Stevens Pressed to Explain Home Renovations

Posted October 17, 2008 at 4:30pm

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) struggled Friday afternoon to explain how renovations appeared at his home that he claims he didn’t like and had not asked for, saying that he did not know who was doing the work or how he would be paying for it.

Stevens and his wife have both testified that she was responsible for paying bills related to the renovation in the home in 2000 and 2001. But in 2002, work crews from oil-services firm VECO added a lower deck and a steel staircase, and neither the Senator nor his wife could remember how those items were installed or who did the work.

Stevens said this afternoon that his wife was no longer involved in the project by 2002, but he had not stepped in to hire a new contractor or assign additional work on the house.

In a sharp series of questions from prosecutor Brenda Morris, Stevens admitted that his friend Bill Allen was arranging for the work to get done, but he said that he made a distinction between Allen and his company, VECO.

“Bill Allen provided materials to me,” Stevens said. “I never had a bill from VECO, I never employed VECO.”

Morris expressed her skepticism that Stevens had no contracts with the people working on his home, was not pre-approving designs, and did not know what was being installed.

Stevens admitted that he knew the metal staircase on the back of the deck had come from a VECO scrap heap after being removed from an industrial use. He said he was uncertain who was doing the work, but he assumed that he would be billed for it at some point.

Morris pointed out that Allen had built a staircase Stevens didn’t like, brought in furniture that upset his wife, installed a generator that the Senator hadn’t requested. “Why didn’t you ask for your key back?” she asked.

Stevens replied, “We were still friends. … He was still using the place much more than I was.”

Prosecutors walked through a series of December 2004 e-mails that Stevens exchanged with his friends and staff in response to a press inquiry his office received about allegations that VECO worked on his home renovations.

In those e-mails, Stevens wrote that he knew of no involvement by VECO in the project, even though he admitted on cross-examination that he knew that the architect and other workers on the project were also VECO employees.

Morris suggested that those e-mail exchanges were simply a way of “covering your bottom.”

Stevens replied, “My bottom wasn’t bare.”

Stevens and his defense team have maintained throughout the trial that the Senator and his wife paid every bill they received, and that they requested bills repeatedly.