TPM News

So what did VECO get in return?

Federal prosecutors unveiled a narrowly focused indictment today for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), limiting the criminal charges to the senator's disclosure forms and what the Alaska-based energy services firm did for the lawmaker.

But there was, briefly, a small set of allegations about the longtime senator did for the company.

Among them, federal prosecutors say, Stevens provided: "funding requests and other assistance with certain international VECO projects and partnerships, including those in Pakistan and Russia."

We've heard allegations of favors related to Pakistan before.

In the late 1990s, VECO built a $70 million pipeline for Pakistan and the military dictatorship running the country was slow to pay its bill. That is until Pakistan needed help from Congress on a trade issue, and Stevens was positioned to block the legislation at issue. Pakistan paid its tab soon after concluding it might help them out on Capitol Hill, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As for Russia, it's unclear exactly what the prosecutors are referring to. VECO did a lot of business in Russia, often subcontracting work for large multinational oil companies. Also in 2005, VECO hired Steven's son, Ben Stevens, to lobby the World Bank to get money the company needed for a spill cleanup job in Russia.

It's hard to know precisely. And that's probably one reason the feds limited the prosecution of Stevens to false statements made on his financial disclosure forms. Proving quid pro quo in court is exceptionally hard.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) who was indicted today on seven counts of false statements, has released a statement through his Senate office:

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator. In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.

From Roll Call:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who has been indicted on seven counts of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms, has stepped down from his post atop two committees, according to a senior GOP aide.

Republicans may vote as early as Wednesday afternoon to select replacements.

Consistent with GOP bylaws that require Members who are under felony indictment to relinquish their ranking posts on committees, Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator, has officially stepped down as ranking member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The recent indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is up in TPMmuckraker's document collection, but here's a quick and dirty summary of the seven counts of false statements which are based on his personal financial disclosure forms from 1999 to 2006.

According to the indictment, Stevens concealed "things of value," estimated at around $250,000, from his publicly filed personal financial disclosure forms over the past seven years. It is this concealment, and not the legality of accepting those "things of value," that is at issue.

We've reported extensively on those gifts from VECO and VECO's former CEO Bill Allen which are the primary exchanges named in the indictment.

While Allen pleaded guilty to bribery charges over these gifts in 2007, it's important to note that no bribery charges are being filed against Stevens.

For the DOJ comments on the indictment, check out our video of the press conference.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was indicted today for accepting more than $250,000 in undisclosed renovations and repairs for his home in Girwood, Alaska, according to Stevens' indictment.

Stevens' friend William Allen, the head of VECO company, was providing most of the labor and some supplies for the projects, but never charged Stevens for the work, according to the indictment today.

In 2000, Stevens and Allen began discussing renovations for his home, putting together a plan that would eventually include a full basement, first-floor addition with multiple bedrooms and a bathroom, the indictment said.

It was a massive undertaking. Workers took the small home and jacked it up on stilts, then built a new first floor underneath with two bedrooms and a bathroom, the indictment said.

Then workers added a garage with a workshop and a second-story wraparound deck. VECO employees and contractors also installed electrical, plumbing, framing, heating, and flooring materials, the indictment said.

In 2001, Allen gave Stevens some furniture, a new Viking gas grill and a new tool shed full of tools, according to the indictment.

In 2002, VECO continued work on the outside of the house, installing a first-floor wraparound deck, a plastic roof between the first- and second-floor decks, and a lighting system worth a total of about $55,000, the indictment said.

In 2004, VECO installed some kitchen appliances in the house, the indictment said.

In 2005, the company did some repairs to the roof and gutters, the indictment said.

In 2006, Stevens called Allen and asked him to repair his boiler system. Allen instructed the contractor to divide the bill into two parts, supplies and labor. Allen told the contractor to send the bill for supplies to Stevens and the labor to Allen, the indictment said.

Stevens knew this, and at least once asked Allen to send him the invoice for the labor, but Allen never did and Stevens never reimbursed him, the indictment said.

The home renovations were not the first time Stevens had accepted favors from Allen.

Back in 1999, Stevens mentioned to Allen that he wanted to get a new car for his daughter. That led to a deal in which Allen gave Stevens a new 1999 Land Rover Discovery, worth $44,000. In exchange, Stevens gave Allen a 1964½ Ford Mustang and $5,000. Prosecutors say the Mustang was worth less than $20,000.

In September 2000, Stephens wrote Allen an email about the work:

"we've never worked with a man so easy to get along with as [a VECO employee], Plus, everyone who's seen the place wants to know who has done the things he's done. . . . You and [PERSON A] have been the spark plugs and we are really pleased with all you have done. hope to see you and the chalet soon. best teds."

From Reuters:

Sen. Ted Stevens from Alaska, the longest serving U.S. Republican senator ever, was indicted on seven counts related to his holding of public office, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Late update: It's worth noting that this comes a few days before the one year anniversary of the date federal agents raided Stevens' Girdwood home.

Ted Stevens, 84, has been a frequent character on TPMmuckraker. For a good profile on the indicted Senator, see here.

No one answered at Stevens' Senate Office in D.C. and the answering machine recording said that the office was closed. In a call to his Anchorage campaign office, the staffer who answered responded, "What?" when asked for a comment on the indictment, followed by a long silence. The staffer would not give further comment on whether or not the office knew that the indictment was handed up today.

Late late update: From McClatchy: The Justice Department will be making a statement at 1:20 to announce the indictment.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the indictment comes from a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C.

