Lawmaker Ted Stevens' Home Searched by Agents
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
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And I'm Alex Cohen.
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CHADWICK: First, the lead. Just outside Anchorage, Alaska - this was yesterday - federal agents raided the home of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. He is a giant of Alaskan politics, the longest serving Republican in the Senate.
NPR's Martin Kaste reports the search was a sign that he's now targeted for a federal corruption investigation.
MARTIN KASTE: Girdwood is a woodsy little community about an hour southeast of Anchorage. And it's not every day that the locals see teams of FBI and IRS agents swooping in. So when the feds showed up in Senator Stevens' driveway yesterday morning, it got this neighbor's attention.
Unidentified Man: When they first got here, they tried all the doors and the windows. They went up on the deck and around the building, and looked and then couldn't get in and then called a locksmith.
KASTE: Stevens wasn't home. And the feds spent the day taking pictures and videos of his house and its amenities. The FBI won't say what it was after, but a grand jury has been looking into a renovation job back in 2000 that doubled the size of the house. Construction was reportedly overseen by an executive from a prominent local oil services company called Veco. And the question now is who paid the bills?
Two weeks ago, Senator Stevens talked about the case with reporters over the objections of his lawyers.
Senator TED STEVENS (Republican, Alaska): They told me not to answer any questions. As a practical matter I will tell you we paid every bill that was given to us. Every bill that was presented to us has been paid, personally, with our own money. And that's all there is to it.
KASTE: But in Alaska these days, any past connection to Veco is potentially toxic. That's because two of the company's former top executives have pleaded guilty to bribing elected officials and they're now cooperating with investigators. Three former state legislators have already been charged with corruption. And the feds now seem to be working their way up the chain to Alaska's members of Congress.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Alaska's lone representative in the House, Don Young, is also being investigated for his ties to Veco. If that's confirmed, it would mean two-thirds of Alaska's congressional delegation may face charges for taking illegal contributions from the oil industry.
Mr. JAKE METCALFE (Former Chairman, Alaska Democratic Party): Oh, yeah. There's an opportunity here.
KASTE: Jake Metcalfe is a prominent figure in the Alaska Democratic Party, which hasn't won a congressional election since the 1970s. But he says these investigations are about to change all that.
Mr. METCALFE: I think people are sick of it. They, I think, in the end, are going to clean the house, both in the legislature and in the congressional delegation, and they simply - enough is enough.
KASTE: Metcalfe clearly likes the Democrats' chances. Shortly after this interview, he stepped down as party chair and declared himself a candidate, challenging Don Young, who's been in Congress since 1973. They've already set up a Web site focusing on Don Young.
(Soundbite of construction noise)
KASTE: A noisy Web site, it's called dropdon.com. And it invites visitors to explore what it calls the Don Young web of corruption. It goes beyond the Veco case, offering details of Young's alleged links to Jack Abramoff and other bad boys. The Republican chairman in Alaska, Randy Ruedrich, says the Democrats are just trading in one-sided allegations. And he says they won't be able to ride the corruption issue to victory.
Mr. RANDY RUEDRICH (Alaska GOP Chairman): The current state registration advantage of the Republican Party over the Democrat Party is approximately 60 percent. As long as we have a candidate that they can relate to, I think we will do quite well.
KASTE: And in fact, at least one Republican has benefited from the growing concern over corruption. Governor Sarah Palin was elected last year after she challenged her own party's incumbent governor - on the issue of ethics.
Martin Kaste, NPR News.
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