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FBI photographs wine in raid of senator’s home

Federal agents searching the Alaska home of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens appeared particularly interested in cases of wine stored in the senator’s house, an attorney briefed on the raid said. [!]
Stevens Investigation
Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service searched the Girdwood, Alaska, home of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, on Monday.Al Grillo / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal agents searching the Alaska home of Republican Sen. Ted Stevens appeared particularly interested in cases of wine stored in the senator’s house, an attorney briefed on the raid said.

Investigators photographed the cases and the individual bottles Monday along with other items from Stevens’ home as part of a public corruption investigation that stretches from Alaska to Washington.

Stevens, 83, is under a federal investigation for his relationship with Bill Allen, an oil field services contractor who was convicted this year of bribing state lawmakers. Stevens was aware for some time that investigators wanted to search the house, the attorney said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Allen oversaw a 2000 renovation project that more than doubled the size of Stevens’ home in the ski resort community of Girdwood. Allen is the founder of VECO Corp., an Alaska-based oil field services and engineering company that has reaped tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

Contractors said they submitted bills to Allen, then received checks from Stevens. The senator has said he paid for all the improvements himself.

Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service started their search at the senator’s home Monday afternoon, said Dave Heller, FBI assistant special agent. He said he could not comment on the nature of the investigation.

Garbage bags full of materials
About 15 agents took photos and video of various angles of the structure, climbing onto the roof at one point, and eventually entered. They later carried out a garbage bag full of unidentifiable materials and loaded it into an unmarked white van. The curtains were drawn during most of the search.

Stevens Investigation
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska gestures during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington in this April 12, 2007 file photo .Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service on Monday, July 30, 2007, searched the home of Stevens, an official said.Lauren Victoria Burke / AP

A law enforcement official familiar with the case confirmed the raid on Stevens’ home was focused on records related to the ongoing VECO investigation. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Investigators did not raid Stevens’ home in Washington, where he spends most of his time.

An e-mail statement issued by Stevens through his Washington, D.C., spokesman said federal agents had alerted his attorneys that they wanted to search his home.

Stevens, who has been in office since 1968 and is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, said the interests of justice would be best served if he commented after the investigation.

“I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome,” Stevens said. “The legal process should be allowed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined.”

Located 40 miles south of Anchorage, Girdwood is nestled in a valley next to Mount Alyeska and has evolved from a gold mining town into Alaska’s only year-round resort community.

Calls for resignation
Congressional watchdog groups called for Stevens to step down — at least temporarily — from his posts on the Senate’s Commerce and Appropriations committees.

“There is growing evidence that Sen. Stevens may have used his powerful perch on the appropriations committee to direct tens of millions of dollars of earmarks to benefit family, friends, business partners and former staff,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. He commented in a letter to the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

McConnell has not said whether he would ask Stevens to temporarily relinquish his committee assignments.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, called it “imperative that no member under federal investigation be involved in the oversight or appropriations of any agency involved in investigating that member.”

The group referred to Stevens’ membership on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department.

The Justice Department’s probe into Allen’s relationships has led to charges against state lawmakers and contractors. Last year, FBI raids on the offices of several Alaska lawmakers included Stevens’ son, former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens.

Neither the U.S. senator nor his son has been charged.