence has surfaced that Stevens directly steered the contract to Veco, but his aggressive support for increased funding for arctic research coincided with the company’s sudden emergence as a major player in providing logistics for polar scientists.

Stevens, 83, would not comment on the investigation.

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