Groups Call for Alaska Senator to Leave Committees Two Congressional watchdog groups Tuesday called on Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to step down from his seats on the Senate's Commerce and Appropriations committees. The senator is being investigated as part of a political corruption inquiry.
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Groups Call for Alaska Senator to Leave Committees

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Groups Call for Alaska Senator to Leave Committees

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Groups Call for Alaska Senator to Leave Committees

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Two congressional watchdog groups today called on Alaska's Ted Stevens to step down from his seats on the Senate's Commerce and Appropriations committees. As we just heard, agents from the FBI and IRS raided Stevens' home in a resort community near Anchorage. The powerful Republican is being investigated as part of a public corruption probe that's led to charges against four former state lawmakers in Alaska.

Richard Mauer is following the story for the Anchorage Daily News. And Richard, tell us about this raid on Stevens' house.

Mr. RICHARD MAUER (Correspondent, Anchorage Daily News): It appeared to have started just shortly before noon yesterday when about two dozen agents from the IRS and the FBI got to the door. They had a commercial locksmith, jimmy the lock, and let them in. They were there through the day until about midnight. They appeared to be taking pictures, doing tape measurements, documenting the addition that was put on Ted Stevens' house in the year 2000. That was an addition that was at least monitored. The question is what's actually - were these partially funded by the Alaska-based oil field service company called VECO.

BLOCK: Okay. Now, that's where this gets interesting. The renovation was overseen by Bill Allen, who was the longtime chairman of VECO and an oil field services contractor who pleaded guilty a couple months ago to bribing state lawmakers.

Mr. MAUER: That's correct. And Bill Allen received all the invoices from the prime contractor who did the carpentry and other work on the first story. Now, the contractor says he got checks back from Catherine Stevens, Senator Stevens' wife. So I guess the question is, did the Stevens paid for all the work that was done or did other VECO employees actually do some of the work as well. I think that's part of the issue here.

BLOCK: And the question will be did VECO, in exchange for this, get federal contracts?

Mr. MAUER: That would be the big question. It's unclear. We know that there are some federal contracts to accompany a subsidiary of VECO called VECO Polar, which is based in Colorado that does lots of work for the National Science Foundation. It does a lot of global warming work as far as logistics. The scientist wants to go up to Barrow or to Saint Lawrence Island, for instance, VECO Polar might do lots of the logistics involved in that work.

BLOCK: As part of his plea agreement, it is assumed that Bill Allen is providing evidence against lawmakers he may have dealt with?

Mr. MAUER: That is - it's not assumed it's actually part of his plea agreement. He has to provide evidence. He, and another VECO official - a vice president for government affairs who also plead guilty - are required to provide evidence to the government on other elected officials.

BLOCK: I want to talk to you about how Ted Stevens is viewed in Alaska. First, let's listen to tape of some Alaskans. This was recorded today outside Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.

Mr. TOM HAYET(ph): I think Ted Stevens epitomizes the state. I think he is extremely important to the state. I think he embodies the spirit of Alaska.

Mr. MARTY BOWDEN(ph): Ted Stevens is probably one of the economic blockbusters of Anchorage in Alaska, you know. Without Ted Stevens, this country probably would have dried up and closed the door under the Clinton administration.

Ms. JEANETTE McCLAIN(ph): Well, historically, he certainly brought a lot of money into the state whether or not it was all appropriate is another question. But we have - the state benefited by his - the money he has managed to bring into the state.

BLOCK: That was Jeanette McClain, Tom Hayet and Marty Bowden at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. Richard Mauer, would you say that's pretty typical of how Alaskan voters feel about Senator Stevens?

Mr. MAUER: It's really been the prevailing view over the years. I think that people recognize the fact that Senator Stevens has been one of the key economic engines of the state as much as oil fishing and tourism are important as well.

BLOCK: Richard Mauer is a staff writer at the Anchorage Daily News. Thanks very much.

Mr. MAUER: You're welcome. Nice talking to you.

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