The indictment of state Sen. John Cowdery culminates another investigation of a public official targeted in federal raids, subpoenas and wiretaps in Alaska over the last two years.
But what of the far more powerful and prominent elected officials also in the sights of the FBI, IRS and other federal agencies, men like U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, his son Ben, and U.S. Rep. Don Young?
Ben Stevens, the former Alaska Senate president, was probably the best known among those whose legislative offices were searched in a series of raids on Aug. 31, 2006. Nearly a year later, the FBI and IRS searched Ted Stevens' home in Girdwood, in part to document an extensive addition built by Veco Corp. employees and contractors. Young is also under investigation for his ties to Veco and for an earmark he sponsored for a Florida highway interchange sought by a key campaign contributor.
Ben and Ted Stevens and Young say they have done nothing wrong, and federal prosecutors and agents won't say where their investigations are going or when they might get there.
"Ben Stevens denies that he engaged in any criminal or other wrong doing during his term in the Alaska state Legislature," his attorney, John Wolfe of Seattle, said Thursday.
Cowdery is the fourth legislator targeted in the 2006 raids to be indicted. Two others, Ben Stevens and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, have not been charged.
Olson is mentioned in Cowdery's indictment as "State Senator A," a legislator whose vote on oil-tax legislation Cowdery and Veco officials allegedly tried to buy through $25,000 in Veco-related campaign contributions. There is no record of Olson ever taking the money, and he testified to a federal grand jury and has been interviewed by federal authorities.
Ben Stevens has refused to publicly account for the more than $250,000 in "consulting" fees Veco paid him while he was a state senator. On the witness in the trial of another legislator, former Veco chairman Bill Allen described the money as mainly related to Stevens' work in the Legislature. Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing legislators.
Stevens is the legislator in Cowdery's indictment identified as "State Senator B," according to Kevin Fitzgerald, Cowdery's attorney. The indictment says Senator B was involved in Veco's effort to secure Olson's vote on a new oil-company tax.
As for Ted Stevens, witnesses with knowledge of Veco's 2000 renovations of his Girdwood home, have reported testifying before grand juries in Anchorage and Washington, D.C. Stevens has said he paid all the bills he was presented, leaving open the question of whether he was billed the entire amount. On advice of his attorneys, he has refused to answer questions from reporters.
The expansion doubled the size of his home.
Young has acknowledged that he failed to disclose Veco campaign contributions, which in some years were more than law permits. Young's campaign sent Allen a check for nearly $38,000 in 2007 to cover past excessive contributions. Congress has asked the Justice Department to investigate Young's 2005 earmark for $10 million to study the proposed Coconut Road highway interchange in Florida sought by real estate developer Daniel Aronoff.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.