FBI looks at bribery allegations against Alaska Rep. Young

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 22, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- An Alaska businessman admitted to giving gifts to Republican Rep. Don Young, the state's long-serving sole congressman, in a confession made public this week as part of an ongoing federal investigation into political corruption in the state.

The confession, signed in 2007 by Bill Allen, the former chief of Veco, an Alaska oil services company, was released as part of Allen's upcoming sentencing on charges that he bribed state lawmakers.

In the document, which outlines criminal activity Allen was involved in, the 72-year-old executive admits to 13 years of gift-giving to public officials. They include former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and Young, whom the document referred to as to "United States Representative A."

Until now, however, it wasn't clear whether the FBI was looking at Young as part of Allen's bribery scheme. Prosecutors wrote in a separate sentencing document filed Wednesday in Allen's case that the former Veco chief "curried favor with various state and federal legislators and awarded them with cash and other items of value so they would be favorably disposed toward voting for legislation that was of interest to Veco and the oil industry."

An FBI spokesman in Anchorage, Eric Gonzalez, wouldn't comment on Young, Alaska's sole congressman since 1973, citing the agency's policy of refusing to talk about ongoing investigations.

Young refused to comment Thursday on the allegations.

"Don't bother me, don't bother me," Young said Thursday morning, with a wave of his hand, when asked by a reporter about the court filings as he entered the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage.

In the confession, Allen agreed that from 1993 to August 2006, both he and his deputy at Veco, Rick Smith, "provided things of value to United States Representative A," a reference to Young. For example, in June 2006, "Smith obtained a set of golf clubs, costing approximately $1,000, that Smith gave to United States Representative A. Smith used Allen's credit card."

Young, who was obligated in 2006 to report gifts with a value of more than $335, didn't report receiving any gifts on the personal financial disclosure form he filed with the House of Representatives for that year. From 1995 until last year, Young reported no gifts on his disclosure forms. In 2008, however, he reported receiving as gifts $77,000 in donations to his legal expense fund.

It is those same forms and his lack of disclosure on them that led the Justice Department to indict Stevens on corruption charges. Although a jury convicted Stevens, those charges were withdrawn this year by the Justice Department after defense attorneys questioned the way prosecutors and the FBI handled witnesses and evidence in Stevens' case and others.

Young's office said he had no comment on the investigation. Young's lawyer in Washington, John Dowd, didn't return a phone call or an e-mail.

Since early 2007, Young, 76, has spent more than $1.2 million on lawyers -- with money from his legal expense fund and his campaign account -- in connection with federal investigations of his fundraising and other matters.

Congress last year called on the Justice Department to look into the circumstances surrounding an earmark in the 2005 highway bill that Young oversaw as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That earmark shifted $10 million from a road-widening project in southwest Florida toward a study of an interchange that promised to benefit one of Young's campaign donors.

Allen and Smith also admitted breaking federal campaign finance laws on Young's behalf, using corporate funds to pay the expenses of a yearly fundraiser from 1993 to 2006. The illegal corporate donations, which went toward Young's annual pig roast fundraiser in Anchorage, weren't reported.

"Each year, Allen and Smith arranged for the purchase of catering expenses, liquor, equipment rentals, and other associated costs," Allen's confession said. "These expenses were paid using Veco's corporate funds, and amounted to approximately $10,000 to $15,000 each year." The total spent by Veco over the years was between $130,000 and $195,000, according to court filings.

However, Young's campaign in 2006 decided in preparation for the 2008 campaign to take a close look at fundraising expenses from previous elections. In reviewing the 2006 campaign expenses, a spokesman for Young's campaign said last year that they discovered Veco hadn't properly billed the campaign for its annual pig roast on Young's behalf.

Campaign officials looked back several more years and determined that Veco or Allen needed to be reimbursed $37,626. A check was sent to Allen in January 2007, the campaign reported.

The campaign's internal audit and the reimbursement occurred months before they knew Allen was cooperating with federal investigators, Young's campaign has said. Allen and Smith pleaded guilty in May 2007, more than eight months after they secretly began working for the FBI.

Allen never cashed the reimbursement check, and in January 2008, Young's campaign gave the money instead to the U.S. Treasury.

(Sean Cockerham of the Anchorage Daily News contributed to this article.)

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

Troopergate figure has Palin book coming, too

Prosecutors want ex-Veco CEO Allen to serve almost four years

Justice department won't dismiss charges against Alaska lawmakers

Alaska state lawmaker to challenge Rep. Don Young

D.C. judge OKs subpoenas for Ted Stevens prosecutors

Alaska's Young still paying legal bills from campaign funds

Alaska judge: No more delays for sentencing of Stevens witness

Alaska legislators snared in bribery probe ordered freed

Follow the latest politics news at McClatchy's Planet Washington

McClatchy Newspapers 2009

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service