Late late late update: The AP is reporting the indictments are seven counts of false statements.

Our calls to Brendan Sullivan, Steven's attorney, were not immediately returned.

We have a copy of the Stevens indictment titled, United States of America v. Theodore F. Stevens, it can be viewed here.

The seven counts of false statements appear to be referencing seven years of false statements made on his financial disclosure forms relating to gifts he received from former VECO CEO Bill Allen for the renovations on his home in Girdwood, Alaska, among others.

Allen pleaded guilty to giving more than $400,000 worth of "illegal benefits" to politicians and their families in late 2007.

The DOJ Presser just started.

"As a member of the US Senate, Sen. Ted Stevens was required to file financial disclosure forms. . . to monitor or deter conflicts of interest within the US Senate and its membership."

Between 1999-2006 he accepted gifts from VECO, include substantial amounts of material and labor in his private residence. These allegations include addition of new first floor, new bedrooms and bathrooms.

The total amount of gifts is valued at over $250,000.

In a Q&A, it was revealed that Stevens will be turning himself in and will not be arrested. Stevens' attorney received a call earlier today informing him of his client's indictments.

Filing false financial disclosure statement can result in civil and criminal penalties, including up to 5 years in prison.

The DOJ is not alleging bribery or any kind of quid pro quo, and mentioned that the investigation is continuing.

Special Counsel Scott Bloch is under investigation by the FBI. His own employees can't stand him. And now pressure is mounting from Capitol Hill for one of Washington's top watchdogs to step down.

House oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent Bloch a letter yesterday urging him to step down from the agency charged with investigating allegations of retaliation against whistle blowers.

The mission of the agency should be the paramount consideration. It is for this reason that I have concluded that OSC would be better served with new leadership and urge you to step down as the Special Counsel. Such a move would be in the best interest of the agency and the federal employees its charged to protect.
Waxman's letter comes after Bloch's chief deputy resigned from the office citing "political agendas."

Up until now, Waxman has been uncharacteristically quiet regarding allegations of Bloch's misconduct, which includes retaliating against whistleblowers in his own office.

The committee's ranking member, Tom Davis (R-VA), called for Bloch's resignation weeks ago.

Among our coverage yesterday of the OIG report, was the specific case of an "experienced terrorism prosecutor" who was denied a DOJ promotion because Monica Goodling discovered that his wife was a longtime Democrat.

That man has now been identified by The Buffalo News as William J. Hochul Jr., a career federal prosecutor from Western New York, whose wife, Kathleen Hochul, was a longtime Democrat:

The report does not name that attorney, but sources told The Buffalo News that it was William J. Hochul Jr., a winner of the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service -- and the husband of Kathleen C. Hochul, a longtime Democratic activist and former Hamburg Town Board member who was elected Erie County clerk in 2007.

The Justice Department's liaison to the Bush White House, Monica M. Goodling, blocked Hochul's appointment to the counterterrorism post, sources said.

"As a result, a much less experienced, but politically acceptable, attorney was assigned this important responsibility," says the report, issued by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General.

The Buffalo News also identifies another Western New York federal prosecutor mentioned in the report, who was also nixed by Goodling for a promotion to Main Justice:

Similarly, although Michael A. Battle -- former U. S. attorney in Western New York -- headed the Executive Office of U. S. Attorneys from 2005 to 2007, Goodling blocked his choice for his own top assistant.

Goodling viewed Battle's pick as a "political infant" who had not proved himself to the Republican Party, Battle told investigators. Sources identified the failed nominee as John Kelly of the U. S. attorney's office in Rochester.

A former CIA-backed Haitian death squad leader was convicted Friday of carrying out a mortgage fraud scheme in the U.S. Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, former leader of FRAPH, was convicted of organizing millions of dollars in fraudulent financing in Brooklyn. (CNN)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) may support the Justice Department' investigation into Maryland's State Police undercover surveillance of activists for over a year. The program, which targeted nonviolent groups such as death penalty opponents and peace activists, was in place in 2005 and 2006. (Washington Post)

The FBI and IRS searched Cuyahoga County offices in Cleveland yesterday in part of a public corruption investigation. In addition, both the county auditor and commissioner were greeted by FBI vehicles at their homes. (AP)

Read More →

Richard Perle has almost always gone along with the Bush administration's policies.

But now the longtime neoconservative policy wonk is trying to get in on an oil-drilling deal with Iraqi Kurds despite the administration's public opposition to such deals there.

Perle, one of the most influential proponents of 2003 invasion of Iraq, is in talks to join a consortium of investors with the Kurdish Regional Government, today's Wall Street Journal reports.

The Bush administration has publicly discouraged energy firms from making unilateral deals with Iraqi Kurds until after Iraq's federal government in Baghdad agrees to a law for sharing future revenues. Disagreements over oil money have inflamed sectarian tensions in Iraq and undermined political unity.

But investigators are looking into whether the Bush administration privately gave the go-ahead to energy firms seeking the lucrative deals with the Kurds.

The Journal reports that Perle is talking with a Turkish firm, AK Group International, and also a representative from the government of Kazakhstan. They are targeting the co-called "K18 concession" which is near the city of Erbil and is estimated to hold 150 million or more barrels of oil.

Houston-based Endeavour International would conduct the exploration and drilling, according to the Journal.

During the run-up to the Iraq war, Perle was chairman of the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon. He is currently a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington.