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Ted Stevens and Don Young Fail to Provide 'Honest Services'

9/23/06

Kodiak, Alaska - The ongoing Justice Department's multi-agency Public Integrity probe has folks asking how serious are these "FBI investigations"? And will politicians go to jail? It's likely; because recent investigations led to jail time and charges that carry long-terms and heavy fines (like "honest services mail fraud"). And upright Sen. Kim Elton of Alaska's Democrats suggested a grand jury is already in the works.

Ben Stevens

But meanwhile you had better get to work on stopping the House version of the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries reauthorization, because while Congressman Gilchrest stresses flounder as a holding reason, he'd like it to go to the House floor after the elections. Don Young is also pushing hard for the bill, and to get details worked out in the secret back rooms of "the conference committee" - and that is where the Gulf of Alaska fleet back whipping and Alaska-style claim jumping will be at its worst. Yet it is comforting to know the current probe centers in on just this type of dishonest service.

Ted Stevens

Public Integrity Section news: "On January 3, 2006, in Washington, D.C., Former lobbyist Jack A. Abramoff pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with conspiracy, aiding and abetting honest services mail fraud, and tax evasion." The release cited, "a pattern of corruptly providing things of value to public officials, including trips, campaign contributions, and meals and entertainment, with the intent to influence acts by the public officials. As both men knew, the secrecy of the kickback arrangement was crucial to the success of their scheme."

Elton craftily hints that a current legislative aide and ex-legislator lawyer have been notified for possible 18-month grand jury duty, but no official word is available at press time. In addition, current news about ramping up the Section's efforts inside the Nation's Capitol should give you faith in the investigations. There's a lot to catch up on, especially if you have been out fishing, so think of this as part of an ongoing electronic book.

Background:
As you likely know, on August 31, 2006 FBI-led teams struck the offices of Alaskan legislators and others with search warrants, specifically about oil and gas deal votes. Few Americans are aware of how federal investigations proceed, especially about 'honest service' frauds (like that outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1346; see below). But one and all agree that politicians owe citizens "certain intangible rights" while in office, and that public officials and States should conduct their affairs honestly - particularly when 'tangible' public properties are involved.

The IRS is also on the team, and criminal convictions on tax related charges can make culprits help pay for the expenses of the investigation. New confiscation tools under racketeer influenced and conspiracy laws (RICO) can also be used. That's important because what has long appeared to be legal, in a technical sense, may not be legal at all when looked at from the points of view of lying, of 'takings' of property rights, and of conspiracy to use government offices and boards for such wrongdoing.

Likewise, we think the opportunity to clean up an entire industry like fisheries, long pursued by the IRS (to limited effect) should entice 'personal badge shining' for investigators who joined law enforcement to make a difference in other people's lives. This is especially inviting to officials who have watched for decades as other U.S. industries fell to foreign domination. It's no wonder that NOAA fish cops are on the team, too. There's just nothing like taking down the most powerful of corrupt politicians to get the blood running fast in career-making veins.

Fisheries here is an industry where the players and money are highly concentrated, the maritime lawyers and lobbyists are few and easily identified (and often work for several conflicted interests at once), and the end-run legislation traveled through few hands (often through relatives of politicians involved), and the effects of political influence have been directly devastating to former property rights holders (harvesters and communities). When strategic national resources have been given to monopolists, and where tax authorities already have a good look into corruption, it's overripe for action. And well worth the pursuit.

Word came in this week from a second source confirming "the Feds" allegedly went down and got a certain Southeast fisherman off his seine boat for questioning. Was a search warrant served? Would that concern the 'Calhoun Avenue Boys Club' and over $90 million in federal funds? For that matter, would Ben Stevens also care to tell if his search warrant included fisheries marketing?

To those barstool authorities who nonsensically point to how thorny it is to take out a sitting Senator, especially one as power-full as "Uncle Ted," we offer a few words: Nixon, and Watergate. And to those who doubt this will get into Fisheries, we say: IRS, Abusive Transfer Pricing, and that $2 billion are smuggled by such 'cross-border' product laundering every year. You can embezzle billions, pay lobbyists and bribe government officials for only so long. Final words: federal squadrons!

A prior Groundswell post got visited by over 1,500 folks during only 5 days, so, many readers do find valuable the in-depth, if lengthy, reporting. Moreover, there are quite a few federal agents who are still wet behind the fish industry gills that regularly check in from a nameless Virginia ISP address, and they also need to know the comprehensive story.

New FBI Emphasis on Politicians in DC:

Last February, Time magazine had an article about how the FBI had devoted hundreds of agents to fighting political corruption, consequent with Homeland Security reassignments. So it's no surprise that a September 19, 2006 article in the New York Daily News, by James Gordon Meek, was titled, "FBI triples its Capitol Hill corruption squads." It noted "so much wrongdoing is being uncovered" and said those squads are investigating "lobbyists, lawmakers and influence peddlers." (See Enge's scoop this week.)

The FBI's assistant director, Chip Burrus told the Daily News that "typical crimes involve lawmakers' illegal interactions with lobbyists and 'people who have a lot of savvy about how the congressional process works and appropriations'." Kaching! Could there be any clearer indication these regiments are after cash drawer robbing porkers like Ted Stevens and Don Young?

Meek noted that major cases often "stemmed from bribery allegations" (that's Ray Metcalfe's message!) and that the "recent FBI search of the Alaska Statehouse was a first of its kind." Burrus summarized, "We have to pull the whole weed up or it's just going to grow back again." O.K., any further doubt fisheries will soon be a focus of the Justice probes?

In the movie Evita, a song said "All it takes for the government to fall, is one good show." Thanks Ben, Ted, Frank and Don for "secret deals" at Adak and raids on the Permanent Fund, Crab Ratz and Internet nonsense and Tanker Gate, and now Iraq Greed-gate; governor-only oil deals and pipeline leaks, and the Bald Ego jet; interstate overpasses and Bridges to Nowhere; and all the other arrogant shows. Yet, as another movie writer said, "Truth is a heady wine, friend. A politician must never exaggerate the People's capacity for it!" Or underestimate their capacity to vote the bums out, once given a good choice.

However, a multi-agency Public Integrity section investigation of this magnitude can take years. In the meantime, vote carefully, protect property rights that you still have, help overturn Crab Ratz, and stop the lobbyist written sections of the MSA Reauthorization bills, now stalled in Congress.

Did Ray Metcalfe's Pursuit of Ben Stevens Bring in Feds?:

U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and his son, state Senate president Ben Stevens, and Governor Frank Murkowski, Congressman Don Young and others have severely let us down - for a very long time. When Ray Metcalfe, chairman of the Republican Moderate Party of Alaska, was attempting a recall of Ben Stevens over a year ago he got continually road blocked on the State level. From the Attorney General's office and its Office of Special Prosecutions and Affairs to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC), Metcalfe was politically stopped or slowed.

Remember that Metcalfe started a voter recall on Ben Stevens before filing the corruption charges at APOC. When Metcalfe later took the matter to federal authorities at the FBI, he was told to go back and exhaust the state process. So he took matters to the foreman of the sitting grand jury in Anchorage and back to the Special Prosecutions Office, while a public street protest took place outside. Then Metcalfe filed more complaints at APOC.

But APOC took its sweet time by scheduling matters in quarterly meetings, and it was five months after Metcalfe first filed that APOC finally heard one small portion of the charges in December 2005. However, we have recently learned through press reports that APOC had talked to the FBI about one year ago. Were Feds onto things already, or stimulated by Metcalfe's efforts?

With seeming foot-dragging at APOC, Ben Stevens was allowed, despite clear state laws to the contrary and the precedent of the State Supreme Court's opinion in an earlier case involving a state senator's campaign, to again sit in the Legislature in January. It may well turn out to be an ironic triumph that Ben returned to the state Senate to carry on the alleged VECO plot with fellow legislators. There is nothing better than a political racket that gets to its goal, whether things turn out its way or not, because that helps demonstrate the ends they were after (i.e. it was a conspiracy after all). It makes one wonder if APOC wasn't assisting the FBI in determining if votes really were being sold, and the three $150 fines against Stevens were just for show.

Also, as Metcalfe approached Justice, Ted Stevens coincidentally came under increased pressure, right here in Alaska. On January 10, 2006 thirty federal agents from multiple agencies simultaneously raided several locations in Fairbanks concerning misuse of grant funds. The case involved $2.9 million in funds that Ted Stevens had earmarked for businesses involving a former mayor (Jim Hayes) whose son had also been an aide to Ted in Washington DC. Surely they were working on that case long before. Few fishermen ever heard of the Fairbanks case, which has lain quietly. Yet hindsight makes it look something like a trial run on this bigger case, or part of an ongoing set of investigations.

