Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Roll Call (sub. req.) has a bit more on Senator Ted:

At issue is a 2005 earmark for the SeaLife Center, a marine wildlife research center and tourist attraction. The center -- which according to published reports has received more than $50 million in federal funding since it opened in 1998 and has long been a pet project of Stevens'-- was given a $1.6 million earmark in 2005 to purchase an adjacent property that was owned at the time by McCabe.

Initially, McCabe had sought to sell the property to the NPS as part of a massive office construction project the service had planned for Seward. But negotiations for the building collapsed in 2005, according to an April 2006 story by the Anchorage Daily News.

The shift in funding turned out to be controversial in the small community. Former City Manager Clark Corbridge warned in a letter to the center in 2006 that the city should be allowed to approve the purchase so as to avoid "future problems and possible allegations of impropriety," according to the Daily News article. Corbridge did not return calls for comment.

The center went forward with the plan and purchased the property from McCabe's company, the Centennial Group, for $558,000.

Additionally, at the time McCabe was a business partner with Stevens' son, Ben, in a consulting firm that has come under scrutiny from federal investigators in a separate investigation.

During the time of the sale, McCabe also had reached a separate agreement with the center to operate boat tours for the facility through Alaska Outfitters, a second company owned by Stevens.

According to sources close to the investigation, federal investigators have focused on how the decision to purchase the property was made, as well as other potentially problematic earmarks in the past. These sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that in addition to the interviews with NPS employees, investigators also have interviewed a number of other individuals connected to the center and the sale.