Alaska State Rep. Arrested on Bribery Charges

The FBI arrested Alaska State Rep. Tom Anderson (R) yesterday on a federal bribery warrant, three months after agents raided at least six other state legislators' offices looking for ties to oil field services company VECO.

While Anderson's name was not among those released by the FBI in September, investigators had been looking for evidence related to the state's new production tax on oil companies and to former Gov. Frank Murkowski's (R) draft contract for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

One of the 20 warrants issued in September authorized FBI agents to seize documents about payments made to lawmakers by VECO executives Bill Allen and Richard Smith, as well as VECO documents about contracts, agreements or employment of legislators.

State House Speaker John Harris (R) said the FBI raids were to determine whether VECO tried to influence votes on legislation related to the natural gas pipeline. VECO and other companies are pushing for the $25 billion pipeline, but legislators disagree on how much the state should have to pay for construction, as well as on other issues. VECO also strongly supported the tax plan, which taxes oil companies' net profits instead of gross output.

VECO, which has more than two dozen subsidiaries around the world, has made no secret of its proclivity for supporting pro-industry and pro-development candidates. In the last statewide elections in Alaska in 2004 President Pete Leathard, Chief Financial Officer Roger Chan and Chairman Bill Allen gave more than $122,000 to the state Republican Party and state House and Senate candidates. Sen. Ted Stevens (R) has reported collecting more than $240,000 in consulting fees from VECO since 2000, and his son, state Senate President Ben Stevens (R), was one of those investigated in September.

In 1985, the Alaska Public Offices Commission levied its largest fine ever against the company, more than $72,000 -- reduced to $28,000 -- for funneling secret donations to a slate of candidates through an employee payroll deduction plan (Greenwire, Sept. 5).

Anderson has held office for four years and did not seek re-election last month; he leaves office this month. FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said the investigation was ongoing (AP/Washington Post, Dec. 8). -- DK

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