Ted Stevens’ Friend Testified Before Grand Jury

If you’re a CEO looking to help preserve fish habitats and catch a 60 pound salmon in one weekend, Bob Penney is your man.

He is also old friends with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). The Anchorage Daily News reported this weekend that Penney testified before a grand jury in Alaska a few weeks ago as part of the ongoing federal inquiry into corruption in the state.

Penney is a fresh face in the probe that has grabbed Stevens, and had already touched the senator’s son, Ben Stevens; several other state lawmakers; and two top oil services executives at Veco, both of whom have pled guilty to federal corruption charges.

The longtime Alaskan entrepreneur is known for founding the Ted Stevens Kenai River Classic over ten years ago to help protect the sports-fishing river that is home to a wild salmon run. The weekend event now draws politicians from as far away as Washington and executives from donors like Veco, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Shell.Here is a description of the 2002 tournament from the Anchorage Daily News (via Nexis):

Ashore, people flowed around Bob Penney’s big riverfront house Monday evening, headed for the broad expanse of paved driveway that runs down to it. There, flanking a sound system, stood a couple of hefty trophies topped with fiberglass king salmon. The opening ceremony of the ninth annual Kenai River Classic was about to occur.

In the river of people were United States senators, the secretary of labor, the governor, most of the hierarchy of the Department of Fish and Game, a couple of state legislators, the mayor of Anchorage, the president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, the president of the University of Alaska, a soft-spoken former astronaut, a retired famous college basketball coach, a few entertainers, a writer with a new book about Alaska and executives from many, many companies. They constituted, as they do every year, the greatest concentration of political and economic power in Alaska.

Though officially meant to raise money to preserve the river, Stevens breaks down what the event is really meant to do:

”We invite people we think can afford to put a contribution into the till,” [Stevens] said, ”and people they want to meet.”

Many of those in his audience had paid $6,000 for themselves and a guest to attend. Along with corporate sponsorships — the opening dinner was put on by Alaska Communications System and Veco — and the proceeds from an auction, the fees meant the tournament could gross $1 million, as last year’s did.

Penney declined to tell the Anchorage Daily News what he said in his testimony. So far he has no obvious ties to Stevens’ infamous home remodeling project, which has caught the FBI’s eye.