An Alaska contractor appealed to Sen. Ted Stevens to help win federal contracts, obtain grants and settle immigration issues, federal prosecutors say.
The Justice Department stops short of calling that corruption, but prosecutors want to present that evidence at trial next month.
The Alaska Republican is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure records about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he received from contractor VECO Corp.
In court documents filed late Thursday, prosecutors say Stevens pushed for a natural gas pipeline that would have benefited VECO. While the pipeline project stalled in the Alaska legislature in 2006, prosecutors say Stevens offered to use his Washington connections to try to advance the deal.
"I'm gonna try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here to go up there and say, 'Look, uh, you just gotta make up your mind, you gotta get this done,'" Stevens told VECO founder Bill Allen, according to court documents.
Days after Stevens prodded state lawmakers to pass a pipeline deal, federal energy regulators issued a report saying delays could cripple the project, prosecutors said.
The pipeline never materialized.
Prosecutors say VECO also turned to Stevens for help seeking government contracts and grants.
Constituents often make such requests of lawmakers, and prosecutors apparently could not prove that Stevens did any corrupt favors for VECO. Stevens has backed oil industry legislation for years, well before the VECO case. Stevens says he didn't do anything special for VECO.
Prosecutors instead have built their case on what VECO did for Stevens. VECO employees normally build oil pipeline and processing equipment. But company workers also led the renovation of the senator's home, a project that was overseen by Allen, a longtime Stevens friend. Stevens says he paid every bill he received.
Prosecutors say he got hundreds of thousands of dollars in freebies and discounted work that Stevens should have disclosed on Senate financial documents.
Stevens says the Justice Department overstepped its authority in the investigation, intruding on Senate affairs. He said Thursday that the case should be thrown out because FBI agents questioned his staff, violating the constitutional clause prohibiting the executive branch from interfering with legislative business.