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Stevens complains about press coverage, funding for Alaska
Anchorage Daily News


November 22, 2005

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Stevens said he and Alaska have been under constant assault these days, and the bombardment is hurting the state's flow of federal money.

"You were here. You see the attacks that are being made on us daily," he told Alaska reporters last week. "Look at the (Alaska) things that are being reduced in the appropriations bill. Every single appropriations bill has been reduced."

But John Katz, the Alaska governor's representative in Washington, doesn't think the picture is so bleak for the state.




Katz said that as he reviewed the annual spending bills "there have been pleasant surprises and also some disappointments."

For the first time since 1997, Stevens was not chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee this year. As chairman, he sent billions of dollars home for everything from Arctic research to zoo improvements. He remains a member of the committee, but term limits forced him to step down as chairman in January, so he hasn't had the tremendous control over the annual spending bills he used to enjoy.

Congress hasn't passed all of this year's bills yet, but so far it looks like Alaska will have to do without the dramatic funding increases Stevens has been sending home year after year. Some Alaska programs are being slashed, others trimmed, and some have been left alone.

Take rural water and sewer projects. Last year Alaska got $71 million for rural sanitation. This year it got $60 million for the same program.

The Denali Commission got $67 million last year to build teacher housing, electrical inter-ties and village washeterias. This year, it got $50 million for that program, slightly more than three years ago.

A $10 million appropriation to the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, which Stevens created, has been reduced to $7 million.

On the other hand, Congress gave Alaska $15 million to combat alcoholism, the same as last year.

Numerous smaller Alaska appropriations also were continued at last year's level: $5 million to prepare additional timber sales, $2 million to the Child Advocacy Center, $1.5 million for wind energy, $1 million for a public safety data network.

Stevens' press office is still churning out long lists of Alaska spending - harbor projects, plant studies, marine research, park visitor centers, crime prevention - that he managed to add to the spending bills.

But Stevens didn't sound happy.

"I'm no longer (appropriations) chairman, and I'm not in that final meeting to protect those (programs) the way I used to be able to," he said.

On top of that, he said, Alaska is getting hit because of the uproar over Alaska's bridges. Congress, facing ridicule from all quarters for funding the alleged "bridges to nowhere," has removed the controversial Knik and Gravina bridges from the national highway bill it passed four months ago, although Alaska gets to keep the $452 million allocated for that purpose. Stevens said the bridge episode, and several other events, have created a hostility for Alaska that hurts the state in the wallet.

He complained that he is getting "beaten up" in the Anchorage Daily News, in the national press and in Congress.

Stevens opposed an amendment banning the mistreatment of detainees because, he said, it didn't make exceptions for the CIA. Now, he said, people are calling him the senator for torture. Democrats challenged him on his decision last week not to swear in a panel of oil company executives when they testified at a hearing he chaired. Daily News stories about him, he said, have hurt his credibility.

"If I'm corrupt, which I don't think I am, then I'm not going to be listened to, all right? And that sort of thing reflects back on us," he said.

Stevens didn't specify which stories he was referring to, but the Daily News wrote in 2003 about his personal investments in Anchorage real estate. More recently, the paper has reported about a federal fish allocation he awarded to the Aleut Corp. that has potentially enriched his son, Ben Stevens, a fisheries lobbyist and president of the Alaska Senate.

"It's the state that gets hurt in the long run as long as they continue to attack us," Ted Stevens said.


(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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