ANCHORAGE — The FBI has interviewed or sought to interview at least 11 Alaska state legislators this year, with some of the interviews including questions about the state’s Permanent Fund dividend.
Federal investigators asked whether lawmakers received financial benefits in exchange for their votes, The Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.
The newspaper sent a questionnaire about the FBI investigation to all 59 members of the Legislature. Among 35 responses received, 10 lawmakers said they were contacted by the FBI, 22 said they were not and three declined to answer.
Every lawmaker who responded to the questionnaire or was interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News said they do not believe anyone in the Legislature has committed a crime.
“I was asked if I was aware of other legislators who had been asked to vote a certain way regarding the Permanent Fund dividend in exchange for something of value,” Democratic state Sen. Bill Wielechowski said.
Wielechowski was not aware of any lawmakers who had done so, he said Tuesday.
At least three Senate Republicans were interviewed in late spring or early summer, state senators said.
The focus of the investigation was not clear and not all legislators who were interviewed divulged the questions put to them. Many expressed concerns about inadvertently interfering with a federal investigation.
Chloe Martin, public affairs officer for the FBI’s Anchorage field office, said the agency does not confirm or deny investigations or release information concerning interviews.
“Combating public corruption is a top priority for the FBI, and we take all allegations of this nature seriously,” Martin said.
An interview may not mean a legislator is under investigation. Several lawmakers said the FBI told them during questioning they were not under investigation.
The FBI has scheduled more interviews this month, including some with Democrats and members of the state House of Representatives, legislators said.
Senate Republicans met Nov. 13 for the first time since the general election.
Republican Sen. Peter Micciche, who was interviewed by the FBI twice earlier this year, said he brought up the FBI investigation during the meeting.
“Folks have been talking about a possible investigation, and I wanted to clear the air in a new caucus that we intend to build on transparency, trust and finding common ground on what’s best for Alaskans,” Micciche said.