Readers might like to know that Metcalfe's current effort involves reminding voters just how closely tied Tony Knowles was to VECO and Bill Allen. Allen was his 'transition team leader' a decade ago (see attached PDF). And a lot of BP, ARCO, and VECO money went into "the Governor's Fund" that Tony used as he saw fit. Moreover, under Knowles' help BP got a deal worth $225 million to the state had it otherwise gone out on open contract bid.

Groundswell Suggested the Public Integrity Section:

After growing frustration at the slow pace APOC was continuing to take, and the first simple fine of $150 in December against Stevens, Metcalfe asked us who to take it to on a higher level. We suggested the Justice Department's office involving Public Integrity cases like Enron and WorldCom (where I'd been a telecom center manager), who understood the high level schemes and players.

After all, they are handling the ongoing Jack Abramoff case that had already implicated Don Young in sports box-seat gifts, and that concerned contributions to Ted Stevens and many other senators. An educated guess is that Metcalfe's issues arrived while Justice was already focusing on Alaskan politicians and their arrogant power. It would be doubly interesting to know if APOC had already been contacted, and whether it resulted from Metcalfe's earlier recall efforts (most likely) or a legislator-insider (wouldn't that be a synchronicity treat!).

The Public Integrity Section operates beneath the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, under the guidance a Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General who also oversees the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section and Office of Enforcement Operations. (Groundswell's Writ of Mandamus and earlier complaints had long suggested RICO action for Adak violations and the tax crimes, and 'enforcement operations' are the on-the-ground teams like the Fairbanks and Legislature cases.) The Section's mission is to aggressively investigate and prosecute corrupt public officials and those who conspire to corrupt them.

Recently, hundreds of FBI agents and other federal specialists had been working on over 2,000 public corruption cases - in part because you can't have 'Homeland Security' when the very agencies and authorities you need to secure a Nation are themselves corrupt. And since corporations provide increasing amounts of services under contract to federal agencies involved in homeland security, especially Alaska native corporations who were sole-source recipients of contracts like the one in Iraq for cell phone and 911 services, they too must be secure from corruption. Apparently Ted Stevens took offense to some whistleblowers on that one.

According to a new book, "Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq", by journalist T. Christian Miller, Ted Stevens is also involved in war-profiteering. He slipped special language into the November 2003 Iraq rebuilding bill of $18.4 billion, says Miller, guaranteeing "special contract privileges for a group of constituents [the Alaska Native Corporations] that supplied Stevens with votes." The attention to power that Ted always craved seems to be growing like a weed.

The Public Integrity section draws upon the weeding talents of other federal agencies and branches, like the Federal Bureau of Investigations (also under the DOJ Criminal Division, beneath another deputy AG), the Internal Revenue Service (a Treasury Department agency, that also can utilize "special industry groups" of audit, computer, and criminal law experts gathered to specifically handle an industry ridden with abuse, like when we turned in Japanese fishing companies for tax evasion), and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement (one Commerce Department agency involved in investigating prior criminal activity involving Adak fisheries perjury and other actions).

The Fairbanks case involved the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I'd expect this case to draw upon the Commerce Department for economic assistance grant fraud issues at Adak, too. Maybe even the Department of Defense - who once replied to us at Adak Power and Electric that to release an Arthur Anderson CPAs report publicly would produce "a chilling effect," (that's a specific legal term) about how matters were handled. Would that report have covered how the Aleut Corporation obtained $15 million from Ted Stevens for an already cleaned-up asbestos abatement project, and the Navy "had to create the problem to go with it" to accept those funds? Was his brother-in-law's lobbying firm involved in that one, too?

Likewise, such federal multi-agency task forces can also draw upon the skills of magistrates, CPAs and tax attorneys who still have integrity, and other expertise. And they know how to operate under the dictum, "Follow the money." That's why the majority of blue suits you saw on Anchorage TV during the August 31 raids on Legislators were actually "forensic accountants."

It's Serious and as Fishy as it Gets:

Do you believe that the raids on state legislative offices and the state Capitol itself would have taken place without federal agents being willing to risk their entire careers on evidence and witnesses already in hand? What judge would have signed so many search warrants of this magnitude without convincing reasons?

