An Alaska-based transportation firm that recently hired the son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has received more than $300 million in federal contracts over the past six years, many of which came from agencies over which Stevens has direct oversight authority in his current position as ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, federal records show.
Earlier this month, Bering Marine Corp., a subsidiary of the transportation company Lynden, hired Ben Stevens — a former Alaska GOP state Senator — to toil on one of its work boats as part of a support contract the company has with Shell oil company. The job will keep the younger Stevens in the Arctic Ocean for an unknown period of time.
Stevens and his father are at the center of a broad federal probe of corruption in Alaska. Federal investigators from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Interior and the Department of Commerce are investigating a host of issues related to the two, including earmarks written by the elder Stevens that ended up benefiting Trevor McCabe — a former aide to Ted Stevens and his son’s business partner. Additionally, staffers from a Senate subcommittee have met with officials from the National Archives and Records Administration regarding a land purchase in Anchorage that used funds from a Stevens earmark.
Lynden CEO Jim Jansen has had long-standing ties to Ben Stevens. According to Opensecrets.org, Lynden paid Stevens $10,000 to work as a federal lobbyist in 1997.
Additionally, Jansen and Ben Stevens both served on the board of directors of the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, a nonprofit organization created by Ted Stevens to funnel millions in federal dollars to the state’s fishing industry. The FBI and IRS are investigating both Stevens and the members of the AFMB’s board of directors as part of the widening federal probe.
Over the past several years, Lynden companies have secured scores of federal contracts, according to federal records compiled by FedSpending.org. Since 2000, the various companies connected to Lynden and the Jansen family have received at least $312 million in federal funding, much of it coming through contracts with the Department of Defense.
As chairman of the Appropriations Committee for much of that period — and now as ranking member on the panel’s Defense Subcommittee — Stevens had direct oversight of the Department of Defense and was responsible for doling out billions in federal dollars to the department.
Lynden Air Cargo, a unit of the company, also participates in the U.S. Postal Service’s “bypass mail” system in Alaska. Because much of the state is not accessible by roads, the USPS uses the bypass system to provide subsidies to air carriers who, in addition to flying passengers, also will take packages and mail directly to remote villages. Although the system has become a vital link to the outside world and allowed retailers in remote areas to receive regular shipments, the program has been accused of being bloated, with critics claiming that it wasted millions of dollars per year.
The system — originally created by Ted Stevens — was reformed in 2002 thanks to legislation authored by Stevens and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who also is under federal investigation. Those changes created new limits on the types of air carriers that could participate in the program and required mail to be trucked further into the Alaska “bush” than before. Although Lynden’s air freight services continue to participate in the program according to published reports, the company saw a significant benefit from the change — Lynden’s trucking service holds the contract for all USPS trucking needs in the state.
Jansen declined to answer questions regarding the relationships between his various companies and the two Stevens, as well as about his own ties to the father and son. Jansen also declined to comment on Lynden’s involvement in the federal investigation.
Meanwhile, the FBI also has opened a new line of inquiry in its investigation of Ted Stevens, focusing on a $170 million contract awarded to oil services firm VECO from the National Science Foundation, according to McClatchy newspapers.
Former VECO CEO Bill Allen pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges this spring as part of the Alaska investigation and is cooperating with federal officials in their probe of Ted and Ben Stevens.
VECO oversaw a major remodeling of Stevens’ Girdwood, Alaska, home several years ago — right around the time the NSF was awarding the grant to the company.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.