Mike McGavick's decision to return $14,000 in donations from executives and employees of VECO, the global engineering and construction firm, begs the question: Why did>"/>
Mike McGavick's decision to return $14,000 in donations from executives and employees of VECO, the global engineering and construction firm, begs the question: Why did the Republican Senate candidate, supposedly a seasoned politico, accept the support in the first place? The money is pocket change for the multimillionaire who, just by quitting his insurance industry job, walked away with a $28 million bonus. Why bother accepting small and risky donations from VECO's Alaska oil field operations, in a state where both the fish and oil industries are often greased by corruption? Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, for one, has become a multimillionaire in part through questionable deals tied to his powerful position as senior Republican in the Senate. In 1997, for example, Stevens invested $50,000 in a local Alaska project; five years later, the developer and his partner bought the investment back for $872,000. At the same time, Stevens was helping steer a $450 million federal housing contract to the developer. Similarly, Stevens' son Ben is an Alaska state senator and business consultant who can be on the receiving end of money streams set loose by his father. Court documents show that in 2003 Ben Stevens held a secret option to buy into an Alaska seafood company, Adak Fisheries, owned in part by Icicle Seafoods Inc. of Seattle; at the same time, father Ted was pushing federal legislation to establish a special Aleutian Islands fishing area that could supply Adak Fisheries with millions of dollars in prized pollock, most of it caught by the Seattle-based North Pacific fishing fleet.
Ben Stevens is now caught up in the newest allegations of corruption. His office was among those searched last week by FBI agents looking for evidence of possibly illegal deals between legislators and VECO. It was no secret that VECO executives prowl the halls of power and give freely to state and national campaigns, sometimes illegally (as far back as 1985, VECO was fined $72,000 for funneling secret campaign donations to Alaska officials through an employee payroll-deduction plan). Such a player makes for cozy dealings in the great white north: Ben Stevens has been on VECO's payroll, earning $240,000 in unexplained "consulting" fees, the past six years, while Scott Leathard, the son of VECO president Peter Leathard, is on Ted Stevens' payroll, employed as an aide in the senator's offices. It was into this questionable history and familial menage that McCormick strode, presumably eyes wide open, seeking Ted Stevens' political blessings and VECO's financial support at a fund-raiser last April. A spokesperson now says McGavick is returning the money because he wants to "err on the side of caution." You mean, finally?