Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here's a Vote for You Non-Alaskans to Visit the Great Land

Cliff Groh, Steve Lindbeck, and Ed Miner
on the Susitna Valley Winter Trail, Sunday,
March 22, 2009. (Photo by Robert Gottstein.)

Anchorage, Alaska--

Several Alaskans discussed the state of the federal investigation into Alaska public corruption and the declining fortunes of the news media during a weekend snowmachine trip. Although the photo was of course taken on the cloudy day, the mountain views--including Denali--were spectacular the day before. I recommend visits to our fair state by those who have never had the pleasure.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Links to Video Interviews of Me and Others on the Ted Stevens Trial

Anchorage, Alaska--

Those who didn't catch Brian Lamb interviewing me on C-SPAN can see a video posted at on the C-SPAN website. I encourage you to review the entire portion of the C-SPAN website devoted to the Ted Stevens trial and the Alaska public corruption investigation, and that site is located on your Internet at . You will find there an interview of Anchorage Daily News reporter Rich Mauer televised last night as well as interviews of former Acting U.S. Attorney Wev Shea, investigative reporter Chuck Neubauer, and Stevens trial juror/blogger Colleen Walsh. That link will also take you to numerous other links helpful to understanding the Alaska public corruption investigation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Questions to Ponder on Friendship

Anchorage, Alaska--

I’m going snowmachining this weekend. Based on my current research into Alaska public corruption, I leave you these two thoughts:

1. My friend Bill Parker suggests that when you’re in a conflict with a friend, you should say to yourself “Save six for the pallbearers.” Similarly, if you’ve picked all your friends because they’re people who can help you advance in your career, does it make sense to pick at least one friend because you just like the person? You could call that plan “Save one for the fun.”

2. If you got charged with a serious crime, which of your friends would stand behind you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Are Bill Allen and Rick Smith Walking Around Free While the Legislators They Bribed Sit in Prison?

Anchorage, Alaska--

The criticism over the different treatment of key players in the Alaska public corruption investigation has risen recently as another state legislator walked onto a fast conveyor belt to jail for taking bribes from VECO executives who now live in luxury.

The drumbeat intensified last week as the first woman was charged and pleaded guilty in the continuing probe. The sight of former State Rep. Beverly Masek (R.-Willow) preparing for a sentence of 18-24 months for taking bribes from long-time VECO CEO Bill Allen has seemed to be particularly galling.

“Time for Allen to be locked up” is the headline on the Alaska Dispatch piece by Wev Shea, a long-time Anchorage lawyer and commentator who formerly served as the Acting U.S. Attorney in Alaska. Shea portrays Masek as a “weak, young woman” targeted by the “conspiratorial predators” VECO executives Allen and Rick Smith “for their own special oil and gas desires and needs.” Indeed, Shea sees all the state legislators convicted in this investigation as similarly burdened: “Rep. Tom Anderson, Rep. Pete Kott, Rep. Vic Kohring and Sen. John Cowdery were all weak individuals in different ways enamored with power.”

It is admittedly odd to see Bill Allen and Rick Smith live it up while the legislators who got convicted for taking bribes from the former VECO executives sit in prison. Flush with millions of dollars from the sale of VECO, Allen recently purchased a private jet in conjunction with some family members. An article by Richard Mauer in the Anchorage Daily News last summer reported that Allen—an Anchorage resident—has been spending a lot of time at his son’s New Mexico horse ranch. And for at least some of this winter, Rick Smith has been hanging out and golfing in the Palm Springs area.

Meanwhile, Kott and Kohring are in federal prison, Masek will go there as early as this summer, and it is only Cowdery’s terrible health that has kept him in home detention instead of the clink. (Anderson is also in federal prison, but unlike these other state legislators Anderson was convicted for crimes unrelated to VECO.)

It is true that Allen and Smith have not spent all their time hitting the links or lounging around in big houses during the two and a half years that the two men have been cooperating with the government. Each of the disgraced VECO executives has testified in multiple trials as government witnesses.

The Department of Justice would also like you to know that Allen and Smith will eventually go to prison. Each has pleaded guilty to crimes that could bring prison sentences of about nine to 11 years. Those sentences would be substantially longer than any received by a public official convicted so far in this probe, although the continuing cooperation of Allen and Smith may ultimately reduce the time they spend incarcerated.

Today, however, Allen and Smith are free while those convicted of taking their bribes are in federal custody.

As strange as it is to see these different outcomes, these results flow directly from the goal of the unit running the prosecutions and from the power our system gives prosecutors in pursuing that goal. The name of the outfit bringing the charges is the Public Integrity Section, not the Anti-Crooked Businesspeople Squad. As the Department of Justice states, “The Public Integrity Section oversees the federal effort to combat corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government.”

That statement of the Section’s mission draws the line between Bill Allen and Rick Smith on one side and Pete Kott, Vic Kohring, Bev Masek, and John Cowdery on the other. Kott, Kohring, Masek, and Cowdery took an oath as public officials and betrayed that oath. Allen and Smith broke the law and violated their responsibilities as citizens, but they never took on the extra obligations of public servants. (Allen’s one day of service as a presidential elector in 2000 is obviously in a different category.)

The existence of the Public Integrity Section reflects a judgment that it is worse for a public official to take a bribe than for a favor-seeker to pay one, and the disparate treatment of the bribe-takers and the bribers in this investigation illustrates that same judgment. You might think that Bill Allen and Rick Smith have blacker hearts and bigger wallets than Pete Kott, Vic Kohring, Beverly Masek, and John Cowdery and thus should not be last in line to go to jail, but the oath taken by the public official helps explain why that way of thinking does not always control.

Our system also gives great powers to prosecutors—particularly federal prosecutors—and grants prosecutors enormous discretion in how to use those powers. Letting Bill Allen and Rick Smith play while imprisoning a number of those bribed by the two VECO executives shows both our system’s views on the hierarchy of evil and the great confidence we place in those entrusted to bring those evildoers to justice.

Judge Emmet Sullivan is exploring whether federal prosecutors and FBI agents deserved that confidence in the investigation and trial of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, and we should learn more next month. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Corrections on the C-SPAN Program

Thanks again to everybody who commented on my C-SPAN appearance, and welcome to all those of you brought to this site by that program.

After watching the program and reviewing the transcript, I wanted to correct two inaccuracies in what I said.

1. The first point I want to correct came where in response to a question I said “Everyone charged at this point has been a Republican.” (This statement appears at page 5 of the transcript.)

This statement was too broad. I should have said that at the time of the interview all seven of the people charged in this investigation into Alaska public corruption who were public officials at the time of their alleged crimes are Republican.

There is one person charged in this investigation—lobbyist William (Bill) Bobrick—who is shown currently in public records as a non-partisan. (Bobrick was in the past the executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party before he became a lobbyist.)

Here are the people charged, their role at the time of the offenses charged, their legal status, and their known partisan identification as shown in state registration records (note that Bev Masek was charged and--John Cowdery was sentenced--after the taping of the interview):

Individual / Role / Legal Status Now / Known Party ID

Ted Stevens / U.S. Sen. / Convicted at trial; awaiting sentencing / Republican

Pete Kott / State Rep. / Serving sentence / Republican

Vic Kohring / State Rep. / Serving sentence / Republican

Tom Anderson / State Rep. / Serving sentence / Republican

Bev Masek / State Rep. / Convicted on plea; awaiting sentencing / Republican

Bruce Weyhrauch / State Rep. / Case on pre-trial appeal / Republican

John Cowdery / State Sen. / Convicted on plea; sentenced/ Republican

Jim Clark / Chief of Staff to Governor / Convicted on plea; awaiting sentencing / Republican

Bill Allen / Power Broker / Convicted on plea; awaiting sentencing / Republican

Rick Smith / Power Broker/ Convicted on plea; awaiting sentencing / Republican

Bill Weimar / Power Broker / Serving sentence / Unknown (was Democratic
candidate for legislature in 1970s)

Bill Bobrick / Lobbyist / Has served prison portion of sentence / Non-partisan (previously excutive director of the Alaska Democratic Party)

As to Weimar, he moved from Alaska to Montana around 1999. The Alaska Division of Elections told me this morning that all records of Weimar’s record of registration have a voter have been purged due to his not participating in the last two election cycles, and an elections official in Montana told me this afternoon that the State of Montana does not keep records of voters by party identification.

2. I made a slip of the tongue when I said at page 6 of the transcript that it was “the end of August 2000” that a state senator delivered Bill Allen into the hands of the FBI, thereby beginning Allen’s work as a cooperating witness for the federal government. That “flipping” of Allen actually occurred at the end of August of 2006. My repeated comments on pages 5 and 8 of the transcript that the federal investigation into Alaska public corruption started no later than April of 2004 should make it clear to the viewer that my single reference to “August of 2000” was incorrect.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beverly Masek COPs a Plea and Leaves Questions

Anchorage, Alaska—

She looks like a nice lady, not like a bribe-taker.

Beverly Masek appeared in court on Thursday to make her in-person admission of her guilt.

The approximately half-hour proceeding in federal court could not have been the most fun experience the former 10-year state legislator ever had. Former Rep. Masek (R.-Willow) was in good hands, though, surrounded by top-notch lawyers and facing a thorough judge.

That judge—Ralph Beistline—takes his job seriously even if he doesn’t take himself as seriously as some judges do. After arraigning the defendant, Judge Beistline ran through all the rights the defendant was giving up by going through with the agreement she made with the feds to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiring to take bribes. She can’t vote, she can’t run for office, and—notably for a resident of Willow—she can’t own guns. There’s also no parole in the federal system. This means that when a federal judge puts someone in prison for a set amount of time, the actual prison sentence served by the defendant is likely to be much closer to the number pronounced by the judge than often happens in state courts around the country.

Masek sat at the defense table between Rich Curtner and Barb Brink. Curtner is the head Federal Public Defender in Alaska, and Brink was the head Alaska Public Defender before leaving her position in a political dispute and ending up as an investigator for the Federal Public Defender. Brink has been particularly well known for her good rapport with clients. Masek seems to understand what her situation is and has come to some sort of peace with it.

That situation is that Masek took two bribes in the spring of 2003—one from a relative of long-time VECO CEO Bill Allen and one from Bill Allen directly. The first bribe amounted to several thousand dollars and was at least $2,000. (I wrote in an earlier post that each of the two bribes was a payment of $2,000, but for the first bribe the charging document shows that Masek took “several thousand dollars” and then deposited in the bank $2,000 of that amount. Apologies for the error.) The second bribe came the next month, and was for $2,000.

The Power of the Conspiracy Charge and the Way to Squeeze the Juice

Standing out in this case is the timing of the bribes and the way Masek apparently angled to get the second one.

The bribes Masek is going to prison for were paid in 2003. These crimes occurred earlier than the other offenses so far charged in the Alaska public corruption investigation, as Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News pointed out in an interview with the Alaska Public Radio Network. That probe—codenamed “POLAR PEN”—is known to have started by the spring of 2004. As Mauer noted in the radio interview, the bribes Masek took occurred before the feds starting all their tapping of telephones and wiring up of a VECO-rented hotel suite that yielded all those embarrassing tapes played in previous trials.

What’s also interesting about the timing of the Masek case is that the bribes she has admitted taking changed hands in the spring of 2003, and the last act described in the charging document is her seeking more money from VECO executive Rick Smith in November of 2003. Masek was not charged until March 11, 2009. This means that those bribes—and even her last described attempt to solicit one—are all on their face outside the five-year statute of limitations.

The Department of Justice got around this problem by technically charging her not with taking the bribes, but with conspiring to get them paid and to conceal them. The conspiracy charge would stand up against a challenge based on the statute of limitations if the government’s lawyers could show that at least one overt act furthering the conspiracy occurred within five years of the date Masek was charged. Famed Judge Learned Hand called the charge of conspiracy “the darling of the modern prosecutor’s nursery,” and this case helps show why it is such a powerful weapon. (Another way that the feds may have gotten around this problem regarding the statute of limitations would be by securing a tolling agreement with Masek so that she waived the statute of limitations for a specified period.)

Also striking is the way Masek apparently played Allen to get her second cash payment. VECO has been called the political arm of Alaska’s oil industry, and the blunt-speaking Allen was the fist on that arm. Masek solicited her first bribe from the VECO chief in April of 2003 and got it right away from a relative of Allen’s. About three weeks later, the state legislator introduced a bill that would significantly raise oil taxes on the oil companies that were VECO’s major clients.

Allen met with her the next day and worked hard—and successfully—to get Masek to withdraw that legislation. The day after that, Allen paid Masek $2,000 in cash.

Rep. Les Gara, D.-Anchorage and a fierce advocate of higher taxes on the oil industry, was stunned by Masek’s introduction of the bill. The avowedly conservative Masek had never suggested that she favored such a step, and most of Masek’s Republican colleagues in the legislature were dead-set against raising oil taxes.

Gara struggled to figure out Masek’s motivations in introducing and then withdrawing the legislation. "I thought she did a brave thing and must have gotten yelled at and pressured to withdraw the bill," Gara told Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News.

This week’s charging document and plea agreement now shed new light on those odd events in May of 2003. Gara told the Daily News that he now suspects that the whole reason that Masek put the bill in was to get Allen to pay her to drop it.

There are a lot of explanations you could offer for what happened. Masek was never known as a big-time player in the legislature, and “erratic” is one of the kinder words you’d hear to describe her as a lawmaker. Her conduct concerning the oil-tax bill she introduced after taking that first bribe from Allen makes it possible that she considered herself for rent, not for sale. Gara’s interpretation makes the pleasant and mild-mannered woman in court look like an extortionist who shook down Allen. Her sentencing is set for Thursday, May 28, at 9 a.m., and maybe we’ll learn more then.

Administrative Note: Once again, I’ll be on TV tomorrow evening (Sunday) on C-SPAN talking about the Alaska public corruption investigation and the Ted Stevens trial. The first program airs this Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. Eastern time and again at 11 p.m. Eastern the same day. (This is the original C-SPAN cable network that focuses on the U.S. House of Representatives.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Status and Likely Outcome of Ted Stevens Post-Trial Litigation (Extended Version)

Anchorage, Alaska—

I have been asked repeatedly what is going on in the Ted Stevens case and what I think will happen next. Fortunately, I have recovered the post I wrote earlier. (Actually, Theresa Philbrick pointed out as kindly as possible that I had plugged the laptop into an inactive outlet, thereby letting the battery run down completely.) Anyway, here goes my best attempt to combine history with prediction:

1. Ted Stevens was convicted by a jury last October. Right after the jury verdict came in, Judge Emmet Sullivan set a status hearing for late February at which it was presumed the sentencing date would be scheduled. The trial judge’s decision reflected the reality that the defense attorneys would file a number of post-trial motions that would ask him to order a new trial or even dismiss the case.

2. The trial judge retains jurisdiction over the case until sentencing, when the case becomes ripe for appeal. Until sentencing, the trial judge retains the power to order a new trial or dismiss the case. (Dismissal would end this case altogether, as jeopardy has attached under the Double Jeopardy Clause.) Because sentencing has not occurred, we are still in the period of post-trial litigation and have not reached the period for appeal. An appeal of the jury verdict would be heard by the appellate court—in this case the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—and the appeal cannot start until sentencing occurs. (It's admittedly easy to get confused, because some of the likely points on appeal are the same that the defense is pressing now on Judge Sullivan in attempts to get him to order a new trial or a dismissal.)

3. In the period between the jury verdict and the time sentencing normally would have occurred, however, several things have occurred to throw off the schedule. Government witness Dave Anderson wrote a letter to Judge Sullivan asserting that his some of his trial testimony was false regarding an alleged prosecution promise of immunity. In a stunning development, FBI Special Agent Chad Joy—one of the lead investigators in the whole Alaska public corruption investigation—wrote an eight-page complaint alleging misconduct by fellow FBI agent Mary Beth Kepner and by prosecutors. The U.S. Department of Justice has struggled to respond to Joy’s allegations. Infuriated by what he perceived as unjustified delays and questionable statements to the court, Judge Sullivan has held three high-ranking prosecutors in contempt. The Department of Justice has assigned a new team of attorneys to respond to the allegations of misconduct.

4. The next event in court is a status hearing set for April 15, which will be preceded by the filing of a status report by each of the two sides.

5. The smell of blood in the water is strong in the nostrils of Ted Stevens' lawyers at Williams & Connolly, perhaps the nation's premier white-collar criminal defense law firm, which will work every angle to get Judge Sullivan to order a new trial or end the case. Those efforts will take a long time for the judge to sort out, and sentencing will probably not occur before July.

6. Although the possibility of a new trial or dismissal cannot be ruled out and the odds have gone up significantly since Joy’s complaint, the betting here is still that sentencing will eventually occur and the appeal will start.

7. While the appeal is pending, in a white-collar crime case with defendants fitting more of a mold than does Ted Stevens, the Department of Justice would try to use the extra powers that sentencing would confer to try to get Ted Stevens to make a deal. In a more common case, these efforts by the prosecution would include leaning on Ted Stevens to help the government make a case against Ted Stevens’ son Ben. (Former state Sen. Ben Stevens (R.-Anchorage) is a former President of the Alaska State Senate who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees while serving as a legislator and whom former VECO executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith have testified that they bribed.) Particularly given what has happened after the trial, however, it is difficult to see Ted Stevens making a deal now that does not expunge the convictions and thus—as Ted Stevens would see it—clear his name. Moreover, there is no sign that either Ted Stevens or Ben Stevens has been cooperating against the other. So a deal between Ted Stevens and the prosecution seems a lot less likely here than in a more run-of-the-mill white-collar crime case.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Feds Move Forward

Anchorage, Alaska--

So much for the chatter that the Department of Justice's investigation into Alaska public corruption has stalled out.

The last 43 hours have seen:

· a calmer session in the often fiery post-trial litigation in the Ted Stevens case;

· a sentencing that puts former state Sen. John Cowdery in home confinement for six months;

· and—most dramatically—a plea agreement on a newly announced charge that will put former state Rep. Bev Masek in prison on a sentence of 18 to 24 months.

Let’s go in chronological order:

The New Team Calms It Down in the Ted Stevens Case

Apparently giving the new squad of prosecutors time to get their bearings, Judge Emmet Sullivan oversaw a status conference noticeably less entertaining than some reporters figured on. This expectation of fireworks flowed from a series of post-trial hearings and orders in which the judge had lambasted Department of Justice lawyers, culminating in his stunning decision to hold three high-ranking prosecutors in contempt and the designation of a new team to handle allegations of government misconduct.

The head of the new team, Paul O’Brien, told the judge that they are gathering information about FBI Special Agent Chad Joy’s complaint charging improper behavior by a fellow FBI agent and prosecutor and were turning it over to the defense. The judge noted that after the trial the case had been “just as active” as it was before and during the trial and ordered status reports from both sides before another status conference on April 15.

That next status conference would be more than six months after a jury convicted then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of seven felony counts of failing to disclose gifts on Senate disclosure forms. (An explanation of the status of the Ted Stevens case appears in the next post.)

The judge released a trial balloon in the courtroom to deal with the highly unusual Joy complaint and the much more common post-trial statement by prosecution witness Dave Anderson, who has alleged that prosecutors knowingly presented false testimony. Judge Sullivan suggested that both Joy and Anderson testify in court to help him sort out their accusations.

Anderson is a speed bump for the prosecutors in this case. Joy could still be a one-way trip to the ditch for the government.

(Hat tip to Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News and Libby Casey of the Alaska Public Radio Network.)

