July 30, 2008

Did Ted Stevens Blackmail Pakistan for VECO?

I don't know all the facts, and so hesitate to definitively claim that Senator Stevens has messed with international politics. The entire article from the LA Times is here for your review. However, it does appears Ted Stevens used his political clout to help Bill Allen's company, VECO in Pakistan in exchange for a beautiful home with all the trimmings, plus a Range Rover for his son, a former (thanks to the raids) former State Senator. To add insult to injury, Senator Stevens took $2.5 million from the Labor Department to train Russians (!!!) to work the Alaskan oil fields. Why not hire Americans, Senator Stevens?
Company at heart of indictment figured in Pakistan dispute
Prosecutors outline hundreds of
thousands of dollars
in financial favors
VECO allegedly did for
Sen. Ted Stevens
By Chuck Neubauer,
Los Angeles Times
Staff Writer
July 30, 2008
WASHINGTON -- In the first week of October 1999, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) had the government of Pakistan in a delicate position.
The Pakistanis were desperate for the removal of powerful military and economic sanctions imposed after the country conducted nuclear tests in 1998. Many hundreds of millions of dollars in trade was at stake.
Stevens was the chairman of the conference committee that was considering allowing that change. But first, according to Capitol Hill sources, he made it clear that he wanted Pakistan to resolve a multimillion-dollar dispute with an Alaskan construction and engineering company, VECO, owned by his close friend Bill Allen.
It is VECO that is at the heart of the Stevens indictment handed down Tuesday, and prosecutors outlined hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial favors VECO allegedly did for Stevens.
What was less clear was what Stevens did for VECO, though the indictment mentions -- without elaboration -- that VECO asked for his help with projects in Pakistan and Russia, among other favors.
Here is one interaction among Stevens, Pakistan and VECO, some of which was first reported by The Times in June 2003:
The provision giving the White House permanent authority to lift the sanctions against Pakistan appeared to be sailing through Congress -- attached to the Defense Department appropriations bill that was moving through Stevens' conference committee.
But it ran into trouble with Stevens, who was also the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Defense Department appropriations subcommittee.
Stevens raised the issue of a contract dispute VECO was having with Pakistan over payment for VECO's participation in construction of a pipeline. He wanted Pakistan to resolve it.
Some of the people involved maintain that Stevens said he would not pass the provision until VECO was taken care of, while others said his intervention was more benign.
The bottom line was that Pakistan took Stevens' complaint as a threat and quickly tried to work things out.
"Sen. Stevens brought the problem to our attention," Pakistan's then-lobbyist, former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson, said in an interview in 2003. "It was a constituent complaint." A popular movie about Wilson was released last year. [Charlie Wilson's War, from the book with the same title]
Wilson did not see Stevens' stance as "a threat." He said he talked to the Pakistani Embassy about it.
"His constituent had a just grievance with Pakistan," said Wilson at the time. "The truth is that Sen. Stevens' constituent was right. . . . Pakistan corrected it." Wilson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Stevens let the amendment allowing for the sanctions to be dropped go through on Oct. 7, 1999, after getting assurances from Pakistan that it would let the World Bank arbitrate the dispute.
It was not the only time Stevens took official action to help VECO.
In the fall of 1999, he earmarked $2.5 million in Labor Department funds to train Russian oil field workers in Alaska.
Allen and VECO and others pushed for the grant because they were having a difficult time finding skilled workers for their oil and gas projects on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East.
In addition to doing extensive remodeling on Stevens' home, VECO has paid his son, Ben, at least $364,000 in lobbying and consulting fees since 1996.
Ben Stevens, who was an Alaska state senator until last year, has also been ensnared in the VECO scandal but has not been charged.
Ted Stevens issued a statement saying, "I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that."
chuck.neubauer@latimes.com http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-veco30-2008jul30,0,3764408.story%3Ftrack%3Drss

Here's more on the story from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Veteran Republican senator, 84, indicted for gifts from oil company
Anne Davies in Washington
July 31, 2008
THE longest-serving Republican senator in the US Congress, Ted Stevens, has been indicted on seven felony counts alleging he lied to conceal $US250,000 ($261,000) in gifts and services from a now-defunct Alaskan oil services and construction company VECO and its chief executive.
According to the indictment, VECO employees and contractors performed architectural design services for the Alaskan senator, put his house on stilts, installed a new three-bedroom first floor, a finished basement, a garage, a Viking gas range and a wraparound deck.
Stevens, 84, paid the builders but not the VECO contractors. VECO's former chief executive Bill Allen also replaced Stevens's old $US20,000 vintage Mustang with a brand new Range Rover valued at $US44,000.
[...] The prosecutors made it clear they do not intend to prove that the gifts were a "quid pro quo" for the help the senator gave VECO. Instead they now have a much easier task: to show only that Stevens deliberately failed to disclose the gifts on his Senate forms from 1999 to 2006.
In a statement, Stevens said he had "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a US senator … I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that."
If convicted, Stevens could face an unspecified fine and as much as five years in prison.
The indictment was not entirely unexpected. The four-year-old investigation came to light in 2006 when investigators executed raids on the offices of several Alaskan state politicians.
There have already been seven convictions including that of Mr Allen, the speaker of the Alaska state legislature, Peter Kott and several state representatives. Last year investigators raided Stevens's offices and seized documents and computers.
The news is positive for the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, who has campaigned against the influence of lobbyists. He has vowed to turn Alaska, until now regarded as a wild west Republican stronghold, into a battleground state.


Anonymous said...

Very good stuff.

Anonymous said...

This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday..