Monday, July 30, 2007

WILL TED STEVENS AND DON YOUNG GET TO BE PRISON ROOMIES-- OR DO THEY SEPARATE MEMBERS OF THE SAME GANG IN JAILS?

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The FBI doesn't go running around raiding the homes of prominent politicians, especially not powerful members of Congress who vote on departmental budgets. The Bush Regime has punished law enforcement officials-- U.S. Attorneys or, I should say, former U.S. Attorneys, who have strayed a little too close to major Republican lawbreakers like Jerry Lewis (R-CA). It was cataclysmic inside the GOP when the FBI raided the homes of corrupt congressmen Rick Renzi (R-AZ) and John Doolittle (R-CA). Just one week ago Karl Rove told Republicans in a closed-door session that the Iraq war didn't do anything to hurt Republicans last November and that it can't touch them-- as long as they don't get associated with corruption and sex scandals.

Alaska has 3 members of Congress, all Republicans, 2 senators and an at-large House member. Judging by the news, neither the House member, Don Young, nor the senior senator, Ted Stevens, is likely to be at large for very long-- and the other senator, Lisa Murkowski, from one of the most corrupt political families in the history of the state, was just caught in some financial and real estate improprieties which aren't likely to be swept under the rug too quickly either.

Earlier today we were looking at the case building against Don Young, the crooked congressman who was named, when Rolling Stone examined the records of every member of Congress, one of the 10 worst congressmen (the third worst, to be exact) and dubbed Mr. Pork. By the time our story was posted, the news about FBI and IRS agents swarming through Senator Ted Stevens' home was breaking. This morning it was Young; this afternoon it was Stevens. Last week it was Murkowski's shady real estate dealings.

Stevens, 83 years old-- and not nearly as mentally alert as he was just a few years ago-- is he longest-serving Republican in Senate history. Tomorrow's Hill paints a dismal picture for the Dean of the Senate Republicans:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on Monday, advancing the corruption probe that has ensnared the once-untouchable GOP dean.

...That home has fueled the investigation into Stevens’ ties to oil-field services company Veco, whose two top executives recently resigned after pleading guilty to bribery and fraud.

Bill Allen, Veco’s former CEO, is a longtime friend and business partner of Stevens, and investigators are examining Allen’s involvement in a 2000 renovation of the senior Republican appropriator’s house. The construction project added a story to the building, and contractors have reportedly testified before a grand jury that Allen and Veco received the bills for their work.

Stevens has denied any appearance of impropriety in the home renovation, stating specifically earlier this month that every bill he and his wife received was paid with their personal money, “and that’s all there is to it.” The famously combative senator has acknowledged that the federal probe may complicate his reelection effort next year-- a concept still almost unthinkable to many in Alaska, where Stevens’ talent for securing federal dollars has made him a legend.

That legend has become somewhat tarnished of late as Alaskans have come to realize that considerable amounts of those federal dollars have flowed directly into the pockets of the Stevens, Young and Murkowski families. More people now think it is time to elect a new senator in Alaska than think it would be wise to keep Stevens (if, by some quirk, he escapes going to prison).


UPDATE: THE WASHINGTON POST HAS MORE

When the GOP ruled the Senate, Stevens was head of the Appropriations Committee and was able to help funnel more than $30 million dollars into Veco contracts. Veco was very generous to him and his family in return.
Stevens is not the only Alaska Republican to be spending large sums on lawyers, according to congressional financial disclosures. From April through June, Rep. Don Young (R) spent more than $262,000 on two law firms. A local office director for Young formerly lobbied for Veco, and Allen used to hold an annual fundraiser for Young.

Part of Allen's plea agreement included charges that he illegally laundered donations to federal officials by reimbursing company officials for contributions they made in 2005 and 2006 to campaign committees. In that period, Stevens and Young were the top recipients of Veco cash, taking in $37,000 and $30,250, respectively.

Allen also pleaded guilty to illegally underwriting the cost of political fundraisers. the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Young recently amended his campaign filings to show $38,000 in payments to Allen for "fundraising costs." Young has declined to comment on the Veco matter.

Would you think it strange if some visitor came here, looked over our newspapers and assumed the Republican Party was a huge criminal enterprise? Would they be wrong?


UPDATE: A FLY IN THE OINTMENT

While Ken and I were writing about Alaska's criminal congressionals yesterday and today, something kept gnawing at me: why did the FBI wait so long? I mean there have been stories in the papers for weeks about the investigation. Couldn't Stevens-- a wily operator-- have destroyed all the evidence? Michael Froomkin at Is That Legal? may have been thinking along the same lines. He found the same Washington Post line that troubled me:
Stevens said in a statement that his attorneys were advised of the impending search yesterday morning.

And Michael continues: "I spent nearly 9 years as a federal prosecutor. I'm not aware of a single instance when any prosecutor or agent told anyone outside the Justice Department that a search warrant was going to be executed later in the day. Telling outsiders-- especially lawyers for the person whose property will be searched-- defeats one of the principal purposes of a search warrant: SURPRISE to ensure the integrity of the evidence field."

The Anchorage Daily News reports today that the Feds were at Chez Stevens for about 12 hours starting at 11AM and they hauled off "undisclosed items from inside and taking extensive pictures and video." Is it worth anything? I guess we'll have to watch the court case unfold.

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