The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Like Father… Like Son?

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


For the past six years, Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) has put Alaska at the top of CAGW’s pork per capita list.  In 2006 alone, he secured a whopping $325 million in pork, or $489 per Alaskan resident.  Recent news reports show that his son, Ben Stevens, is trying to follow in his daddy’s profligate footsteps.

Since 2002, Ben Stevens has served as Alaska’s state Senate president.  Because the legislature meets for only 120 calendar days, the job of legislator is considered non-professional, so many elected officials hold other jobs.

When Ben Stevens isn’t working in the Senate, he is a consultant to a variety of businesses that have dealings with the state.  These companies have received more than $1.6 million in contract fees over the past five years.  For example, Stevens collected $362,000 from Adak Fisheries, a fish processing company that just happened to receive a federal earmark thanks to the elder Stevens.  Ben Stevens is also chair of the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board (AFMB), which has passed out millions of dollars to fishing interests.  The board was created by his father in 2003 with a congressional earmark to supposedly help revive the Alaskan fishing industry.  Since then, AFMB has received $29 million from the federal government.  One of AFMB’s most memorable expenditures was the $500,000 for Alaska Airlines to paint a giant king salmon on one of its jets.   

Another cozy arrangement for Ben Stevens is that he was paid $252,000 in consulting fees between 2001 and 2005 for Veco (a company that provides a range of services to the energy, resource, and process industries).  He also received $70,000 for sitting on the Board of Directors of Semco Energy, which operates in Alaska as Enstar and happens to be the state’s largest gas utility.  This industry is overseen by the Senate Resource Committee and the Alaska Legislative Budget and Audit Committee.  Stevens is a member of both committees.  Earlier this year, Stevens oversaw the state legislature’s negotiations on oil and gas taxes. 

Ben Stevens has shown that pork can also have a humanitarian side.  As chief executive of the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Anchorage, Stevens received a “modest” salary of $715,000.  CAGW’s 2001 Congressional Pig Book has identified $9.4 million in pork-barrel spending for those Special Olympics, courtesy of his father.

Largely unnoticed, Ben Stevens’ shenanigan’s were finally discovered when Stevens and other Alaskan legislators submitted incomplete or inaccurate financial disclosure reports.  For example, Stevens did not report any of the income he earned from Semco.  Last December, while the Alaska Public Offices Commission could have fined him $2,120 for not disclosing his chairmanship of the AFMB, he was only fined a meager $150.  Democrats in the state legislature attempted to pass legislation which would have required greater disclosure of consulting fees and other contracts held by elected officials.  Unfortunately, the legislation never passed.

In late August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided the office of Ben Stevens and five other legislators to examine the connections between Veco and the legislators.  In October, the FBI searched Steven’s office again, looking at the relationships he had with the North Pacific seafood industry.  Reacting to the fallout from these scandals, Alaska House Speaker John Harris (R-Valdez) pledged that reform efforts “will be brought up in the next session.”  Perhaps suspecting that he was on the verge of being caught, Ben Stevens withdrew from his re-election bid in July, citing his desire to spend more time with his family.

Most children receive a modest allowance from their parents to teach them the value of a dollar and hard work.  Ben Stevens has been receiving his allowance from taxpayers through his father, and possibly for breaking the law at the same time.

OR:

In a metaphor appropriate for Alaska, we have probably only seen the tip of the iceberg in this scandal.

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