John Cowdery Seems Detached as He Gets Sentenced

Three hours later and more than 3,000 miles away, former Sen. John Cowdery (R.-Anchorage) sat in a wheelchair and listened as he was sentenced for conspiring with long-time VECO CEO Bill Allen to bribe another legislator over oil tax legislation. (Although unnamed in the charging documents, that other legislator was Sen. Donny Olson (D.-Nome), who never got the money and has not been charged.)

Cowdery’s poor health led Judge Ralph Beistline to make the sentence six months in home confinement instead of the perhaps two years in prison he would have received for this crime. Cowdery was also ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.

That health is so bad that the court noted that the argument between the defense attorney and the prosecutors over six months versus 12 months of home confinement was silly in that Cowdery was essentially facing home confinement for the rest of his life anyway. In an apparently unguarded moment, the judge predicted in court that Cowdery would not live to see the end of his three years on probation following the home confinement. Judge Beistline then caught himself and made a statement indicating a sentiment of common human decency regarding the defendant’s remaining time on earth.

The former 14-year legislator showed no apparent interest in the 22-minute hearing, and twice turned down an offer from the court to give a personal statement before sentencing. Nobody apologized on Cowdery’s behalf—not him, not his lawyer, not the writers of the more than two dozen letters filed on his behalf. More than one of his friends suggested in the letters that he had not committed a crime and only pleaded guilty to spare himself and his family the cost and stress of a trial, and one friend characterized Cowdery’s offense as merely introducing Allen to another legislator over breakfast. Those writing the letters—who included several current and former legislators, lobbyists, and former Gov. Bill Sheffield—emphasized Cowdery’s record as a successful contractor, his contributions in public office, and his devotion to his wife and extended family as well as his ill health.

You could read Cowdery’s odd affect in court more than one way. Even his friends might say that the 79-year-old Cowdery can seem taciturn and gruff in public. The prosecutors might argue that Cowdery’s attitude in court reflected his attitude toward the crime: cold and callous. Or it just might be that this man’s diseases are so multiple and advanced that they leave him removed from what a mere judge can do to him.

(I could not attend this sentencing hearing, so thanks goes to the coverage of Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News as well as to Joe McKinnon, a lawyer and former legislator who attended the Cowdery sentencing at my request and graciously shared his impressions.)

Beverly Masek Joins the Jail-Bound

The day after Cowdery’s sentencing, the feds showed that their POLAR PEN probe can still hit new targets. Documents were filed in court charging former state Rep. Beverly Masek (R.-Willow) with conspiring to take bribes and showing her agreement to plead guilty to that crime. The bribes came from Allen (one of them through a relative of the oil-services firm chief), and they totaled at least $4,000. The purpose of the bribes was to advance VECO’s interests regarding the oil taxes paid by the major oil producers VECO worked for.

Masek sold out cheaply and stupidly. This is a pattern seen over and over with the state legislators this investigation has put in prison.

In the documents filed as part of her deal with the government, Masek admits that she took two cash payments of $2,000 apiece, and then each time immediately deposited the money in the bank—leaving a clear paper trail.

The two-time winner of the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival’s Mountain Mother contest also twice solicited a legislative staff member to seek money for her from Rick Smith, Allen’s chief political lieutenant--thereby creating another witness. (Smith told that legislative aide the same thing Allen and Smith had told Masek directly: The way to get Masek a truly large cash payment was for the four-time Iditarod finisher to start mushing again so that VECO could launder a big bribe through its sponsorship of her dog team and dog kennel.)

Unlike Cowdery, Masek will be going to federal prison for getting mixed up in bribes with Allen. Masek’s plea agreement allows her to argue for leniency based on “alcoholism, financial and emotional distress, and/or situational depression due to her divorce,” but those factors are clearly not going to be enough to keep her from a substantial period of incarceration. In the plea agreement, the former 10-year legislator acknowledges that she faces a probable sentence of 18-24 months in prison.

The announcement about Beverly Masek means that the Alaska public corruption investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 12 people, and that 11 of them will stand convicted. (The 12th defendant is former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R.-Juneau), who is still pursuing a pre-trial appeal that may well go to the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Seven of those 11 people have become—or have agreed to become—felons because of their dealings with Bill Allen. The eighth of those 11 people is Bill Allen himself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What Is the Status and Likely Outcome of the Ted Stevens Post-Trial Litigation?