The earlier Fairbanks case involved "misused federal grant money." So please remember that a hefty part of Ben Stevens' consulting income also came from clients that had recently received federal funds he helped funnel in their direction under the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, which he chaired. Even though organized as a "non-profit" entity, it is an "intergovernmental agency" and every member of its board and management are subject to U.S. laws on prohibited activities concerning programs receiving Federal funds.

A lot of these guys also sit on the board of the United Fishermen of Alaska and other fishery associations, even on the Advisory Panel, and have been closely aligned for many years with the politicians and recipients involved. Inextricably so. The AFMB funds were directly sponsored by Ted Stevens while the chair of Senate Appropriations; and as Metcalfe had already outlined, should also be subject (like VECO payments to Ben) to scrutiny for theft, bribery and buying political influence. That was before it was discovered last year that Ben had a "secret deal" to purchase 25% of Adak Fisheries, and Ted had allocated pollock rights to the Aleut Corporation and its subsidiary, the Aleut Enterprise Corporation, where Ben sat on the board.

The AFMB board had shown arrogance toward public audit concerns. When the AFMB doled out salmon marketing money based on past pounds of salmon, it violated federal "results-oriented management" guidelines and requirements for measurable results from marketing-based expenditures. Fish tickets for prior season catches (which also belong to harvesters, not processors) are a past measure, and arguably not a 'performance' measure.

The governor's USDA liaison, Bruce Schactler blames Ben Stevens for overpowering the rest of the board members and insisting on this means of determining payment. But the other board members outnumbered the chair. I trust Schactler did have ill feelings about those large grant allocations, to large processors who all belonged to the North Pacific Crab Association, which was a client of Stevens. However, buck-passing isn't going to work once the feds start really examining what went on, and Al Burch, Duncan Fields, Bobby Thorstenson, and other board members are in for a talking to. At some point, there is a limit to "honest service fraud" by public officials.

As a sidenote, this week another outfit whose address is at the Calhoun Avenue (Juneau) headquarters owned by Bobby Thorstenson Jr. and Rob Zuanich apparently got a 25-year deal approved by the Sitka city council, for processing regional aquaculture salmon. Stikine Holdings LLC is on the state records as licensed to can salmon. This arrangement stinks like Adak all over again; a long-term lease that promises jobs and rent incomes, but compromises that will haunt a community. It's another one the Feds should review.

Senators Claimed Thick Skin & More Arrogance:

Extreme arrogance and bullying are hardly unusual for either Stevens. Quoting from a July 6, 2004 article in the Anchorage Daily News by Sean Cockerham, "Ted Stevens told the Daily News last fall that both he and his son have developed a thick skin in response to their critics." He also quoted Ted, "I don't care what they say about me. My son's now a politician. ... He doesn't care what they say about him . Neither one of us is getting rich. That's for damn sure. And we're doing what we think is right." (Is that a moral term, or does it just mean "right for those paying us"?).

But no one is "untouchable." Reminder: the infamous gangster Al Capone went to jail on tax evasion, and an FBI agent led the charge to put that arrogant crook down.

Ted's arrogance hit its height while you were out fishing, and he was finally exposed as the senator holding back the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 that would allow citizen-taxpayers to track government spending. Once again, he used his power-full knowledge of Senate rules to silence the bill into submission. Rules are valued when Ted wants to use them, and not when he chooses not to obey them - like during Crab Ratz.

What is equally interesting is that, in March of 2006, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski voted against the U.S. Senate creating a new Office of Public Integrity in a reform bill on lobbying and ethics. Stevens said, "I agree that we need to restore public confidence but this is one of the things that destroys public confidence because it says you cannot have confidence in the investigatory side of the Senate Ethics [committee] process. This is going to present a situation where no one will serve on this committee. Why would they do it?"

Maybe they'd serve just to pull some weeds up inside the Beltway, Ted. You are on the way out - soon! But what's Lisa's excuse?

Don Young Cuts Many Dodgy Deals:

You know that Don Young is Alaska's lone Congressman, and the power-full chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But he's also a top prince of putrid public service; having once bragged about a transportation bill, saying it was "stuffed like a turkey" for Alaska. But Young is like the Japanese-fishing company giants who know no borders to their international product laundering, and he'll smuggle for anyone.

First, last year Don put a $10 million earmark into a federal transportation bill to study a freeway interchange in Florida. That was after he held a fundraiser at the Hyatt Coconut Point hotel and town hall meeting at Florida Gulf Coast University in February 2005. The underhanded artifice soon led to a bigger earmark.

Additional research showed that in late July of 2005, two credit-taking Florida congressmen announced that the House and Senate agreed to authorize $81.1 million for the expansion of I-75. As a news article reported, "Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and a conferee, said: 'Funding for I-75 has always been a top priority for me, so I am thrilled that Congressman Connie Mack and I were successful in getting this done. We appreciate Chairman Don Young for helping us shepherd this through.' Mack is also a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee."

On April 16, 2006, journalist Julio Ochoa wrote, "Some believe contributions from that fundraiser hold the key to understanding how the unrequested money for the interchange study made its way into the federal transportation bill, which lawmakers approved last year." The interchange was not in the Lee County's long-range plans, and officials were surprised by that earmark.

As Ochoa pointed out, "For some, the contributions are enough to indicate that Young placed the $10 million in the bill based on special interests." And, "To me, it looks very transparent," Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah said. "It's very transparent of what's going on to the detriment of public interest."

This is the Washington DC sport, where another congressman or senator slides into home base on a home run hit by a powerful committee chair, from an easy pitch in a rigged Berkshire game. Everyone hopes to find "a degree of separation" - but in the end, the swine themselves grunt accolades to each other in the press. That's how they signal to other campaign contributors, politicians and corporations how beneficial it is to join in the game for pay-to-play muck ball, too.

It's a symbol of his Transportation committee power that 84% of Young's contributions come from outside of Alaska. But it is particularly embarrassing in this case that Young sold the Treasury out for $90 million in return for just under $42,000 in campaign nuggets. That's one to make school kids' skin crawl in Civics class. Again, 70,000 Alaska voters have a little waking up to do before this November.

Second, when several whistleblowers reported in the late-1990's how the oil companies improperly undervalued royalties paid to governments, Young attempted to find them in contempt of Congress. That's a very rare action. They had each received about $385,000 from their efforts to date, and were engaging in another legal case against Big Oil. But Young demanded they share that case's evidence with the Congress.

It was rather obvious he really wanted it to share with the oil companies engaged in underpaying royalties to the state of Alaska - to give them a head start on potential liability lawsuits. The incident was so unusual and Young was so maddened that it forever proved to us his nefarious deal making and who he chose to serve, instead of taxpayers. We expect the Florida deal, along with the Bridges to Relatives' Land, to cement his fate.

Third, Groundswell was aware that in 2002, during the Adak Land Transfer Bill hearings in the U.S. Senate's Energy committee, where then Senator Frank Murkowski was in charge, Don Young was being asked by the Aleut Corporation to insert a $3 million tax break. The $3 million obligation was the result of a long tax investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, and surely just a fraction of what the Aleut Corporation actually owed. But according to a fax to Vincent Tutiakoff Sr. from Young in early 2002, which came across the fax at his desk in Adak, Young considered it too hot of an issue to tuck into the Land Transfer bill, where it might be noticed. (Maybe that's because they were also planning to turn the Adak airport over to the State and get hundreds of millions of potential tax loss carry-forwards - which they eventually did!)

Later information in the corporate financial statements of the Aleut Corporation indicated that Congressman Young eventually found a bill where he could insert a $2 million forgiveness of that IRS tax debt. It was never noticed by the Alaska media, just as planned. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a conspiracy to defraud the American taxpayers of Treasury funds, and one would think the current Justice Department team would be highly interested in which lobbyist worked on that one.

Or does the Aleut Corporation have a direct line with Don Young, just as they did with Frank Murkowski, who removed or redacted City of Adak councilmen testimonies (along with my Adak Power and Electric partner's letter) from Senate records right before his office called the mayor and ordered me off the island in May of 2002? We'd guess that 18 U.S.C. Section 371 applies: Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States; as should 18 U.S.C. Section 1346. But hey, we're just reading the warning labels on the weed killer.

Fourth, Don Young inserted in the recent Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006 (H.R.889) revised language (changing Public Law 109-108; 119 Stat. 2311-2312) to finance Sec. 416, Western Alaska Community Development Quota Programs. The City of Kodiak had reacted to additional language busting up crab cap limits that might mean more crab could come to Kodiak, but missed this larger issue altogether, it seems. (Or did Joe Sullivan mention this at the time to city managers?)

