Former VECO CEO, Bill Allen who pleaded guilty in 2007 in an Alaska influence peddling scheme, testified about his friendship with Stevens, which began in 1982. The government alleges that Allen, As the head of VECO, showered favors upon Stevens which Stevens never filed in his Senate financial disclosure forms.
The case against Stevens and other public corruption investigations in Alaska gained momentum in May 2007 after Allen and Richard Smith, the former VECO vice president of community affairs and government relations, pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally shuttling more than $400,000 to various elected officials in Alaska. Under his plea agreement Allen has agreed to cooperate with the FBI and Justice Department in an ongoing public corruption investigation.
In the first of two days of testimoney from Allen, prosecutors focused on a deal in which Stevens accepted a 1999 Land Rover Discovery, worth $44,000, that from Allen in exchange for the senator's 1964 Mustang and $5,000.
"Ted knew I liked old cars," Allen said, but the former oil man said he didn't think it was an equal trade.
Allen testified that Stevens' brother-in-law, Bill Bittner, wanted to get the Mustang back from Allen but that the muscle car had been shipped to Allen's girlfriend in Seattle. Allen also said that the Senator wanted to give Allen about five or six guns in order to get his Mustang back. Allen said he was not really into guns and that he told Stevens, "don't do that till you get out of the Senate."
Allen, who built the VECO corporation from a small pipe company of 10 construction workers in the 1970s to Alaska's largest private company by 2000, said he got to know Stevens after meeting him during the 1982 campaign cycle. Allen said that by 1984 he was becoming more involved in politics and eventually hired a lobbyist to help his interests in state politics.
Over the years Stevens and Allen became close friends who often went fishing and traveled together. Allen said that for five or six years he and Stevens held their own "Boot Camp" which Allen described as a retreat: "No hard liquor -- just drink wine and have a cigar, try and get some pounds off," he said.
Government prosecutors began showing that the two men were good buddies by showing a picture of the men catching King Salmon at the Ted Stevens Kenai River Classic, an annual charity event to benefit sport fishing along the river. Asked by Prosecutor Joseph Bottini if he considered Stevens a close personal friend Allen said, "Yes."
Allen said the two men, "shared similar thoughts…he worked hard and loved Alaska…like to go fish."
Stevens sat quietly writing notes through much of the testimony.
While much of the testimony in the trial so far has focused on renovations done to Stevens' home by VECO workers, which the senator never claimed, prosecutors today began to detail other gifts accepted by Stevens.
Earlier in the day a former worker for the Kenai Classic, Jerie Best, said that she handled details for a $1,000 husky sled dog puppy and a giant fish statue that was given to Stevens. The prosecution earlier in pre-trial proceedings has noted that the statue is valued at $29,000. (The statue on Steven's front porch can be viewed HERE).
The prosecution's direct examination of Allen continues tomorrow with the expected release of FBI surveillance tapes offering new details of dealings between between Stevens and Allen.
The defense will then offer their cross examination, trying to punch holes in Allen's truthfulness and may attempt to note that Allen has cooperated with the government to receive additional financial installments worth millions of dollars for his sale of the VECO corporation in 2007 to the global engineering firm CH2M Hill.