WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens has sold his interest in Anchorage and Fairbanks real estate and directed the money into a blind trust.
The Alaska Republican said he did so to spare his former partners the scrutiny created by his investments and to stop questions about his own potential conflicts of interest.
"I've made small investments in these things and some of them have been very successful. Others have been terrible," Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
"No one ever asks me about the losses, but they have really held up to public scorn the successes, and the scorn covered the people who allowed me to invest with them.
"That's not going to happen anymore," he said.
Stevens said he lost money on a crab boat investment in the 1980s.
In 1997, he began investing with Anchorage developers Jonathan Rubini and Leonard Hyde. One of his investments was in a limited liability corporation called Centerpoint that owns the Arctic Slope Regional Corp.'s headquarters building in Anchorage.
The investments were reported in Alaska. In December 2003, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy article about them and highlighted that Stevens has pushed a long list of bills desired by Arctic Slope Regional.
The list includes legislation likely to come up in the next few months that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Arctic Slope Regional obtained 92,000 acres through a land swap during the 1980s with the federal government.
The company cannot drill for oil unless Congress approves such work on the surrounding refuge land.
The article also described how Stevens had intervened with the Air Force when it initially rejected Rubini and Hyde's bid to build hundreds of private housing units on Elmendorf Air Force Base in 2000. Stevens' assistance on the housing deal, in which he had no financial stake, had also been reported in Alaska.
Editorials in the Times, the Washington Post and The New York Times criticized Stevens following the article. Citizens Against Government Waste, a D.C.-based watchdog group and frequent critic of the senator, said he should resign.
Stevens said after the articles and criticism that his actions on behalf of ASRC and Rubini's business were motivated by a desire to help Alaskans, not by his own financial interests. He said Friday he did not want to put his friends through any more stress.
A call to Rubini and Hyde's company, JL Properties in Anchorage, was not returned Friday.
Stevens, in a statement he read and distributed to reporters, said his investment sales were on "commercially reasonable terms." He said he did not know all the figures for the Alaska properties because the sales were handled by a friend and accountant in Anchorage.
Congressional rules require Stevens to disclose details of 2004 transactions by May 15. He said he would not discuss the matter again until then.
"I did this as a matter of fact at substantial loss to me and my family in the future because all of those have proved ... to be outstanding developments due to the character and capabilities of the people involved in them," he said.
The Senate Ethics Committee approved the structure of his blind trust Dec. 4, he said. Sales of his investments were complete by Dec. 31, he said.
The trust is managed by Wells Fargo Bank in Anchorage and an accountant friend, he said.
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