The new language granted $200 million `to subsidize gross obligations for the principal amount of direct loans, not to exceed a total of $200,000,000,' for `the purchase of all or part of ownership interests in fishing or processing vessels, shoreside fish processing facilities, permits, quota, and cooperative rights'.

We've already heard rumor that one crab vessel owner who also has processor quota rights is attempting to sell them for double the going market rate (for $8 million instead of $4 million) to the Aleut native corporation Tanadgusix (TDX) in the Pribilof Islands. If that is designed to utilize the grant program and profit exorbitantly in the process, might this also be a fraud under the 'honest services' laws, as well as a misuse of federal funds qualifying for criminal sanctions on multiple levels. Who is brokering such deals and is there is a means of kickback to the Congressional agents involved? Was this the intent of slipping the revised language into the Coast Guard Bill?

Bonsai Buccaneer Writings Foretold Troubles:

There are other incidents where Young is just another congressman intoxicated on power, but these alone make the case that he well-earns a spot in the Justice probe alongside Ted and Ben, and others (like Senator Patty Murray of Washington). As a reminder, in the last post we included a copy of Bonsai #15 from November of 2004, but here's what Bonsai #14 said in November of 2003 about Crab Rationalization.

That Bonsai prognostication piece covers a lot of political ground relevant to many a scheme or artifice to deprive another of a citizen's rights to assn intangible known as the honest services of their public officials, and hits at the heart of even a limited scope application where actual property rights are taken. Maybe it upset Chuck Bundrant so much because of the issue of criminal violations for perjury, such as Trident allegedly delivered years ago in a Senate subcommittee hearing, or maybe it was because we'd exposed the public officials at their dishonest pinnacle. Or maybe it's because this is the feared key to overturning all processor quotas - illegally obtained according to common law fraud tenets.

'Honest Services Mail Fraud' on Political Headstones:

Ray Metcalfe concentrated on bribery and corruption, and the federal law (18 U.S.C. section 201 - Bribery of public officials and witnesses) offers us good insight on what's next.

"Whoever . directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official . , with intent . to influence any official act; or official or person who has been selected to be a public official to commit or aid in committing, or collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or induce such public official or person. to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official or person; [or who similarly affects a witness or juror, including in proceedings before Congress] shall be fined under this title [up to $250,000] or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."

Additionally, 18 U.S.C. Section 371, Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States, will likely apply. It reads in part, "If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." We'd like to emphasize the clarity of the words "any offense" and "any agency."

So, unlike the scheming Gulf of Alaska rationalization-as-monopolization proponents, the Justice Department doesn't need any new tools in the toolbox (and neither does the GOA, as the existing "bycatch mitigation toolbox" can work just fine, if the Council will only try it, like the Pacific Fisheries Management Council has.) And the most effective tool for Justice's Public Integrity section for these political cases has often been "honest services mail fraud."

Politicians owe citizens "certain intangible rights," and public officials should conduct their affairs honestly - particularly when tangible public properties are involved. Honest service cases rely on a common law fraud concept about property being deprived to its rightful holders by lying.

In a major Supreme Court case, the "defendants were "sophisticated attorneys" who had demonstrated a "consciousness of guilt," thus suggesting that they were, in fact, on notice of the illegality of their actions." Re-read that in light of growing concerns over lobbying misdeeds and what the FBI said about those who are savvy about how to use the political process and appropriations. And don't forget that unlike mere intangible services due to constituents, the seafood Rationalization schemes involve actual takings of properties and property rights reallocations - tangible harms. Such cases are more likely to plant new fruits where weeds had overgrown.

"The Second Circuit explained that: [t]he elements necessary to establish the offense of honest services fraud pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 1346 are: (1) a scheme or artifice to defraud; (2) for the purpose of depriving another of the intangible right of honest services; (3) where it is reasonably foreseeable that the scheme could cause some economic or pecuniary harm to the victim that is more than de minimis; and (4) use of the mails or wires in furtherance of the scheme."

The term "a scheme or artifice to defraud" is significant in public corruption cases like these, and you might recognize a term from the rationalization proceedings at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Frequently discussed, as if council members are always trying to do the limbo under the lowest legal bar, de minimis means 'so minor as to merit disregard.' Not so for Crab Rationalization, with so many victims - from the deckhands to the small businesses devastated in fishery-dependent communities across Alaska's coast.

Is it any wonder that Frank Murkowski was attempting to back off on GOA Ratz, to quell the citizen and fleet revolt, and give "uncle Ted" and double-dealing Don a chance to slide in a statutory legislative end-run, to make what might otherwise be illegal a new law? But, pre-arranged quota sales, buyback linkages, denials of crew input, and other aspects of Crab Ratz look a lot like conspiracies to defraud. And so does everything that has happened for GOA Ratz. And the State's recent delegation to DC to lobby for removal of voluntary participation, in order to force boats to participate in cooperatives linked to key large processors lobbying for the bill, just one more "as if legal" step in the conspiracy to destruct the free market.

Under statutory law, fraud convictions are obtained when public servants commit illegal acts to attain their purposes. But under common law, a series of what would otherwise be legal acts can be designed to meet an illegal end. "It is sufficient if only one person conceives the scheme and the others knowingly, voluntarily and intentionally join in and participate in some way in the scheme's operation, in order for such others to be held jointly responsible."

For example, Ben Stevens was not acting alone. So it matters not that each member's vote on a marketing board or fish advisory panel or council was in and of itself legal, if it was designed with malice aforethought to deprive others of their 'fair and equitable share' of fishery rights.

Federal prosecutors take on state crimes in the federal courts, especially when it is the prosecution of state officials and those who serve on agencies and boards distributing federal funds, at intergovernment programs with the states. What happened at the AFMB and in rationalization was not simply "sweetheart deals" and there has been a wholesale disregard for the public process, and a reckless indifference to the truth. Yeah, I left out the particular statute on that one. You can read about it when the Feds convict.

We knew all we needed long ago, and the Government Accountability Office's report earlier this year nailed down the problems with legislative end-runs and the lack of stakeholder voice that brings. Couple these things with the 1992 Groundswell-spurred IRS investigations on Abusive Transfer Pricing, and you've got what the movie on Eva Peron called "one good show." (The song says, "All it takes for the government to fall is one good show.")

The IRS just got GlaxoSmithKline for $3.4 billion in the biggest U.S. tax settlement ever, a fraction of the abusive Transfer Pricing tax evasion committed. But what has happened in Alaska is about $2 billion a year in resource theft from the fishermen, the local communities, and tax coffers across a region highly dependent on those jobs in a real sense. It is not a matter of a minor effect on the stock price, as GSK brashly announced (saying in effect "Crime pays!"), as if taking lessons from Exxon's aloofness.

But the days of corporate hegemony are under risk when it is their cronies, the weeds in the U.S. Congress and the lobbyists and the dozens of quisling crooks beneath them, who have to finally face the People's gardeners' hoes of Justice. Last Friday, Ohio Republican Bob Ney resigned, and on October 13, he will plead guilty to a conspiracy to commit fraud, and making false statements to cover the scheme, and violations of lobbying rules. Interestingly, he had to resign from a fox-sitting position on the Franking Commission that "governs lawmakers' use of public money to express sometimes political opinions."

Earlier this month, a news release about the Public Integrity Section's work illustrates how such cases proceed. "On September 6, 2006, in Chicago, IL, former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan was sentenced to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay $603,048 in restitution for his conviction on racketeering conspiracy, filing false federal tax returns, income tax fraud, mail fraud and other charges. Ryan was indicted in December 2003 by a federal grand jury and convicted on 22 charges in April 2006. Ryan accepted payoffs in exchange for awarding state contracts, interfered with the administration of tax laws and filed false tax returns for tax years 1995 - 1998 by substantially underreporting his income."

We hope this catches our fans waiting in King Cove and Sand Point up on things. Be patient; and sip on a heady salmon berry wine. And meanwhile, Good fishing!



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Stephen Taufen - Groundswell Fisheries Movement
A public watchdog and advocate for fishermen and their coastal communities. Taufen is an "insider" who blew the whistle on the international profit laundering between global affiliates of North Pacific seafood companies, who use illicit accounting to deny the USA the proper taxes on seafood trade. The same practices are used to lower ex-vessel prices to the fleets, and to bleed monies from our regional economy. Contact Stephen Taufen

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