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May 29, 2007

Sen. Ted Stevens' remodeling job part of FBI Alaska probe

Posted by David Postman at 10:34 AM

The Anchorage Daily News has the story this morning about the FBI's interest in work done on Stevens' home south of Anchorage. The investigation involves the role of Veco, the oil field service company already implicated in the widening Alaska corruption scandal.

Richard Mauer writes:

Three contractors who worked on the project said in recent interviews with the Daily News that the FBI asked them to turn over their records from the job. One said he was called to testify about the project before a federal grand jury in Anchorage in December.

The remodeling work, which more than doubled the size of the house, occurred in the summer and fall of 2000. The four-bedroom home, about two blocks from the day lodge parking lot at the Alyeska ski resort, is Stevens' official residence in Alaska.

And it's all on the record with names attached:

Last year, some six years after the project was completed, Paone said, "the FBI came over to me and I gave them all the paperwork I had on it." When he was questioned by the FBI, he said, agents seemed particularly interested in Veco and its officials. The government already had copies of most of his invoices on the Stevens home, having obtained them from Veco files, he said.

Paone said he followed that up by testifying before a federal grand jury in December.

About a year ago, Hannah, the house mover, came to work at his yard in South Anchorage and found an FBI agent's card on his office door, he said. When he called the agent, he was told the government was going to subpoena his records on the project. He said he sent his father downtown with all the files. He hasn't gotten them back, he said.

MORE: Now that we know that Ted Stevens' home is at least part of the Alaska corruption scandal, it's worth revisiting the news from last fall about the unusual way in which the new U.S. Attorney in Alaska was chosen. Unlike most of the previous ones, the appointment of Nelson Cohen happened without advice from Stevens himself. And Stevens says he's still looking for an Alaskan to replace the Pittsburgh native with.

The senator's son, former state Sen. Ben Stevens, has already been named in the corruption scandal. His office was one of six lawmakers' office raided by federal agents last year. Ben Stevens has not been charged. But the plea agreement with Veco officials say ben Stevens improperly took money from the company for lobbying fellow lawmakers and other questionable chores.

As I wrote last fall, the investigation was so sensitive that Ted Stevens was cut out of his customary role in choosing U.S. attorneys in the state. The Daily News reported that Stevens had been pushing to give the job to an Alaskan, but the Department of Justice brought in an Outsider instead. A Stevens aide told the paper that the senator was "furious at the way the attorney general handled this."

It sure seemed like the feds were working hard to keep Stevens from having any influence. An investigation that came even close to Ben Stevens was certainly a matter of some sensitivity for the Administration. Wev Shea, a former Republican U.S. Attorney in Alaska, told me at the time that he was confident that the raids on Ben Stevens' office and the others likely didn't happen until President Bush himself was briefed and gave his OK.

Today's Daily News story says that one of the contractor's on Ted Stevens' home remodeling testified before a grand jury in December. What I wonder is whether at the time Stevens was cut out of selecting a U.S. attorney whether the feds already knew that the senator could become involved in the case.

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