Attack on Stevens' investments unfair

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Sen. Ted Stevens was unfairly attacked (recently) by the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper spent six months reviewing Stevens' voting record and Alaska business interests. It concluded that some of his votes benefited businesses in which he had an interest.

While that might sound scandalous to readers in a state of 33 million like California, it is just a fact of life in a state with only 620,000 people. Alaska is a small place and anything that boosts its overall economy helps most businesses.

The most ludicrous example of mudslinging was tying together Stevens' support of Alaska Native regional corporations and the fact that the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. occupies an office building in which Stevens has an interest.

The implication was that Alaska's senior senator curried favor with ASRC by supporting Native corporations in their efforts to win federal contracts and that ASRC leased the building as a quid pro quo.

But the Native corporations are essentially the home team in Alaska's business community. They have provided jobs for thousands, helped many villages rise from poverty and become foundation stones in the state's economy.

Stevens' advancing their cause would be comparable to Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts advancing the cause of the Boston Red Sox, if he could. Whether the Los Angeles Times likes it or not, there is no shame in Stevens' actions.

The newspaper also claimed that Stevens used his political horsepower to force the Air Force to accept a proposal by Anchorage developer John Rubini, his business partner.

But Stevens says the Air Force was dragging its feet on the bid because an official didn't think National Bank of Alaska provided sufficient financial backing for the project.

''When I heard about that, I went ballistic, as you know I can do once in a while,'' Stevens said. He said he would have stood up for any business that he thought was treated unfairly by the Air Force.

Stevens rightly argues that it would be difficult for him to invest in any Alaska business that did not benefit somehow from his legislation. He has lived in Alaska for 50 years and served in the U.S. Senate for 35 years. His work there has had a powerful effect on Alaska and its economy.

That has also brought him criticism, including from the Los Angeles Times, which makes much of the fact that federal spending in Alaska is something like 70 percent above the national average. But that is because Alaska has such a small population and because as Stevens has often said the need is so great.

Depite large federal expenditures in Alaska, the state's transportation infrastructure is still primitive, its schools are underfunded and many of its rural people live in poverty.

Ted Stevens is scrupulously honest and the attacks on him are undeserved.

The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times

Dec. 23

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