- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Federal authorities investigating Sen. Ted Stevens are trolling the Alaska fishing industry for evidence of whether the powerful Republican pushed seafood legislation that benefited his lobbyist son.

So far, the most public aspect of the investigation was the FBI raid on Mr. Stevens’ home in July, with agents seeking evidence of the senator’s relationship with a corrupt Alaskan oil contractor.

But authorities also have quietly amassed evidence about fishing. After serving subpoenas throughout the industry last year, investigators recently returned to Seattle, home to many of the boats and processors that bring Alaska’s seafood to market.

Industry officials and attorneys involved in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because authorities told them not to discuss the probe, said investigators are asking about federal legislation that directly or indirectly aided the senator’s son, Ben, who is a state lobbyist and politician.

The legislation was passed as earmarks, short spending items that lawmakers tack onto bills to steer federal money to pet projects. Ted Stevens, an unapologetic user of earmarks, is the biggest champion for Alaska’s $2 billion-a-year seafood industry.

Mr. Stevens said he won’t discuss the investigation so it won’t appear he is trying to influence it. His spokesman, Aaron Saunders, did not return a message seeking comment.

Among the pieces of Stevens-sponsored legislation being eyed is a 2003 earmark that gave exclusive pollock fishing rights to Alaska natives in the far-flung Aleutian community of Adak. That meant millions of dollars for Adak Fisheries to manage the catch. The company paid Ben Stevens $295,000 between 2000 and 2004, according to state financial-disclosure reports. When the earmark went through, Ben Stevens also secretly held an option to buy into Adak Fisheries.

Questioned by the Anchorage Daily News in 2003, Mr. Stevens dismissed any connection between the legislation and his son’s consulting business.

“Neither one of us is getting rich,” he said. “And we’re doing what we think is right.”

When the stock option surfaced in a lawsuit in 2005, the senator said he never discussed the pollock bill with his son.

“I have all kinds of ownership in stock and real estate that my father doesn’t have a clue about,” Ben Stevens said at the time. “You don’t tell your father every time you make a decision. I’m 46 years old.”

Documents related to the earmarks are among those subpoenaed by authorities last year. At the time, however, Mr. Stevens was not known to be a focus of the investigation. He denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime.

Despite the criminal investigation, he remains extremely popular in his home state, where he has been a political figure since before statehood. Mr. Stevens is up for re-election next year and has more than $1 million in campaign cash.

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