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Businessman admits to bribing 3 former Alaska legislators

ANCHORAGE - The former head of an oil field service company admitted yesterday in court that he bribed three Alaska legislators, including the son of a US senator who is the target of a federal investigation.

Former VECO Corp. CEO Bill Allen, 70, testified yesterday in the federal corruption trial of former state House speaker Pete Kott. Allen and a former company vice president, Rick Smith, have pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers, and await sentencing.

Allen said he bribed Kott, former state Senate president Ben Stevens, and former representative Vic Kohring, but he did not elaborate during 15 minutes of testimony.

Stevens, the son of US Senator Ted Stevens, is under federal investigation but has not been charged. "Mr. Stevens has consistently said he's not engaged in any of the illegal activity that is alleged by Mr. Allen. He denies it," John Wolfe, Stevens's lawyer, told the Associated Press.

The FBI also is investigating remodeling done to the elder Stevens's house in Girdwood. According to at least one contractor, invoices were first sent to VECO. Ted Stevens has said he paid all bills on the house that he received.

Allen did not mention another lawmaker facing bribery charges, Bruce Weyhrauch.

Allen also testified that he agreed to cooperate in the corruption investigation of Alaska lawmakers after the FBI promised that his three adult children would not be indicted.

Kott, whose trial began Monday, is charged with doing the bidding of VECO in exchange for money and the promise of a job.

Kott is charged with conspiracy to solicit financial benefits for his service as a legislator, extortion "under color of official right," bribery, and wire fraud, which involved improperly discussing legislative business by phone.

Kott committed no crime by working with businessmen and lobbyists toward a goal shared by most Alaskans: passing legislation that would lead to construction of a natural gas pipeline, defense lawyer James Wendt said.

That megaproject, on the scale of the 30-year-old trans-Alaska oil pipeline, would have presented VECO with the opportunity to bid on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts.

Allen said that he considered the pipeline essential to the continued prosperity of not only his company but to Alaska as oil production for the trans-Alaska pipeline continues to diminish.

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