The feds are probing whether Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was on the take from execs at the oil company Veco. One focus in particular has been whether CEO Bill Allen paid for Stevens to jack up his Alaska home and another floor. Allen, cooperating with investigators, even taped phone conversations with Stevens. That much is clear.
But there’s another angle to the investigation which seems to center on Stevens’ possible use of earmarks to stuff his buddies’ pockets. One of those earmarks that’s getting a lot of attention is a $1.6 million appropriation Stevens made in 2005 to the Alaska SeaLife Center for it to buy property partially owned by Trevor McCabe, a former aide and close associate of Stevens. McCabe is also tied up in another area of investigation with Stevens’ son Ben.
According to this detailed blow-by-blow account of the deal by The Anchorage Daily News, an aide from Stevens’ office and a lobbyist teamed up in order to make sure that McCabe and his partners got their money. They had some trouble finding the right organization to close the deal. The City of Seward, where the property is located, was eventually ruled out, because the requisite public oversight would prove too hairy — it wasn’t a sure thing. That’s why the funds made their way to the SeaLife Center, a marine research center and tourist attraction that’s grown up on $50 million in public money.
As the ADN summarizes the deal:
The backdoor arrangement described in the documents appeared to assure that a money-losing real estate venture by the partners would be bailed out by U.S. taxpayers without any need for the earmark itself to be explicit about its intent. As passed into law, the public language of the legislation only spoke vaguely about “various acquisitions.”
The FBI is digging on this, along with the inspector generals from the Interior and Commerce departments.