FBI searches offices of 6 Alaska lawmakers, including son of U.S. Sen. Stevens

Friday, September 1st 2006, 11:31 am
By: News On 6

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ The offices of at least six Alaska legislators, including the son of Sen. Ted Stevens, were raided by federal agents searching for possible ties between the lawmakers and a large oil field services company, officials and aides said.

Tam Cook, the Legislature's top attorney, said the company named in the search warrant was VECO Corp., an Anchorage-based oil field services and construction company whose executives are major contributors to political campaigns.

Four different teams of at least six federal agents each spent hours searching offices on each floor of the Capitol.

Among the offices searched was that of Republican Senate President Ben Stevens, the son of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Agents left Stevens' Capitol office Thursday evening with 12 boxes of documents labeled ``Evidence'' and loaded them into a vehicle.

``I don't know what they're going to do with it,'' said Special Agent Wade Dudley. ``We collect it for the case agent's review.''

There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment late Thursday from Ben Stevens, other lawmakers or Senate Republican majority spokesman Jeff Turner.

Two legislative aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because federal agents told them not to talk to reporters, said the FBI agents were looking for any ties including financial information and gifts.

One aide said he demanded to read the warrant before allowing the search and saw that it named VECO officials Bill Allen, Rick Smith and Pete Leathard.

The second aide said agents did not show him the warrant but described what was in it, covering searches of computer files, personal diaries and other documentation. He said that among documents that were taken included a lawmaker's 2006 day planner, travel itineraries, Alaska Public Office Commission reports and paperwork related to a draft natural gas contract the governor's office gave to every legislator in May.

There was no immediate response to a call seeking comment from VECO representatives.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said the FBI and Internal Revenue Service executed search warrants in Anchorage, Juneau, Wasilla, Eagle River and Girdwood, but he would not say who was served search warrants.

The warrants had not been filed with the clerk's office at the U.S. District Court by Thursday afternoon. A woman who answered the phone at the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage said no one locally could answer questions about the raid, and referred questions to a Department of Justice spokeswoman in Washington who didn't answer her phone.

Also searched were offices in both Juneau and Anchorage belonging to state Sen. John Cowdery, the Senate Rules chairman; Republican state Rep. Vic Kohring; Republican state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch; Democratic state Sen. Donald Olson, and Republican state Rep. Pete Kott.

Kohring said he cooperated and was told he was not a target of the investigation.

Cowdery, a Republican from Anchorage, said Friday he didn't know why he was included in the raid or why agents seized items ``unrelated to anything,'' including the stubs of his legislative salary checks. Cowdery said he has not retained an attorney to deal with the matter, but probably will.

It's pretty bizarre,'' he said. ``That's all I know, it's pretty bizarre. I certainly haven't done anything wrong.''