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Committee Asks Judge to Order Packwood to Surrender Diaries

By Timothy M. Phelps


The Senate Ethics Committee asked a federal court Monday to order Oregon Republican Bob Packwood to turn over his diaries after Packwood withdrew an offer of resignation.

The committee told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Jackson that Packwood's claim to a right of privacy for his diaries was not the real reason he cut off the panel's access to the documents last month.

"Sen. Packwood appears concerned not so much about the irrelevant private matters in his diairies, but about the relevant information that the committee may discover in reviewing the diaries," the commitee said in legal papers filed in Washington.

Agreeing to the committee's request for an expedited judicial process, Jackson set a Dec. 16 hearing date on the subpoena.

Several senators said last weekend that Packwood was about to resign Friday when he received a second subpoena for the diaries from the Justice Department, which is conducting an independent criminal investigation.

That probe is said by sources to concentrate on an allegation that Packwood himself divulged on the floor of the Senate three weeks ago -- that he asked lobbyists who work on Capitol Hill to offer his then-estranged wife a job in 1991, at a time when a divorce court judge was deciding how much alimony he would have to pay her.

Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., a friend of Packwood, said when employees of the ethics committee learned of Packwood's decision to resign they leaked word to Justice Department lawyers, prompting the subpoena.

A resignation would have ended the Senate's probe because only current members and employees can be investigated, but the Justice Department investigation would have continued. If Packwood were to destroy the diaries now, he could be prosecuted for obstructing a criminal investigation.

A key figure in the investigation is Steven Saunders, a former Oyster Bay, N.Y., town deputy supervisor and political operative who went on to work as an aide to Packwood.

Saunders was charged with forgery in 1974 in connection with secret cash contributions to town officials. He cooperated with a grand jury investigation, was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor election-law charge and was put on probation. He later moved to Washington to be the press secretary to former Rep. Norman Lent, R-N.Y.

Divorce records indicate that Saunders, now a highly paid lobbyist in Washington for Japan and several Japanese businesses, had offered Georgie Packwood work taking wives of Japanese guests on trips to buy antiques. According to The Oregonian newspaper, Saunders and Georgie Packwood also discussed the possibility of her buying art that he would resell to his clients, earning her some $15,000 to $20,000 a year and presumably lowering the amount Packwood would have to pay.

Just two months earlier in November 1989, according to The Oregonian, Packwood had defended one of Saunders' chief clients, the giant Mitsubishi Electronic Co., at a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, where Packwood is the ranking minority member.

Mitsubishi was accused at the hearing of copying the inventions of Fusion Systems Corp., a Maryland computer and electronics company, and then patenting them in Japan so Fusion could not sell its own products there. Packwood asked the witness from Fusion a number of questions in Mitsubishi's defense.

Justice Department records indicate that Saunders was earning about $150,000 a year from Mitsubishi at the time, and a total of about $225,000 from his Japanese clients, including the Japense Embassy in Washington. He continues to represent Japan and