Yesterday, the Anchorage Daily News reported that the FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating how, in 2000, “Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) jacked his house off the ground, inserted a new first story and placed the old first floor on top, thanks to the help of a top executive at local oil company Veco Corp. who hired at least one key contractor to complete the feat of a job.”
The remodeling is suspicious because two former Veco Corp. executives recently pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges, which includes paying $242,000 in illegitimate consulting fees to Stevens’s son, Ben, formerly president of Alaska’s state senate. Additionally, the Veco executives’ guilty pleas noted that “Veco was not in the business of residential construction or remodeling.”
Neither Ben nor Sen. Stevens have been charged. But actions by the federal government to keep the senator away from the investigation indicate that he may be involved. In Aug. 2006, the Bush administration took the unusual step of blocking the Sen. Stevens from having any say in choosing the new U.S. attorney for the state:
Stevens has been trying to get an Alaska lawyer appointed U.S. attorney here, but for one reason or another the people he recommended have been knocked out, a spokesman for the senator said Wednesday.
Instead, the Justice Department brought in a prosecutor from Pittsburgh. A Stevens aide told the Anchorage Daily News that the senator was “furious at the way the attorney general handled this.” In Sept. 2006, the Justice Department recused the entire U.S. attorney’s office in Alaska from the case, explaining that it would be run out of the department’s Public Integrity section.
David Postman of the Seattle Times reports that former Republican U.S. attorney Wev Shea also noted that President Bush probably personally approved the raid on Ben Stevens’s office:
I can guarantee you, virtually, that in the daily briefings that Bob (Mueller) has with the president that the president was briefed and gave his OK on this. It’s not something I say lightly.
ThinkProgress has also confirmed that Scott Leathard, son of Veco president Pete Leathard, continues to serve on Sen. Stevens’s Washington staff. Stevens has received more than $70,000 in political donations from VECO employees.