- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2003

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Senate’s senior Republican is under fire from government watchdog groups as the result of a newspaper report that he had grown wealthy from investments with people who benefited from legislation he helped write.

Sen. Ted Stevens has refused to comment on Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times report. But a news conference, scheduled before the story was published, was set for yesterday in Anchorage.

“What this whole thing points to is the need for both chambers of Congress to have stronger ethics laws, and do a better job of policing themselves,” said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for the liberal group Common Cause.

The conservative Citizens Against Government Waste said Mr. Stevens should resign as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The group also seeks an investigation by the Senate ethics committee. The organization frequently has criticized Mr. Stevens for steering billions of federal dollars to his home state.

Scott Milburn, spokesman for the committee’s chairman, Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, declined comment.

In one instance examined by the Times, Mr. Stevens invested $50,000 in real estate partnerships that have grown in value since 1997 to between $750,000 and $1.5 million.

The senator was made a partner in those investments by Anchorage developer John Rubini who Mr. Stevens helped keep a $450 million contract with the Defense Department for housing on Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, the Times reported.

In August, the Anchorage Daily News reported similar details about Mr. Stevens’ successful investment with Mr. Rubini.

“You have to admit, [it] is a hell of a return on the investment for what I put in it,” Mr. Stevens told the Anchorage newspaper at the time. Mr. Rubini did not return a phone call Thursday.

The Times said Mr. Stevens’ brother-in-law, lawyer and lobbyist William H. Bittner has been in the middle of many of the deals.

In a written statement on his real estate investments to the Los Angeles paper, Mr. Stevens said, “I am a passive investor. I am not now nor have I been involved in buying or selling properties, negotiating leases or making other management decisions.”

He also said his actions were motivated by a desire to help his state.

Mr. Stevens, 80, has been in the Senate for nearly 35 years, longer than any other current Republican senator.

“Apparently, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate thinks he can get away with anything in the pursuit of a plush retirement,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

The Appropriations Committee chaired by Mr. Stevens controls spending by all federal agencies and about one-third of the government’s $2.2 trillion budget. He has aggressively used his post to funnel money to his home state, as do many members of that committee.

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