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Alaska state senator asked to resign in wake of scandal
Anchorage Daily News


December 31, 2007
Monday AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The state Senate minority has sent a letter to Anchorage Sen. John Cowdery asking him to resign from public office because he has been implicated in the Veco bribery scandal.

"Now that we are approaching the regular session, and with it seeming the majority does not intend to do anything, we felt it was appropriate to say something," Senate Minority Leader Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, said.

Therriault said the letter was hand-delivered to Cowdery more than a week ago. He said the only other copies went to state Senate President Lyda Green and Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens.

Green, R-Wasilla, said Cowdery has not been charged with any crime and she feels "it is probably very premature" for lawmakers to call for his resignation. She also indicated that she expects Cowdery to serve in the coming legislative session and to continue in the position of Senate rules chairman. The 2008 session begins on Jan. 15.

Cowdery did not return a phone message left at his home seeking comment Saturday, nor has he responded to recent requests by the Daily News for an interview.

He has previously denied any wrongdoing, even though his name has come up in federal corruption trials.

Former Veco Corp. vice president Rick Smith testified in the recent trials of two former state legislators that he bribed Cowdery. Smith, who has been convicted and is cooperating with federal prosecutors, did not give details.

Former Veco chief Bill Allen, who has also been convicted of giving bribes and is cooperating with federal prosecutors, has testified Cowdery was a part of his inner circle.

Cowdery is one of six state legislators whose offices the FBI searched in August 2006.

Cowdery stayed away from the recent special session on oil taxes, saying he did not want to be a distraction. The Republican represents a district that includes a stretch of the Lower Hillside and South Anchorage.

Therriault said the Senate majority should not ignore the sworn trial testimony about Cowdery.

"They can't just adopt a bunker mentality and think the Alaska public is going to let it blow over. Because I don't think they are," he said.

Therriault on Saturday confirmed the existence of the letter asking Cowdery to resign but declined to release a copy of it after consulting with members of his caucus.

Therriault said all five members of the Senate minority caucus signed the letter. All are Republicans.

The bipartisan Senate majority caucus is composed of six Republicans and nine Democrats. Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he thinks whether Cowdery should resign is more of an issue between Cowdery and his constituents. He said it is not time for the majority to act.

But Elton said that, if nothing changes before the Legislature convenes in mid-January, the majority would need to talk about what to do. Whatever Cowdery did or didn't do, Elton said, perceptions could get in the way of Senate business.

That would include a discussion about whether Cowdery remains as rules chairman, he said. It's one of the most powerful jobs in the Senate, basically the gatekeeper of what legislation reaches the floor for a vote. Both Republican Gov. Sarah Palin and the Senate minority have said the majority should review whether Cowdery stays as the rules chairman.

Senate President Green said she thinks the bigger issue at the moment is Cowdery's health. Cowdery, 77, has been repeatedly hospitalized in recent months, including with pneumonia and an infection in his leg. She reflected on his health over the last few months and said her concern is that a person can't "just snap back in a flash.".

If Cowdery did resign from the Senate, the governor would select a replacement to fill out the one year remaining in his term. He has not registered to run for re-election next fall but has until June to do so.

He has filed his intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to raise campaign money for a 2008 run.


Contact Sean Cockerham at
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