May 06, 2007

Former lawmakers plead not guilty

Two former Republican lawmakers pleaded NOT guilty Friday to charges of bribery, extortion and wire or mail fraud. Pete Kott of Eagle River -- a former House Speaker -- and former Representative Bruce Weyhrauch (WHY'-rock) of Juneau were arrested and arraigned Friday.
They are accused of accepting bribes and the promise of future work to benefit an oil services company, which was NOT named. They are accused of assisting the unnamed company during discussions last year of the petroleum profits tax. The combined trial was set for July 9th in Anchorage. They face up to 55 years in prison and a million-dollar fine if convicted of all charges.
Both were to be released on 20,000-dollars bail.
Kott is accused of accepting nearly nine-thousand dollars in payments, more than 2,700 dollars in campaign polling expenses and a future contract as a lobbyist in exchange for his support of a new tax structure and of helping to get a contract signed for a natural gas pipeline.
The production tax passed but the contract for the pipeline negotiated by former Governor Frank Murkowski and BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil was never approved. Weyhrauch is charged with helping advance the oil service company's cause in exchange for the promise of future legal work for the company.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez says the arrests stemmed from an investigation that led federal agents last summer to raid the offices of at least six lawmakers, including Kott and Weyhrauch. Kott served in the state House for seven terms, starting in 1992. He lost his bid for re-election to Anna Fairclough in the August primary. Weyhrauch -- a Juneau attorney -- was first elected in 2002. He served two terms and did not run for re-election in November.

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