Thursday, May 28, 2009

Beverly Masek Sentencing Delayed, Bill Wiemar Moves to Halfway House, and a Recommendation for You


Three notes:

1. Former State Rep. Beverly Masek's sentencing has been continued (legalese for postponed) from today until Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 10 a.m.

2. As the Anchorage Daily News reported, long-time halfway house magnate Bill Weimar has moved from federal prison to a halfway house where he will finish the sentence of institutional confinement he began in January. Once out of the halfway house in Montana, he starts a period of home confinement under the sentence.

3. If you're noticed that I've been posting less lately and you're wondering what to do with all your time, I've got a suggestion: Start making lists of all the friends and relatives you can make a gift of the book I'm writing on the subject of this blog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Light Memorial Day Linking


Here’s a Memorial Day thank you to the veterans, both alive and dead, who have served and preserved this country’s freedoms.

The Anchorage Daily News published a story by Rich Mauer yesterday asking whether the feds have pulled the plug on the Alaska public corruption probe and getting some good government spokespeople to say that shouldn’t happen. It’s called “Is Alaska corruption investigation still alive?” You can find it at on the Internet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bill Allen Still Under Investigation for Sex with Underage Girls

Claremont, California--

The Alaska Dispatch website reports that former VECO CEO and key federal informant Bill Allen remains under investigation for sexual abuse of underage girls. The long-running off-and-on probe by Anchorage police centers on charges that while in his early 60s Allen had sex with a prostitute repeatedly while she was aged 15, 16, and 17. The article is called "Allen still under investigation for alleged sex crimes" by Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne, and it can be found at on the Internet.

Administrative Notes: I need to clarify that the Fantasy Springs Casino I wrote about yesterday is on the Cabazon Indian Reservation, not in the town of Cabazon. The two locations are some miles apart in the Southern California desert, and the town of Cabazon is perhaps best known for its outlet stores.

As regular readers know, I'm in California for my son's graduation from high school. I'm probably not going to post again until I get back to Alaska, so see you on or after Mermorial Day.

Advice for Dads, Grads, and Others

Claremont, California—

Maybe it’s my son’s impending graduation from high school, but I’m feeling a little Garrison Keillorish today. Consider this a detour from the usual hard-eyed analysis and pungent commentary on Alaska public corruption featured on this website. Here’s a handful of pieces of advice I have gotten from or given to people close to me over the years:

1. If you want to look like a tough guy in a bar, don’t drink from a straw.

2. When you get into a conflict with a friend, consider whether you should make the first move to reconcile. Life’s short, and you want to save at least six for the pallbearers.

3. If you are a guy who finds that you are falling behind in your household chores, reconceptualize your relationship with domestic tasks. Don’t think “Using a vacuum cleaner is boring.” Think “I’m going to impose my masculine will on the dirt, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.” To make yourself feel even better, say this out loud while hitching up your pants and spitting. (Spitting works best outside.)

4. If you’re a parent at a high school graduation, it’s considered bad form to ask at the end of the ceremony “When does the band start?”

5. If circumstances lead you to dine repeatedly during a brief period with your child, your mother, your girlfriend, and your ex-wife, make special efforts to keep your mouth closed while chewing your food.

(Note: Slightly punched up on June 3, 2009.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Confessions of Error from the Land of the Would-Be Lucky

Fantasy Springs Casino, Cabazon, California—

So here I am in this casino just showing you I’m not the guy some of you might wish I was.

If I were a famous trial lawyer used to making my opponents cower in fear, I’d probably be swaggering from table to table throwing down bets so big and so reckless that onlookers would reel in shock and awe.

But that’s not the guy you got here, dear reader. Instead, I’m upstairs on a balcony overlooking the main floor blogging for you. I’m on a nice leather couch where I can see the flashing lights and hear the happy music and watch the people go by, but I’m not in the fray of the game. It’s probably because I’m not really built for the lust for the play and the main chance that you find in people who are really dedicated to trying to win at every aspect of life. And I’ve never enjoyed gambling at pure games of chance like slots and craps—if I was going to wager, I’d probably go for poker or horseracing, where you can at least think that you can apply some learning and/or research.

(So why I am in a casino, you ask? Well, my mother and I were in the neighborhood, and she thinks gambling’s fun, so….)

Anyway, it seems appropriate in a place where people go for the gusto but often end up with pangs of regret that I point out that I’ve made a couple of booboos recently.

