Politics & Government

Alaska's Stevens owes $50,000 to lawyers in federal probe

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens owes the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly as much as $50,000 for legal work connected to the federal investigation into renovations at his home in Girdwood, Alaska, that were overseen by a company whose executives have pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers.

The debt shows up in Stevens' annual financial disclosure form, where it's listed as ranging between $15,000 and $50,000. Stevens wouldn't disclose the exact amount he owes the law firm, which hasn't been paid yet. It's considered a personal debt, like a mortgage or a credit card bill.

"I work hard for Alaskans in Washington, D.C.," Stevens said in a statement Friday. "That is my focus. My attorneys handle legal matters arising from the investigation."

Stevens' home in Girdwood was raided last summer by FBI and IRS agents investigating his ties to Bill Allen, who headed the oil field services company Veco Corp., which Allen since has sold. The company managed and paid some employees who worked on renovations that doubled the size of Stevens' house in 2000.

Stevens' legal debt pales in comparison to his fellow Alaska Republican, Rep. Don Young, who has paid out more than $1.1 million in attorney fees connected to various federal investigations. Unlike Stevens, Young paid his legal bills out of his campaign account. The Senate made the annual forms public Friday. Young and other members of the House of Representatives release their personal financial disclosure forms on Monday.

Otherwise, Stevens' financial situation has changed little from last year. Stevens continues to hold assets worth up to $1 million in a blind trust. He has interests valued at as much as $15,000 in a racehorse, oil royalties he acquired in the 1970s with former Sen. Henry Bellmon of Oklahoma, and a small interest in the Anchorage restaurant Sacks.

He also owns land in the Mat-Su area valued at $50,000 to $100,000, according to the form.

His wife, Catherine Stevens, who is a lawyer with Mayer Brown in Washington, D.C., does not have to disclose her salary on Stevens' forms.

Alaska's other senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, also released her disclosure forms Friday. She revised her financial disclosures going back to 2004 to clarify income from the sale of a building at 313 E St. in Anchorage.

The building had been owned by a partnership she and her husband, Verne Martell, were in, Murkowski said. The sale has brought Murkowski and her husband $60,000 a year since 2004, according to the revised forms.

Murkowski's revisions included disclosing income from the sale of a pasta company her husband once owned. The sale brought them $45,000 in 2005 and $40,800 in 2006, according to the revised forms.

Murkowski's chief of staff, Karen Knutson, said that revisions to the senator's past financial disclosures came after watchdog groups filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee over how Murkowski handled a 2006 land purchase.

The controversial land deal was with a political supporter, Alaska businessman Bob Penney, who sold Murkowski and her husband Kenai riverfront property at what some critics deemed a sweetheart price.

The National Legal and Policy Center filed the ethics complaint last summer, saying that Murkowski's 2006 disclosure was inaccurate because it was recorded improperly.

Murkowski said at the time that she thought she and her husband had paid a fair price for the land and that the deal was aboveboard, but that it had become a distraction, and that no property was "worth compromising the trust of the Alaska people."

Penney, a major campaign contributor to Alaska politicians, agreed to buy back the property for the $179,400 price she and her husband paid. That resale is reflected on her 2007 financial disclosure form. She also filed an amended 2006 form describing the original mortgage as a liability.

"We're completely done with that," Murkowski said Friday.

So far, Murkowski has not heard whether the committee intends to pursue the matter, or if her amended disclosure form is acceptable.

"They have not contacted us at all," Knutson said, adding that she has offered the committee information several times, but that the committee hasn't taken them up on their offer. As far as they know, it's still pending, Knutson said.

Murkowski's other assets in 2007 include stock holdings with a value of $180,000 to $950,000. She also holds a certificate of deposit and shares in First Bank of Ketchikan valued at $31,000 to $115,000.

Her husband received an additional $40,800 for his pasta company, and they were paid another $60,000 for their interest in the E Street building.