ITWASSOOTED: "I don't permit staffers to have relatives lobby the office,"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

"I don't permit staffers to have relatives lobby the office,"

Specter asks ethics panel to look at aide's role in funding

By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter on Thursday asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate whether a top aide improperly helped direct nearly $50 million in Pentagon spending to clients represented by her husband.

The Pennsylvania Republican asked for the review of legislative assistant Vicki Siegel Herson's actions after USA TODAY reported Thursday that his office inserted 13 provisions into spending bills benefiting clients of her husband, Michael Herson, a registered lobbyist. (Related stories: 6 clients got projects | Senate aide's spouse gets a windfall)

Specter, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes he and Siegel did nothing wrong. He said neither Herson nor anyone from the firm he heads, American Defense International, had lobbied his office.

Specter acknowledged that he inserted the spending provisions — known as "earmarks" — into Pentagon budget bills as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he didn't know the earmarks were going to Herson's clients.

Five companies and Drexel University, all represented by Herson, have received $48.7 million in earmarks during the past four years. Those six clients paid Herson's firm about $1.5 million from 2002 through last July, lobbying disclosure reports show.

Specter said he didn't know whether Siegel, who was his top appropriations aide until about six months ago, had recommended the earmarks to him.

"I don't think she would have made any recommendations where she knew her husband had a client involved," Specter said. "That would have been a blatant conflict of interest and inappropriate, and I don't think that happened."
don't think that happened link
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