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Federal agents raid the offices of six Alaska legislators

JUNEAU, Alaska -- The offices of at least six Alaska legislators, including the son of Senator Ted Stevens, were raided by federal agents searching for possible ties between the lawmakers and a large oil field services company, officials and aides said.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Jaclyn Lesch said yesterday that the searches began Thursday and were continuing yesterday. FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said a total of 20 search warrants were being executed across Alaska, but would not say where.

A copy of one of the search warrants, obtained by the Associated Press, links the investigation to a new production tax law signed last month by Governor Frank Murkowski and a draft natural gas pipeline contract Murkowski and the state's three largest oil companies negotiated.

The warrant called for seizure of documents concerning any payment made to lawmakers by Bill Allen and Richard Smith, executives of oil field services giant VECO Corp. Agents also looked for documents about contracts, agreements or employment of legislators provided by VECO, Allen, Smith and company president Peter Leathard.

Sought-after items named in the search include hats or other garments bearing the phrases ``CBC," ``Corrupt Bastards Club" or ``Corrupt Bastards Caucus." What the names referred to was unclear. Authorities would not comment.

VECO's executives are top contributors to Alaska politicians. The company staunchly supported the governor's production tax plan, a version of which the Legislature passed in August after twice rejecting it earlier this year. Lawmakers have also twice failed to pass legislation related to the governor's pipeline fiscal contract with BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon Mobil Corp.

There was no immediate response to a call seeking comment from VECO representatives.

Among the offices searched was that of Republican Senate president Ben Stevens. Stevens could not be reached at his Anchorage home yesterday. Agents left his Capitol office Thursday evening with 12 boxes of documents labeled ``Evidence."

Also searched were offices in both Juneau and Anchorage belonging to Senator John Cowdery, the Senate Rules chairman; Republican Representative Vic Kohring; Republican Representative Bruce Weyhrauch; Democratic Senator Donald Olson; and Republican Representative Pete Kott.

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