Feds allege Alaska legislators accepted bribes from oil producer

| 5/16/2007

An Alaska state representative and two former legislators have been arrested and indicted for bribery and conspiracy charges after the men allegedly traded votes for money and jobs from a major energy-producing company.

According to a Department of Justice news release, the three men corruptly solicited and accepted cash payments and loans in exchange for support of certain legislation and a natural gas pipeline.

The news release said Alaska Rep. Victor Kohring and former state House members Bruce Weyrauch and Peter Kott were arrested May 4 in Juneau, AK.

United Press International reported on May 7 that Bill Allen, former CEO of VECO Corp., and Rich Smith, vice president and chief lobbyist, both pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and one count of bribery. Each faces up to five years in prison for each conspiracy charge and 10 years for bribery, and $250,000 fines.

Allen resigned from VECO on May 11.

The release said Kott told company officials in a teleconference that he’d successfully persuaded other state legislators to support oil tax legislation favored by the company and had worked to kill an amendment to one bill because the CEO told him to do so.

The company agreed to provide Kott employment after he left the state legislature, “as well as other things of value,” the indictment read.

The indictment quoted Kott – former state house speaker – as saying “I had to get ’er done. So I had to come back and face this man right here (pointing to the CEO). I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie.”

Kohring allegedly illegally solicited $2,100 to $2,600 in cash payments, a $3,000 job for a relative and a $17,000 loan to pay credit card debt.

Each of the indicted face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 for extortion, 10 years and $250,000 for bribery, and five years and $250,000 for conspiracy.