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Stevens indicted in probe of gifts
Question of the Day
Mr. Stevens’ indictments were announced days after Republicans made inroads with their push to highlight Democrats’ reluctance to move on legislation that would increase domestic oil drilling - an issue that Americans increasingly favor, polls show.
The indictment accused the six-term senator of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms from 2001 to 2006, Justice said. From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said, Mr. Stevens concealed “his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation.”
Prosecutors said Mr. Stevens “took multiple steps to continue” receiving items from VECO and its founder, Bill Allen. The indictment says Allen and other VECO employees were soliciting Mr. Stevens for “multiple official actions … knowing that Stevens could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of VECO during that same time period.”
VECO’s requests included funding and other aid for the company’s projects and partnerships in Pakistan and Russia. It also included federal grants from several agencies, as well as help in building a national gas pipeline in Alaska’s North Slope Region, according to the indictment filed in Washington.
VECO was once the dominant force in Alaska’s oil services industry. Its founder, Allen, and vice president, Rick Smith, have pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers to push legislation to help the company. That initial investigation into VECO spawned the Stevens probe.
Allen agreed to cooperate with the FBI as part of a plea deal for a lesser penalty. That cooperation included letting the FBI tape his phone calls with Mr. Stevens, though those calls do not appear as part of the indictment.
Mr. Friedrich said the investigation, which began about four years ago, is not over and that more indictments and defendants could be named later.
Mr. Stevens, who has served in the Senate since 1968, is no stranger to accusations of abuse of power. He and fellow Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young tried to steer more than $200 million for the construction of an enormous bridge linking mainland Alaska to a sparsely populated island. The infamous “bridge to nowhere” earmark eventually was axed but not before it generated significant criticism and was held up as an example of egregious pork-barrel spending.
The senator’s indictments highlight a string of corruption scandals that have rocked Capitol Hill in recent years, particularly those involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Abramoff pleaded guilty Jan. 5, 2006, to charges of conspiracy and fraud in a $23 million scheme to purchase gambling boats in Miami, a day after admitting to fraud and tax evasion charges in a separate scandal involving his lobbying activities with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He has agreed to cooperate fully in the government’s ongoing Capitol Hill influence-peddling investigation.
Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from Abramoff.
Democrats used the Abramoff scandal as a major campaign issue during the congressional elections in 2006, when Democrats won back control of Congress for the first time in 12 years.
Several other Republican members of Congress have been charged with high-profile crimes in recent years, including:
cFormer Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who served as House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, was charged in 2005 with felony money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Republican fundraising efforts in 2002. One charge has been dropped and two others are being argued before a state appeals court. He stepped down from Congress in 2006.
cFormer Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California in 2006 was sentenced to more than eight years in prison after he collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes in a corruption scheme.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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