In reverse chronological order:

1. On May 1, I told you that Mark Allen and the other owner of Mine That Bird “will collect a $2 million purse for their horse’s triumph” in the Kentucky Derby.

Wrong. The purse of the Kentucky Derby—that is, the total amount paid out to the owners of horses who finish “in the money”—was a little north of $2 million. The winner’s share of that purse was about $1.4 million. I was misled by a newspaper account that suggested that Mark Allen and his co-owner would receive the entire purse.

2. On April 1, I wrote that baseball slugger Barry Bonds “passed Babe Ruth’s legendary all-time record” for hitting home runs.

Wrong again, and this time I have no excuse at all. It was Hank Aaron who broke Babe Ruth’s record, as commenter “Aapa” pointed out on the Alaska Dispatch website when my post was republished there. Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record.

I have been a baseball fan for almost five decades, and this was not a mistake I should have made. The explanations for this slip range from the romantic to the vaguely scary. Maybe it was because Ruth’s record was canonical while I was a boy, and early memories stuck with me even though I have seen footage repeatedly over the years of Aaron rounding the bases after his record-shattering shot. Or maybe it’s the relative lack of controversy associated with Aaron’s life that makes him less memorable. By all accounts Hank Aaron is a more admirable person than either Ruth or Bonds, but maybe that same rectitude makes him stand out less in the memory. In any case, apologies.

Speaking of more admirable people, tomorrow I plan to be blogging from a school instead of a casino. I’m here in California because my son is graduating from boarding school about an hour's drive away. Here’s a shoutout to all the graduates this season, and congratulations as well to all those who helped them through. You're all winners in my book.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mine That Bird Finishes Second in the Preakness


The game little gelding apparently bought with money from the sale of VECO could only place in the Preakness, losing the second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

Mine That Bird pulled off another charge out of last place, but its stretch run yesterday came up just short as Rachel Alexandra won by about the length of a racehorse.

Racing fans rejoiced in the first victory of a filly in the Preakness since 1924 and the possibility of another matchup in the Belmont next month between Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird, the miracle winner of the Kentucky Derby who showed with its second-place finish that it wasn't just a one-race wonder.

Those following the Alaska public corruption scandals also savored the maneuvering that preceded the Preakness. Mark Allen, former VECO CEO Bill Allen’s son and co-owner of Mine That Bird, tried to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness. Mark Allen said that he wanted to exclude Rachel Alexandra—who didn’t run in the Derby—so that he could get the services of Calvin Borel, the jockey who piloted 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird to the Derby triumph before announcing his intention to switch to Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness. Later Mark Allen admitted, however, that his real intention was to “keep that good filly out” of the Preakness.

Mark Allen said that he decided to drop what the Alaska Ear column in the Anchorage Daily News called his “pack-the-track plan” after he talked it over with his father Bill Allen and the horse’s co-owner and took a Harley ride.

“It was selfish, definitely selfish,” Mark Allen told the Daily Racing News. “I was getting greedy. It was the wrong thing to do.”

It looks like racing enthusiasts will get to see Mark Allen at least one more time on the Triple Crown circuit, as Mine That Bird seems likely to run in the Belmont even if Rachel Alexandra doesn’t. Allen will be at the famous race with Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Woolley, the former rodeo bareback rider who last year got him to buy a half-share of the bay horse with the turned-out feet.

Sportswriters have delighted in reporting Mark Allen’s account of how he got to know Woolley. The two of them met 25 years ago when both were working at a racetrack in Raton, New Mexico.

“We didn’t like each other at first,” Mark Allen told Sports Illustrated. “We were fixin’ to probably lock horns.”

That changed one night at a bar called Annie Get Your Guns when Allen got into a brawl in which he was outnumbered.

"Chip came in and helped me out," Allen told Sports Illustrated. "There were about five of them, two of us, and we done all right. We've been friends ever since."

Allen did allow to the New York Times that the fight wasn’t a cakewalk after Woolley waded in on his side. “It took us a while, and we paid the next day.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

That Legal Defense of Ted Stevens Was Indeed Pricy


Ted Stevens has reported that as of January 3rd he owed between $1 million to $5 million to Williams & Connolly, the high-flying Washington law firm that represented him in his trial last fall and in the post-trial litigation.