I wrote a long post on the history and probable future of the Ted Stevens post-trial litigation that got eaten up in the computer, but the nickel version is that I predict that he will be sentenced, probably around July, and then the actual appeal will begin in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. There may well be fireworks at tomorrow’s status conference before the trial judge—one veteran Washington reporter told me this weekend that Judge Emmet Sullivan is so angry at the Department of Justice that it would not be surprising if the judge ordered the prosecutors to get down on the floor and do 50 pushups. Although the odds of the judge ordering a new trial or dismissing the case outright have certainly risen in the past four months, I do predict, however, that Judge Sullivan will ultimately do neither and will eventually sentence Ted Stevens.

Speaking of long, my one-hour interview will appear on C-SPAN this Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. Eastern and again at 11 p.m. Eastern. The interview will cover the Ted Stevens trial and the Alaska public corruption investigation.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Data Points Suggesting that the FBI "Whistle-Blower" Has Not Rendered the Justice Department Comatose

Anchorage, Alaska—

Following the release of FBI Special Agent Chad Joy’s complaint, the suggestion has been made by at least one long-time lawyer and former Assistant U.S. Attorney that the probe into Alaska public corruption had stalled. Two quick notes showing that federal prosecutors working on public corruption cases in Alaska have not completely entered a shell:

1. The Department of Justice has secured from the court another delay in the sentencing of Bill Allen and Rick Smith, the two former executives of the oil-services firm VECO who have been toiling as cooperating witnesses for the federal government against office-holders that they had bribed. The latest extension runs until June 30. As noted by Rich Mauer in the Anchorage Daily News, “The latest delay is the strongest indication yet that the government is still pursuing its investigation despite setbacks following the Stevens conviction, including an FBI agent who claimed another agent and prosecutors violated Justice Department policy and may have broken the law.”

2. In a case with an Alaska connection that does not appear to have started as part of the federal investigation into Alaska public corruption, a second former high-level aide to Rep. Don Young (R.-Alaska) has been criminally charged with violating federal laws against corruption. The indictment of Fraser Verrusio, policy director of the House Transportation Committee when Young chaired the panel, evidently grows out of the long-running probe of disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Abramoff investigation has led to a conviction of about a dozen public officials and lobbyists in Washington, D.C., including one Member of Congress who sits in federal prison. The Anchorage Daily News article—again by Rich Mauer—points out that while there has never been any formal indication that Young is under scrutiny in the Abramoff investigation, the federal government is probing Young’s ties to VECO in connection with campaign contributions and alleged cash payments to the Congressman at golfing events held in Young’s honor. Mauer’s article can be found at, and C-SPAN has told me that Mauer himself will be the primary subject of an hour-long interview focusing on the Alaska public corruption investigation and the Ted Stevens trial airing on Sunday, March 22, at 8 p.m. Eastern and again at 11 p.m. Eastern.

Correction and Addition--After receiving alcohol treatment, former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R.-Ohio) was released from prison last August after serving 17 months of a sentence originally set at 30 months--so no Congressman is currently in prison as a result of the Jack Abramoff probe. And C-SPAN will be running two programs covering the Alaska public corruption investigation and the Ted Stevens trial, the second of which will feature Rich Mauer and is described above. The first of those two shows is set for Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. Eastern and again at 11 p.m. Eastern. That first program is the one featuring me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'll Be on C-SPAN Sunday, March 15

Anchorage, D.C.—

C-SPAN is doing two progams on the Ted Stevens trial and the Alaska public corruption investigation. Brian Lamb's hour-long interview of me will air on the C-SPAN program "Q&A" on Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. It will also air on Monday, March 16, at 6 a.m. (This is the original C-SPAN network; all times are Eastern.)

C-SPAN has also told me that another program on these topics featuring Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News will air the week after that in the same time slots.

If you get a chance to catch the interview of me on TV, I'd be interested in what you thought.