Nine months after the most recent charges in the wide-ranging investigation into public corruption in Alaska and nearly three months after the most recent guilty verdict, federal authorities will say only that their investigation continues.
Those assertions, by the FBI and prosecutors, appear to be borne out by the work of at least one federal grand jury, which continues to amass evidence in secret in Anchorage.
Two aides to state Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, said they were called to testify two weeks ago by the federal grand jury in Anchorage. Cowdery, who has not been charged with any crime, is one of the legislators whose offices were raided by the FBI on Aug. 31, 2006.
Cook Inlet Region Inc., the regional Native corporation in Anchorage, has just complied with a detailed demand for records from a federal grand jury in December connected to the corruption investigation, said spokesman Jim Jager.
Jager declined to say whether CIRI's subpoena was issued by the grand jury in Anchorage or by the grand jury in Washington, D.C., that has been hearing evidence involving U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. He said prosecutors assured CIRI it was not a target of the investigation.
The federal investigation erupted into public view in August 2006 when FBI agents raided the offices of at least six legislators and the Anchorage headquarters of the now-defunct oil field service company Veco, looking for evidence of bribes and extortion. Veco chairman Bill Allen agreed to cooperate with investigators, and he and Veco vice president Rick Smith pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges in May 2007. They have been the key witnesses in the trials of two former Republican legislators, Vic Kohring and Pete Kott, who were both convicted last fall of accepting Veco bribes.
The government is also investigating the expansive remodeling of Stevens' Girdwood home in 2000, which was designed and managed by Veco employees. FBI and IRS agents raided the house last year to document the addition. The government is also investigating the extensive connections between Ted Stevens, his son Ben Stevens, who is a former Alaska Senate president, and Alaska and Seattle fishing companies, according to other subpoenas that have become public.
Reached by phone in Juneau at Cowdery's office in the Capitol, Ryan Makinster said he was summoned to the federal courthouse in Anchorage during the week of Feb. 4, the grand jury's regular meeting time.
Makinster said he went voluntarily and didn't have an attorney with him. He declined to say how long he testified or describe the nature of the questions. He said he didn't see any other aides waiting to testify.
"They keep you separated," he said.
Makinster has been a Cowdery aide for years and now is staff on the Legislative Council, a House-Senate committee that Cowdery chairs.
Annette Skibinski, another long-term Cowdery staffer, said she too appeared before the federal grand jury two weeks ago. She also declined to discuss specifics.
Skibinski and another Cowdery aide, Shannon Straube, were working this week in the legislator's Anchorage office. Cowdery, a retired contractor, has been too ill to attend the current legislative session, and Skibinski said she helps prepare legislative packets for him and sometimes delivers them to his home on Lake Otis Parkway.
Cowdery represents the Lake Otis area, the residential neighborhoods west of Bicentennial Park and a northern portion of the Hillside.
Smith, the former Veco vice president, testified at one of the corruption trials last fall that he bribed Cowdery, but gave no details.
Cowdery, 77, has maintained he has done nothing wrong.
Straube declined to say whether she too was subpoenaed by the grand jury. In 2005, she and her husband, Phelan Straube, were aides to Ben Stevens. Phelan Straube didn't return several phones calls left at his home number.
Another former Ben Stevens aide, Cheryl Sutton, now working for the Legislature's Budget and Audit Committee, declined to answer questions.
"I'm not going to talk about Ben Stevens," she said.
Stevens, whose offices were also searched in the August 2006 raid, didn't seek re-election that year. Allen, Veco's former chairman, has testified that the $243,250 in "consulting" fees Veco paid to Stevens while he was in office were in part to get Stevens' assistance in the Legislature. Rick Smith testified that he bribed Stevens.
Stevens has denied wrongdoing, but has never said what he did for the money.
CIRI, the regional Native corporation in Anchorage, has had close ties to Ted Stevens. Evidence that surfaced in a lawsuit involving CIRI last year showed the company, when it was headed by Carl Marrs, paid for Ted Stevens' stay at a Bristol Bay fishing lodge. Marrs was also a partner with Ted Stevens in a race horse. Marrs retired from CIRI in 2004.
In 2002, Ben Stevens was paid $146,000 as a CIRI consultant, but he repaid the money the following year.
Jager, the CIRI spokesman, declined to say what kind of documentation the government was seeking, except that it was extensive.
"The federal investigators had specifically asked that we not discuss the contents of the subpoena," Jager said.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345. Lisa Demer contributed to this story.