That reported range of $1 million to $5 million may not represent the entire tab for the defense, however. As pointed out by Erika Bolstad and Richard Mauer in the Anchorage Daily News this morning, the former Senator’s final financial disclosure report to the Senate does not preclude the possibility that Stevens has already paid some of the fees. It’s also possible that Williams & Connolly gave Stevens a discount as a loss leader to help attract other legal business to the firm.

Stevens also reported that he owed another $50,000 to $100,000 to another Washington law firm.

The Anchorage Daily News article notes that Stevens established a legal defense fund with the Senate last September, but never filed any disclosures about money the fund received. With Stevens out of the Senate, the newspaper reports that he is no longer required to provide such information.

The Anchorage Daily News story on the Ted Stevens financial disclosure report is available at on the Internet.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Proof of Selective Prosecution" Was Not the Reason the Charges Against Ted Stevens Were Dropped, Contrary to What You May Have Read


A well-respected blogger for the Huffington Post has made an obviously incorrect statement about the circumstances under which the court granted the Department of Justice’s request to set aside the guilty verdicts against Ted Stevens and dismiss the charges with prejudice.

In an article about the efforts of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to overturn his convictions, Sam Stein states that the charges against Ted Stevens “were dropped under proof of selective prosecution.”

This statement is incorrect. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s order granting the Department of Justice’s motion to end the case against Stevens points out that the Department’s request cited the government’s failure to disclose to the defense before the trial notes taken by trial prosecutors. Those notes were of a conversation with key government witness Bill Allen before the trial, and the notes were not turned over to the defense until almost five months after the trial. Judge Sullivan’s order of April 7, 2009 also observes that the newly appointed team of prosecutors admitted that the disclosure—or “discovery”—of those notes to the defense was constitutionally required as part of the prosecution’s obligation to allow the defense to prepare for the trial.

Thus it was violations of the prosecution’s discovery obligations—and not any “proof of selective prosecution”—that led the government to make the request that the court granted to drop the Stevens case.

Siegelman’s attorneys have alleged that federal prosecutors committed discovery violations in his trial, but the Alabama Democrat's charges of “selective prosecution” tied to Karl Rove’s role in the George W. Bush administration have tended to grab the headlines regarding the Siegelman case. If a defendant is interested in results rather than publicity, however, showing egregious discovery violations is more attractive than complaining about “selective prosecution.” A defendant who can show that the prosecution hid the ball massively has a better chance of getting a conviction thrown out than one who claims “selective prosecution,” which is rarely a winner for the defendant.

Stein’s article in the Huffington Post is called “Siegelman Lobbies DOJ To Intervene As Court Deadline Nears” and was Web-posted on May 8, 2009. It is available at on the Internet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Addenda to Clean-Up II


For an op-ed piece describing the questionable involvements of Ted Stevens and Ben Stevens in fisheries legislation, see John Strohmeyer, "Will feds pursue Stevens on fisheries?" in the Anchorage Daily News edition of April 19, 2009 (web-posted on April 18, 2009), available at on the Internet.

For an article on the challenges faced by the Attorney General in dealing with the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section--the outfit that has been running the Alaska public corruption investigation and quarterbacking the prosecution of the cases flowing from it--you should check out Charlie Savage's piece "Elite Unit's Problems Pose Test for Attorney General" in today's edition of the New York Times, which can be found at on the Internet.

Clean-Up II


A commenter—“ToxicTom”—has asked another question that deserves its own post.

The comment was:

“Is Ted Stevens being investigated for any other shenanigans? The earmarks for the Alaska Seafood Marketing group that Ben Stevens doled out to companies he ‘consulted’ for and the Trevor McCabe property deal in Seward come to mind.”

The short answer is that Ted Stevens may well be under continuing criminal investigation, but he is unlikely to face further federal prosecution given his age of 85 and the way the first case against him involving financial disclosure violations crashed and burned after the trial due to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Under these circumstances, the Department of Justice seems like to file new charges against Ted Stevens only if they allege crimes:

(1) everybody would agree are serious

(2) supported by mounds of evidence

(3) presented in a context in which the prosecution turns over all possible evidence that could be considered exculpatory.

The commenter alludes to some things long speculated on. A number of those following the federal investigation into Alaska public corruption have thought the greatest exposure for Ted Stevens involved his role in federal fisheries legislation, particularly in relation to his son Ben’s lucrative consulting contracts with some of the beneficiaries of that legislation. Ben Stevens seemed particularly likely to be criminally charged in the probe, both because of his multiple ties with suspicious-looking fisheries deals and because former VECO executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith have pleaded guilty to bribing him regarding oil-tax legislation under consideration while Ben Stevens was President of the Alaska State Senate.

