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Washington won’t return dirty money

Steve Henn Oct 10, 2007

Washington won’t return dirty money

Steve Henn Oct 10, 2007

Correction: This story incorrectly reports that controversial contributions given to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens by two convicted oil industry executives were not on record as being given to charity, as Stevens’ staffers said. In fact, a May filing with the Federal Election Commission shows Stevens gave $8,000 to the Special Olympics.


Doug Krizner: Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats suffered a fund-raising nightmare last month. One of the party’s most prolific fundraisers or bundlers, Norman Hsu, was a fugitive from justice in California. And as Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports other Washington politicians have become entangled with a felonious fundraiser.

Steve Henn: Bill Allen was a big bundler. As the founder and former CEO of an Alaskan oil services company, he encouraged his employees to donate generously to political campaigns. And they did, giving more than a million dollars since the late 80’s, according to federal campaign finance reports.

But today, Allen and his former company, called VECO, are at the center of a tangle of corruption scandals. In May, Allen and one of his executives pleaded guilty to bribing Alaskan state legislators. And that wasn’t all.

Melanie Sloan: Executives there have pleaded guilty to crimes including making conduit contributions to politicians — basically giving employees money to make contributions to politicians.

Melanie Sloan’s the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She said politicians often return money when a donor turns out to have serious legal problems.

Sloan: Members generally want to be careful about where their campaign contributions are coming from.

But so far, few who received money from Allen or his former employees have given it back. Allen is now cooperating with federal authorities.

Sloan: VECO’s a big donor, they spread money around. If I were any member of Congress receiving VECO contributions, I’d be very nervous that the feds would be looking at me.

VECO focused much of its largesse and attention on the Senate appropriations committee, giving more than $200,000 to the campaign funds of committee members.

Ken Boehm: There are bad actors in the appropriations business, and VECO was certainly one of them.

Ken Boehm is chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center.

Boehm: Any time you have a player like VECO, it raises issues.

In the Senate, by far the largest share of these contributions flowed to Ted Stevens of Alaska. Stevens headed the appropriations committee for six of the last 10 years, and still has enormous influence over how federal dollars are spent.

Steven’s staffers told reporters this spring that some contributions from VECO executives had been given to charity. *

In the last eight years, Allen’s company landed more than $200 million in federal contracts.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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