GOP leaders ask Ben Stevens to quit post

NO TRUST: Palin, Harris say party committee needs a new leader.

September 20, 2007 

Two of the state's top Republican elected officials are calling on Ben Stevens, a former state senator and the son of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, to resign from his post on the Republican National Committee.

Both Gov. Sarah Palin and House Speaker John Harris said Ben Stevens, who is under a federal investigation for his ties to the oil field services company Veco Corp., should resign. Neither he nor his father, also under investigation, have been charged.

"Whether Ben Stevens has done anything wrong or not, he doesn't have the confidence and the trust of Alaskans," Harris said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

"It is clear that Ben does not have the support of our top elected state leadership," Harris said.

A message seeking comment left Wednesday by The Associated Press with Ben Stevens' lawyer, John Wolfe in Seattle, was not immediately returned.

Ben Stevens, a former state Senate president, did not run for re-election last year.

The names of both Ben and Ted Stevens have surfaced in the federal corruption trial being conducted in Anchorage for former House Speaker Pete Kott, also a Republican.

Former Veco Corp. chief executive Bill Allen, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers, testified during Kott's trial last week that he had assigned one to four employees for up to six months to work on Ted Stevens' home.

Allen also testified that his bribery conviction included allegations of payments to Ben Stevens, an Anchorage Republican, through a consulting contract.

Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, is not commenting on the case so it doesn't look like he's trying to influence it, his aide has said.

"(Ben Stevens) shouldn't be our national committeeman," Palin said.

There is no process to remove a sitting committee member, said Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.

Ben Stevens "was elected to serve a four-year term under the national rules of the Republican National Committee. He will serve through the March 2008 convention. We look forward to electing a new committeeman at that time," Ruedrich said.

Stevens hasn't attended a national committee meeting in more than two years, Ruedrich said.

"It would be better for Alaska and for the party if he would simply vacate the position and allow someone else to do the job who is more interested in attending the meetings and engaging on behalf of Alaska Republican Party members," Harris said.

The Republican National Committee is composed of one man and one woman from each of the 50 states. The committee determines the party's position on issues and formulates the party platform, among other duties.

Ben Stevens isn't Palin's only target. Another lawmaker, Anchorage Republican state Sen. John Cowdery, also has been named during Kott's trial as allegedly pushing Veco's interests in the Legislature.

He also hasn't been charged, but Palin has said the Senate majority should remove him as chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee.

On Tuesday, Cowdery issued a statement also denying any wrongdoing, but said he would not take part in next month's special session, which will be held to review the state's oil tax and how it was passed in 2006.

The tax is at the heart of the federal corruption trials of Kott and two other lawmakers, who face trial later.

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