Something seems to have slowed down the prosecution of Ben Stevens, however. The federal investigation into Alaska public corruption continues, however, and Ben Stevens would seem likely to continue to be a big target. Ted Stevens, on the other hand, appears much less likely to face prosecution again.

Remember two caveats on all of the above. Both Ben Stevens and Ted Stevens deny wrongdoing as to anything involving federal fisheries legislation as well as all other allegations. And all this speculation comes from the same guy that told you that Ted Stevens would never testify at his trial.

Clean-Up I


Commenter (and careful reader) Mark Regan asked a question several days ago that deserves a more general response. His question is: “Does the federal plea deal preclude the State from filing bribery charges against young Mr. Allen?”

The short answer is that Bill Allen’s plea agreement with the federal government does not legally bar the State of Alaska from filing bribery charges against his son Mark Allen, but for legal and practical reasons this is highly unlikely to occur.

Questions about Bill Allen’s plea agreement arise frequently enough that the provision regarding family members and VECO is worth setting out:

Although he was not made any specific promises in exchange for his cooperation, BILL ALLEN was advised by the government that if, at the completion of ALLEN's cooperation, the government determines that ALLEN has fully cooperated with the government's investigation and that ALLEN's full cooperation has provided substantial assistance to the ongoing investigation, the government (1) will not charge ALLEN's son, Mark Allen, or other family members of ALLEN with any criminal offenses arising out of the government's investigation or that have been disclosed to the government, and (2) will view ALLEN's cooperation as also being cooperation on the part of VECO.

Bill Allen’s plea agreement also specifically provides that it binds only the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. That plea agreement states that it “does not bind any United States Attorney's Office or any other office or agency of the United States, or any state or local prosecutor.”

While that provision just quoted makes it look like Mark Allen is vulnerable to prosecution by the State of Alaska, there are at least two reasons that this will not occur.

The first reason is legal. The specific act of Mark Allen’s under discussion is the one suggested by the combination of his father’s testimony at the Ted Stevens trial and the documents filed in court in conjunction with the plea agreement of ex-State Rep. Beverly Masek (R-Willow). The “Factual Basis for Plea” states that at an Anchorage restaurant “a relative” of Bill Allen gave Masek—then a state legislator—“several thousand dollars in cash,” and Bill Allen testified at the Stevens trial that his son gave a female legislator money under circumstances suggesting bribery.

The legal problem with the State of Alaska prosecuting Mark Allen for bribing Masek is that the “Factual Basis for Plea” states that this cash transfer occurred on April 18, 2003. Given that the relevant statute of limitations under Alaska state law would appear to be five years, there seems to be no way for the State of Alaska to prosecute Mark Allen for that act.

More generally, however, the State of Alaska would not want to get in the way of the federal probe into public corruption on the Last Frontier, and it is clear that the Department of Justice would see state prosecutions of offenses uncovered in that federal investigation as interference.

The bottom line is that while Bill Allen is headed to federal prison, his son Mark Allen is highly likely to continue to bask unmolested in the glory of his horse’s upset victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'll Bet My Money on the Bob-Tail Nag, Somebody Bet on the Bay


I’m still thinking about Mine That Bird’s amazing victory at the Kentucky Derby this weekend.

This small and previously undistinguished horse apparently bought with money from the sale of VECO went from last to first on a sloppy track at America’s premier race. A 50-1 longshot, Mine That Bird won by the largest margin seen at the Derby in 63 years. Now the little thoroughbred out of the West is apparently going to go on to the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Are there parallels to the whole story of Alaska public corruption?

Two corrections: In my excitement yesterday I slightly misspelled the horse’s name—it’s “Mine That Bird,” not “Mine that Bird.” And the mud on the Derby track helped cover up the horse’s true color, which is not brown but reddish-brown—“bay” in the equine world.

(The title of this post comes from Stephen Foster’s song “Camptown Races”; the spelling is modernized.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Can't Make This Up: Bill Allen's Son Co-owns the Kentucky Derby Winner


The co-owner of the horse that scored an historic upset victory in the Kentucky Derby yesterday is Bill Allen’s son Mark Allen, who apparently was able to stand in the winner’s circle only through an immunity agreement his father made that kept his son out of prison.

