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Sullivan should have investigated alleged corruption as Alaska attorney general

Ray Metcalfe
OPINION: Given Alaska's history with public corruption, as attorney general, Dan Sullivan should have better heeded the difference between political disclosure requirements and anti-bribery laws. Images_of_Money photo / cc via Flickr

As demonstrated by 12 bribery-related federal indictments and ten bribery-related convictions, we Alaskans live in a very corrupt state.

Between February 2008 and August 2010, 12 Anchorage Daily News headline stories pointed out that Veco owner Bill Allen, the man who bribed so many of Alaska's legislators, had also been investigated by the Anchorage Police Department for alleged sexual activities with underage girls.

After it became clear to the Anchorage Police Department that federal prosecutors were, most probably as part of a plea bargain, refusing to prosecute Allen for sex with underage girls, then-Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan was asked why the state wasn't pursuing the matter.

Sullivan responded saying "no one at the Department of Law, including the Anchorage District Attorney, knew about the woman's allegations before they were detailed in an Aug. 21, 2010, Anchorage Daily News story." If true, Alaska's top law enforcement officer was not only oblivious to what was happening within law enforcement within his own state, he wasn't even reading the newspaper accounts.

In the end, Sullivan chose to do the same thing with Bill Allen's evidence of sex crimes as he did with evidence of state senator Ben Stevens' soliciting bribes: absolutely nothing.

When federal prosecutors were caught withholding evidence of their star witness Bill Allen's alleged sex crimes from the jurors in the prosecution of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, Stevens' conviction was thrown out, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder chose to drop the entire Alaska corruption investigation. The dropped federal investigations included the federal investigation of Ben Stevens' alleged bribery schemes.

Yet Veco owner Bill Allen and Veco Vice President Rick Smith, both convicted of bribery, gave sworn testimony in Federal Court that they had bribed Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens. Bill Allen and Rick Smith's testimony would have given Sullivan the ammunition to pick up where federal prosecutors stopped and pursue an Alaska indictment of Ben Stevens. However, he chose to do nothing.

In 2009, Attorney General Sullivan came to the defense of Lesil McGuire, then a seated member of the Alaska House of Representatives, when presented with a copy of a contract between her and one of Alaska's biggest corporations. The contract required the employing corporation to pay McGuire $10,500 and required McGuire to develop a plan "with implementation strategies" that would require the state to pay $7 million to that corporation.

Accompanying the copy of the contract delivered to Sullivan was a copy of a "Confidential Memo" from McGuire to the CEO of the employing corporation explaining that the Legislature wasn't likely to appropriate the entire $7 million in one lump sum, but more likely in smaller annual increments. Sullivan was furnished copies of incremental legislative appropriations, totaling exactly $7 million paid to McGuire's client as described among the "deliverables" in McGuire's contract and copies of McGuire's invoices for services totaling $10,500.

We elect people to exercise their judgment on our behalf. McGuire's actions may or may not have been part of a bribery scheme. Thanks to the judgment of Dan Sullivan, no jury was ever offered the chance to answer that question.

You be the judge. The documents provided to Sullivan and Sullivan's letter Defending McGuire are available online.

Should Sullivan have presented the documents to a grand jury or asked the white-collar investigation division of the Alaska State Troopers to investigate further? Sullivan, in defense of McGuire, said the Alaska Public Offices Commission considered and dismissed a complaint against McGuire.  However, APOC lacks the authority to rule on questions of bribery. APOC only rules on questions of compliance with reporting statutes; AS 24.60.200, and AS.39.50.030. McGuire had reported her receipt of payments from her employing corporation as "consulting fees" and APOC agreed that met Alaska's reporting requirements.

The question before Attorney General Sullivan was whether or not McGuire had violated AS 11.56.110, Alaska's bribery statute, which provides that a public servant commits the crime of receiving a bribe if the public servant ... (2) accepts ... a benefit upon an agreement that the public servant's vote ... will be influenced.

Whether or not McGuire violated AS 11.56.110 was the question that Dan Sullivan so cleverly dodged in his sleight-of-hand response dated Aug. 18, 2009.

Ray Metcalfe lives in Anchorage. He is a former member of the Alaska State House, and is president of an Alaska government watchdog organization, Citizens for Ethical Government.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.