- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FBI, working with an Alaskan oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting, according to people close to the investigation.

The secret recordings suggest the Justice Department was eyeing the Alaska Republican long before June, when Mr. Stevens first publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny. At that time, it appeared Mr. Stevens was a new focus in a case that already had ensnared several state lawmakers.

The recorded calls between Mr. Stevens and businessman Bill Allen were confirmed by two persons close to the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. They declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.

Allen, a wealthy businessman and Mr. Stevens’ political patron, agreed to the taping last year after authorities confronted him with evidence that suggested he had bribed Alaska lawmakers. He pleaded guilty to bribery and is a key witness against Alaska legislators. He also has told prosecutors he paid his employees to renovate the senator’s house.

In July, FBI agents raided that house in the Anchorage suburb of Girdwood. Mr. Stevens has denied any wrongdoing and said he paid every bill he received for the project.

Spokesman Aaron Saunders declined to comment yesterday. Mr. Stevens has said he won’t discuss the investigation for fear it will look like he’s trying to influence it.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the agency will not discuss any aspect of the ongoing investigation.

Allen testified last week in federal court that he called several people at the FBI’s behest.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Allen said of his efforts for the FBI.

A judge had previously ruled that Allen could not discuss politicians under investigation.

Allen is the founder of VECO Corp., an oil services firm that made nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. The company was a powerful lobbying force and its employees donated heavily to federal and state campaigns.

Beyond the calls Allen made while cooperating, prosecutors also have thousands of conversations the FBI recorded while secretly wiretapping phones belonging to Allen and fellow VECO executive Rick Smith. Agents also secretly videotaped meetings between contractors and state politicians at a hotel suite in Juneau.

In addition to work on Mr. Stevens’ house, a former employee said VECO workers also helped run the senator’s fundraisers while on company time

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