Bill Allen built VECO from a small Alaska construction company into a multi-national oil-services powerhouse and the political arm of the oil industry in the 49th State before he became an informant for the federal government in the ongoing Alaska public corruption probe.

Reporting by the Anchorage Daily News suggests that Mark Allen bought his share of Mine that Bird out of his $30 million share of the proceeds of the sale of VECO in 2007, the year after his father became a cooperating federal witness. Yesterday the thoroughbred came from way back in the pack to take horseracing’s most famous event against the second longest odds ever beaten in the 135-year history of the Run for the Roses. The brown gelding is the half-brother of So Long Birdie, a horse formerly owned by a partnership that included Bill Allen, former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, and other noteworthy Alaskans.

Bill Allen was the chief prosecution witness against Ted Stevens in a felony trial last autumn in Washington, D.C. A jury found Stevens guilty of seven counts of failing to disclose gifts and liabilities that primarily arose when VECO workers provided much of the labor for renovations of the Senator’s home in Alaska, but the trial judge overturned the verdicts and dismissed the case last month due to prosecutorial misconduct. In the meantime, Stevens lost his bid for re-election to the Senate.

As reported by Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News, Bill Allen’s testimony at the Stevens trial and pleadings filed in federal court combine to indicate that Mark Allen gave “several” thousand dollars in cash to then-State Rep. Beverly Masek, R.-Willow, at a restaurant in 2003. Masek has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy regarding the taking of bribes from Bill Allen and a relative of Bill Allen’s who is unnamed in the criminal complaint.

Masek is awaiting sentencing, and she will be going to prison to join former Reps. Pete Kott, R.-Eagle River, and Vic Kohring, R.-Wasilla, two other legislators convicted of taking bribes from Bill Allen. Prison also awaits Bill Allen when he finishes testifying for the feds.

But prison—or even prosecution—doesn’t await Mark Allen, whose father negotiated immunity for him specifically. That same plea agreement of Bill Allen’s also keeps the federal government from filing criminal charges against other members of the family of the former oil-services titan.

Wearing a black cowboy hat, a black leather jacket, and a string tie, Mark Allen looked relaxed and happy standing in the winner’s circle yesterday with the Governor of Kentucky. He should be. He and his co-owner will collect a $2 million purse for their horse’s triumph yesterday.

Coincidentally, that sum appears to just about equal to the cost of the defense in the Ted Stevens trial. Ted Stevens and Bill Allen are unlikely to be getting together to celebrate Mark Allen’s success with the ponies, but maybe Stevens took a big flyer on the half-brother on the horse he used to co-own. He would have needed to put down $40,000, but if he did the 50-1 odds on Mine that Bird meant that the cost of the former Senator’s legal defense was covered.

To add one more incredible twist, Mine that Bird ran in the horse races in California that a juror blew off the jury deliberations to attend during the Stevens trial. (When she told the judge she was leaving, she said that her father had died.) The judge imposed no penalty on the juror for her misconduct, apparently granting mercy after hearing statements from her at a post-trial hearing that left some onlookers unsure of her sanity.

Friday, May 1, 2009

If You're in Anchorage Tomorrow and Want to Learn about Alaska's Fiscal System...


…you should come to the forum on “Hard Times and the Permanent Fund” from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s on Saturday at the Anchorage Senior Center at 1300 E. 19th Avenue. It’s open to the public and it’s free—there’s even going to be coffee, muffins, and fruit.

The forum is sponsored by Alaska Common Ground, of which I'm a board member. The forum is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, AARP, the First Alaskans Institute, the Resource Development Council of Alaska, and Commonwealth North. There will be a panel discussion and the opportunity for questions from the public. I'm helping to do the introductory presentation, and I’ll be setting out the basic relationships between the Permanent Fund, the Permanent Fund Dividend, and the General Fund (also known as “the budget”).

The topic of tomorrow’s forum is of course outside this blog’s subject area, but there is a common source for me—an interest in how government works in Alaska.

I’m also writing about this event to explain why posting on this blog has been light this week: I’ve been spending a lot of time the past two weeks organizing, promoting, and preparing for this forum. Starting on Sunday I’ve going to full-time book writing, with some coverage of breaking news on this blog and some production here of material that will also appear in the book. So check back here this weekend for more.