CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER

Senator Stevens Feuds with Main Justice in DC as FBI Raids Son's Office in Alaska
20 Corporate Crime Reporter 35(1), September 6, 2006

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is feuding with the Justice Department.


On August 22, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appointed Nelson Cohen, head of the white collar crime unit at the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – to be the interim U.S. Attorney in Alaska – over the objections of Senator Stevens.


Senator Stevens said at the time that he was “furious at the way the Attorney General handled the matter.”


According to a transcript provided by Senator Stevens' office to Corporate Crime Reporter, at a press conference on August 28 in Anchorage, Alaska, Senator Stevens was asked by a reporter – “Who do you think should be U.S. Attorney?”


“Well not someone who comes from Pennsylvania, and that's a little problem I have right now, finding out what to do about that,” Stevens said. “Because very clearly, I was called three weeks ago now, and told they had someone who they'd like to nominate from outside Alaska. And we said, ‘No, no. You're not going to do that. You can't do that. You don't do that in any other state. You're not going to do it in this one.'”


But Gonzales overrode Stevens' objection and put in Cohen to be U.S. Attorney in Alaska on a temporary basis. As such, the Cohen appointment does not require Senate confirmation.


In a press release , the Justice Department says that prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's office in Pittsburgh, Cohen practiced law for ten years in Alaska.


“We submitted some names, but Justice had one reason or another that they figured the person had a conflict, but they never really came with anything other than that we should find someone else,” Stevens said at the press conference. “We did give them some additional names, but in the meantime they had already taken action on this person. We have to arm wrestle on this one. It is not the thing to do. It has only happened one other time that I can remember. I can remember it happened in Illinois and it caused such an uproar. As a matter of fact, it became a real cause celeb with the Illinois Bar Association.”


On August 31 – just three days after Senator Stevens' press conference denouncing the Department of Justice – the FBI raided the offices of a number of state legislators in Juneau including that of Senator Stevens son – Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens.


FBI agents reportedly left Ben Stevens Capitol offices with 12 boxes of documents labeled “evidence.”


Federal officials are reportedly investigating payments from oil service giant VECO to a number of public officials in exchange for their support for a new production tax law and the construction of a natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
The Anchorage Daily News reported last week that “in disclosures he was required to file as a legislator, [Ben] Stevens said he was paid $243,000 over the last five years as a ‘consultant' to VECO. Whenever he was asked to describe what he did for the money, Stevens refused to answer. The company also refused to say.”


In addition to computer hard drives and hard paper records linking the legislators to VECO, FBI agents were reportedly seeking hats emblazoned with the logo – “Corrupt Bastards Club” or “Corrupt Bastards Caucus.”
In March, in an op-ed piece run in the state's major papers, Lori Backes, executive director of the All Alaska Alliance – a group that has supported an alternative gas pipeline route – had charged eleven lawmakers – including Senator Ben Stevens – with taking money from VECO.


The lawmakers reportedly started referring to themselves as the “Corrupt Bastards Club” or the “Corrupt Bastards Caucus” – and had hats printed with the CBC logo.


Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Senator Ted Stevens, would not discuss anything having to do with the FBI raid in Alaska.


Nor would he say why Senator Stevens was “furious” with Attorney General Gonzales.


Could it be that the Justice Department was not going to give Senator Stevens his choice of a U.S. Attorney when the Stevens family was caught in the middle of a public corruption probe?


No comment, Saunders said.

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