WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens has asked the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to approve a legal expense fund to help pay the cost of his criminal defense.
Stevens, R-Alaska, joins Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who set up such a fund earlier this year to help defray the cost of mounting legal expenses connected to a federal probe into campaign donations and other matters.
The Senate Ethics committee must approve the legal expense fund, but generally does so for senators if the legal expenses are connected to their role as an officeholder. Stevens was indicted last month on seven felony counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts and home repairs from the now-defunct oil services company, Veco Inc.
Individuals and political action committees can contribute up to $10,000 to the Senate funds. Lobbyists, corporations, foreign nationals and labor unions are barred from making contributions. The fund, which is managed by a trustee, files quarterly reports detailing the contributors. Stevens is not allowed to solicit contributions and said Wednesday he won't accept donations until the Ethics Committee has signed off on creating the fund.
The rules in the House of Representatives differ slightly from the Senate guidelines. In the House, corporations are allowed to contribute to legal expense funds, but contributions are capped at $5,000.
Until he set up the fund, Young had been paying the bulk of his legal fees from his campaign account. So far, Young's campaign has spent $1.3 million on lawyers. He raised about $54,000 for his fund so far this year, largely from old friend and fishing interests.
Until now, Stevens has not addressed how he is paying for his lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, one of the most expensive and highly regarded criminal defense attorneys in Washington D.C. Sullivan's previous clients have included former Lt. Col. Oliver North. More recently, he has been defending billionaire Henry Nicholas on drug and securities charges connected to his role as the co-founder of Broadcom, a California company that manufactures computer and cell phone chips.
Stevens did reveal in his most recent personal financial disclosure form that he already owes Sullivan up to $50,000.