Taxpayer Watchdog Demands Ethics Probe of Republican Senator

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - A taxpayer watchdog group wants Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to resign from as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and it also wants the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate alleged conflicts of interest involving Stevens.

Citizens Against Government Waste points to this week's Los Angeles Times investigation, which revealed how Stevens made millions of dollars from investments with businessmen who received government contracts or other aid through his legislative efforts.

"In 1997, Sen. Stevens allegedly began a concerted attempt to accumulate a personal fortune by wielding his extraordinary power in the Senate," CAGW President Tom Schatz said in a press release.

"Apparently, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate thinks he can get away with anything in the pursuit of a plush retirement."

According to CAGW, the case highlights the lax ethics rules surrounding the business dealings that members of Congress and their families have with special interests - at the taxpayers' expense.

In a Dec. 16 article, The Los Angeles Times detailed some of the questionable business dealings involving Stevens that may warrant investigation.

According to CAGW, the Senate has few ethics rules governing conflicts of interest involving Senators and their family members. But CAGW contends that Sen. Stevens' financial statements have fallen "far short of the full disclosure that rules require."

"The looting mentality is so ingrained in Washington that lawmakers see nothing wrong with profiteering from our tax dollars," Schatz continued. "It is bad enough that Alaska leads the nation in pork barrel spending per capita, but for Sen. Stevens to bring home the bacon for his own financial benefit would be a new low -- even for an appropriator.

"Every one of his projects should be scrutinized by the Senate Ethics Committee," Schatz said.

Citizens Against Government Waste, describes itself as the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

Sen. Stevens was not immediately available for comment, and his website carried no press release addressing CAGW's call for an ethics investigation.

However, in a written statement, Stevens told The Los Angeles Times that in all the questionable cases, "his official actions were motivated by a desire to help Alaska, and that he played no role in the day-to-day management of the ventures into which he put money."

"I am a passive investor," Stevens told the newspaper. "I am not now nor have I been involved in buying or selling properties, negotiating leases or making other management decisions."