ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens acknowledged he did not pay for stays at a Bristol Bay fishing lodge at a time Cook Inlet Region Inc. used it as an entertainment destination.
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The Alaska Republican sent checks this month to cover the cost of the visits in 2001 and 2003, according to an aide.
The use of the Golden Horn Lodge and who paid for it are among issues noted in a lawsuit in which CIRI is accusing a contractor of misappropriating more than $38 million.
Contractor John Ellsworth is being sued by CIRI and its partner, Houston-based Nabors Industries, over purported financial misdeeds including overcharging for the use of jets and competing with the company he was supposed to be running for them.
Plaintiffs say Ellsworth used company credit cards for personal purchases and paid undeserved bonuses. Ellsworth, who is countersuing, also is accused of giving free rides and vacations to friends, family members and politicians on corporate jets and at Golden Horn Lodge, an exclusive Alaska fishing retreat.
Stevens was invited to stay at Golden Horn Lodge during the summers of 2001, 2002 and 2003 and spent about four days there each time, the senator said in a written statement. Stevens didn't say who invited him.
The lodge is located on five acres of private land on Mikchalk Lake in Wood-Tikchik State Park, north of Dillingham.
"As I recall, other guests at the Lodge included a number of Alaskans and visitors from outside the state. We all enjoyed the wonderful fishing that Southwestern Alaska offers and had numerous conversations about the issues facing Alaska. We focused on a variety of topics including the unique transportation, communications, economic and social challenges Alaska must meet," Stevens said in the statement.
"Some of the guests at the Lodge were visiting the state at my request so that they could learn more about these challenges," he said. He wouldn't name the visitors.
In 2002, an election year for Stevens, he used campaign funds to pay for the lodge stay. He didn't pay anything in 2001 and 2003 "due to a misunderstanding," the statement issued by his office said.
Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Stevens, said in an e-mail to the Anchorage Daily News that in 2001 and 2003 the senator "was acting upon guidance provided by his staff and their understanding of Senate Ethics procedures."
The advice still seems sound, but the senator decided to pay for his stays "to make it very clear that the visits were handled properly," Saunders wrote.
Stevens sent checks in February from his campaign account to Cook Inlet Region Inc.: $1,182.63 to cover his 2001 stay and $1,070.63 for 2003, Saunders said. The checks covered all of the senator's expenses, plus interest, according to Saunders.
Under Federal Election Commission rules, campaign funds cannot be used for personal expenses.
He wouldn't say why campaign funds were used.
"The Senator believes that the payment for his stays has resolved any questions concerning these matters," Saunders wrote.
Senators generally are prohibited under ethics rules from accepting gifts valued at $50 or greater, although there are exceptions.
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