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Originally published August 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 1, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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FBI seeing whether earmark benefited Stevens son's crony

The FBI is investigating whether Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, used a $1.6 million congressional appropriation to help an Alaskan marine center...

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating whether Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, used a $1.6 million congressional appropriation to help an Alaskan marine center purchase property from a business partner of the senator's son, said sources familiar with the probe.

That investigation comes amid a widening federal grand-jury probe into Stevens' connections to an energy-services company. The FBI and the Interior Department's inspector general are also jointly examining budgetary earmarks endorsed by Stevens in recent years for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, said sources familiar with the probe who requested anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

Investigators are particularly interested in how those earmarks may have helped the center buy land from Trevor McCabe, a former Stevens aide who also was a business partner with Stevens' son, Ben, according to sources and press reports. Stevens has wielded enormous clout as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, which he chaired for six years, regularly steering hundreds of millions a year in earmarks to his home state.

The center was given a $1.6 million earmark to buy adjacent property owned by McCabe, sources said. The land was eventually sold by McCabe's firm to SeaLife for just more than $550,000, according to sources and press accounts.

Investigators from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General have interviewed a "handful" of employees at the National Park Service in connection with the probe in recent weeks, said Marcia Blaszak, the service's regional director in Alaska. Investigators were interested in Park Service employees because the service was another prospective buyer for the McCabe parcel before it was sold to the SeaLife Center.

McCabe could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and FBI officials would not comment.

Stevens also declined to comment.

Stevens has been under scrutiny since last year by federal grand juries examining a home-remodeling project that was allegedly overseen by executives from VECO Corp., an energy-services company. The former chief executive of VECO, Bill Allen, and another executive have pleaded guilty to paying more than $400,000 in bribes to members of the state legislature, several of whom have been indicted, and other unnamed elected officials. Both executives are cooperating with investigators.

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