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Originally published September 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 14, 2007 at 4:04 PM

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Ex-CEO says VECO employees worked on Sen. Stevens' home

The former head of an oil field services company admitted today that he had company employees work several months on a remodeling project...

The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The former head of an oil field services company admitted today that he had company employees work several months on a remodeling project at the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Ex-VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen made the admission Friday while testifying in the federal corruption trial of a former state lawmaker.

Allen and former VECO Vice President Rick Smith in May pleaded guilty to extortion, conspiracy and bribery of legislators.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney James Wendt, representing former state Rep. Pete Kott, Allen acknowledged that the more than $400,000 he admitted spending in the bribery charge was for other legislators — and for work done at the Girdwood, Alaska, home of Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.

"I don't think there was a lot of materials," Allen said. "There was some labor."

The workers were VECO employees, probably one to four at a time, Allen said. He said the work on the home lasted for "probably a couple of months." Later, he said it might have been as much as six months.

The remodeling work in summer and fall 2000 more than doubled the size of the house, a four-bedroom structure that is Stevens' official residence in Alaska.

Stevens has said while the contracting bills were first sent to VECO for accuracy checks, he paid for the work.

Stevens' spokesman, Aaron Saunders, had no comment on Allen's testimony. He referred to an earlier statement, which said Stevens was not commenting because Stevens does not want to appear to be trying to influence the case.

Allen said he also gave Stevens some old, used furniture.

He would visit the remodeling every month or two, he said.

"Most of the time I was gone with VECO business," Allen said.

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Prosecutors asked Allen whether he was aware that other contractors, non-VECO employees, worked on Stevens' house and were being paid by VECO.

Allen he knew of at least two, a plumber and a carpenter.

The remodeling job at Stevens' home was fraught with problems at the start. He estimated it would cost about $85,000 and told city building officials he would be his own contractor.

The plan was to raise Stevens' single-level home and, beneath it, construct a new first floor with two bedrooms, a game room and sauna. The completed project would be twice the size of the original, modest house in the town of Girdwood, about 40 miles south of Anchorage. Building records don't indicate how things went wrong, but somehow the framing was botched and help was called in to fix it.

Allen also said the plea agreement he signed admitted payments to Stevens' son Ben, whom Allen had hired as a consultant after Ben Stevens left college in 1995. The consulting work continued after Ben Stevens was appointed to the Alaska state Senate in 2002.

"It was $4,000 per month," Allen said.

Wendt closely questioned Allen whether the amount to the younger Stevens exceeded $200,000. Allen said the amount he paid Stevens before he was a state senator should not be counted.

"I don't think you can count that," he said.

Allen stepped down from his job as VECO chairman after his plea agreement. The sale of the company to CH2M Hill was completed last week.

VECO is one of the state's largest oil field services company, with more than 4,000 employees. The company operates around the world but more than half of its work is in Alaska, supporting the oil industry with service and maintenance contracts, according to Allen.

Allen for more than two decades has been a behind the scenes political force, supplying campaign money to lawmakers sympathetic to the petroleum industry.

Over the past six years, VECO executives and the company itself contributed more than $119,000 to Ted Stevens' political organizations, according to tracking by Political Money Line, an Internet database. Of that amount, Allen contributed $20,000. Stevens and Allen also are longtime friends and partners in a racehorse investment.

Kott, whose trial began Monday, is charged with doing the bidding of VECO in exchange for money, nearly $9,000, a political poll for his re-election bid and the promise of a job with VECO. Kott was a seven-term state representative from Eagle River, a northern suburb of Anchorage. He is a former state House speaker.

Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo in Anchorage contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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