In 2001, Sarah Palin drove from her Wasilla home, through the downtown streets of Anchorage, to a large home near the bluffs of muddy Cook Inlet. The home belonged to Bill Allen, one of the most influential businessmen and Republican donors in Alaska history. Allen ran the state's largest oil-contracting firm, the ominously named VECO Corp., which contracted with some of the biggest oil producers in the world.
Palin was wrapping up her last term as mayor of Wasilla. She had higher political aspirations. She wanted the second-most powerful job in Alaska: lieutenant governor. In those days, there was virtually only one road to the state capital, and it passed through Allen. A foul-mouthed oilman, a high-school drop out, the son of fruit pickers, Allen was one of those "good ol' boys" Palin touted taking on in Alaska when she gave her vice-presidential speech Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention.
Allen, then in his mid-60s, shaped Alaska politics through campaign contributions and sometimes flat-out bribes. He and his VECO executives and employees gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Republicans and Democrats -- lawmakers Allen believed would support the oil industry. He was so steeped in politics that he co-chaired the Alaska finance committee during the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.
A year later, a young small-town mayor was standing at his door.
Palin sat with Allen in his den and sipped wine, according to a former VECO employee who says he personally fetched the bottle of wine for the two. Why did Palin visit Allen that day? Palin spokesman Bill McAllister refuses to ask her. "This is a silly story and I'm not going to take any more time with this. Goodbye," he says on the phone.
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