WASHINGTON — The money spent on renovations that doubled the size of Sen. Ted Stevens' home and led to a federal grand jury investigation came out of his own pocket, the Alaska Republican said Tuesday.
"As a practical matter, I will tell you. We paid every bill that was given to us," Stevens said, referring to himself and his wife, Catherine. "Every bill that was sent to us has been paid, personally, with our own money, and that's all there is to it. It's our own money."
A federal grand jury is investigating the 2000 renovations at Stevens' Girdwood, Alaska, home, including work that might have been performed by oil services company Veco Inc. and contractors Veco hired or supervised. The company's former executive, Bill Allen, has pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators.
Interest in Stevens' finances has grown since the FBI raided the office of his son, former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens, as part of a wider corruption and bribery probe. The younger Stevens has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.
The older Stevens, the longest-serving U.S. Senate Republican, has hired lawyers and has been asked by the FBI to preserve documents. Some of his friends and associates have been questioned before the grand jury, specifically about the remodeling project.
In May, a family friend who oversaw the addition to Stevens' home, Bob Persons, was asked by a Washington grand jury to produce blueprints and other plans, photos and purchase and installation documents for all phases of the project, including the heating system, generators, ice-melt systems and decorative lights. His summons also told him to bring invoices, payments and other documents related to several Veco employees and to the main contractor.
Stevens said Tuesday that he's been told not to talk about the grand jury investigation. But he couldn't stop himself during a press conference he called to explain why he'd been granted two extensions to clear up irregularities in his annual financial disclosure form.
Stevens said he wanted to be clear that the delays in filing his financial information to the Senate ethics committee had nothing to do with the grand jury investigation. He was so emphatic about separating the two issues that he interrupted a reporter who asked him why he hadn't explained it the first time he filed for an extension.
"There is nothing in this disclosure that is in any way connected with the investigation," Stevens said. "Nothing that I know of."
Stevens said that he requested the first extension to clear up confusion about how to disclose his wife's 401(k) retirement investments. The Senate ethics committee has had questions about her finances in past disclosures, Stevens said, and he wanted to make sure the form was filled out properly this time. He described it as "putting certain X's in the right box."
"We took some extra time to make sure that it complied with the ethics rules of the Senate," Stevens said. "There were a few technical clarifications that the ethics committee wanted to make."
Stevens said that he didn't specifically ask for the second extension, but that the ethics committee wasn't able to review everything in his report until Friday at 5:30 p.m., so they gave him another extension. He filed a final version on Tuesday.
"I asked them to review it to make sure we had done the thing right this time, " Stevens said. "We asked them to review it and they did review it."
Stevens and other members of Congress had until May 15 to turn in the form, which covers information about their 2006 personal finances, including investments, property ownership and gifts.
Stevens' report details the senator's wide financial interests, including an oil well in Oklahoma that he has owned since the 1970s, an investment in Sacks Restaurants in Anchorage, and shares in a racehorse. He also has more than $500,000 invested in a blind trust.
The disclosure form lists that his wife has invested in a rental house in Arizona, as well as in commercial property in Anchorage. He reported giving his daughter his interest in half of a herd of cattle he owned in Arizona.