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ANCHORAGE - A new political watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens over his acceptance of nearly $22,000 in campaign contributions from Boeing executives in 2001.
The contribution came a month before Stevens tucked a rider in an appropriations bill to allow the Air Force to lease 100 Boeing 767s in a deal worth more than $20 billion.
The director of Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said it was unimportant to determine whether the campaign contributions prompted Stevens to support the deal.
"I would say that it's wrong," director Melanie Sloan said. "It's got the appearance of conflicts all over it."
Stevens' spokeswoman, Courtney Schikora, said the senator is standing by what he has said before. "There is no connection between the contributions and the legislation," she said.
Stevens, an Alaska Republican, has said there was nothing unusual about the contributions, noting that Boeing employees have been contributing to his campaigns for decades.
Funding for the proposed lease of 767s to use as tankers is pending in Congress.
Critics, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., say it would cost billions more than buying the aircraft. They say the lease circumvents the normal acquisitions process and the rules designed to prevent contract abuses. Some point to company e-mails suggesting Boeing had too great a role in persuading the Air Force to seek the tankers.
Stevens said he supports the lease because the aging tankers are badly in need of replacement and the government can't afford to buy new ones all at once. He said he initially approached Boeing about the tanker fleet, not the other way around.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed the complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee.