Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eleven More Members Of "VECO Legislative Caucus" Outed By Alaska's Ethical Gadfly Ray Metcalfe

As lawmakers wrestle with oil taxes during the special session, legislative watchdog Ray Metcalfe (pictured at left) has released the names of 11 more lawmakers who received campaign contributions from VECO Corp., the longtime state oil support services company recently purchased by CH2MHill. Metcalfe's timing is incredibly auspicious. Full story aired on KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage. Look for possible story in the Anchorage Daily News by early Sunday morning.

Metcalfe's list, based upon information obtained from the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC), dates back to 1998 and includes contributions from VECO employees and their spouses as well as VECO lobbyists.

"You got at least one-third of the Legislature who probably wouldn't be there if it weren't for the money they got from VECO and the oil industry," Metcalfe said. He also implied that as lawmakers debate oil taxes during the special session, the ones who took money from VECO might not have Alaskans as their first priority, which would explain the timing of the announcement.

The following is a list of politicians who accepted donations from VECO Corp., according to Alaska Public Office Commission reports compiled by Metcalfe:

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak $14,275
Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines $8,650
Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage $18,650
Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage $45,200
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski $ 32,000
Rep. Kevin Myer, R-Anchorage $ 23,350
Sen. Leslie McGuire, R-Anchorage $17,500
Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage $10,250
Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage $21,350
Sen. Lyda Green, R-Matanuska-Susitna $18,000
Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole $8,500

It should be noted that only one lawmaker on the list, John Cowdery, has been linked to the VECO scandal, although not indicted. Cowdery has already excused himself from the special legislative session in Juneau to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. However, Metcalfe seems to be implying that all legislators who received VECO contributions had questionable ethics. Some lawmakers immediately fired back, denying that they could be bought.

Sen. Con Bunde, an Anchorage Republican, denies that accusation, and accused Metcalfe of orchestrating a witch hunt. Bunde is rather unpopular outside his own district, having successfully pushed a nuisance law upgrading non-usage of seatbelts from a secondary to a primary offense (meaning a cop can now stop a motorist in Alaska merely for not wearing a seatbelt).

Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens claims he returned contributions from VECO employees after he learned the FBI was investigating two former VECO executives, Bill Allen and Rick Smith. "There were six checks of $500 each, so $3,000 I returned to those individuals and thanked them for their donation to the campaign," Stevens said. "But because of the investigation I felt it was right to return the money."

The Alaska State Legislature is currently meeting in special session in Juneau to consider Governor Sarah Palin's Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) bill, which would raise the petroleum profits tax from 22.5 percent to 25 percent.

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