Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Stevens, said that while the veteran lawmaker was involved in the NARA project and has supported it for years, he had no role in the site selection process and never spoke with either Hyde or Rubini about the deal.
According to Saunders, the only site Stevens had backed — a parcel of land located just off the University of Alaska’s campus — was rejected by federal officials for security reasons very early in the process and the selection process involved state, local and federal officials and was the result of a competitive bid process. “It is factually inaccurate to state National Archives officials selected the final facility site based on a recommendation by Sen. Stevens because this conclusion ignores the arduous process by which the site was selected,” Saunders said.
Saunders said that while Stevens also had initially worked with local officials on the Midtown Commons project, the reason funding dried up from 1999 to 2002 had nothing to do with who owned the property. Rather, according to Saunders, Stevens from the beginning had decided to take a largely hands-off approach to the deal and only appropriated money when NARA staff requested it. In 2002, NARA aides came to the Appropriations Committee and requested funding, Saunders said, adding that Stevens was “just responding to appropriations requests.”
Saunders also said Stevens never talked about the project with Hyde or Rubini. “Sen. Stevens and his staff never, at any point, discussed the proposed National Archives’ land acquisition with Mr. Rubini, Mr. Hyde or anyone representing them,” he said.
Hyde also indicated neither he nor Rubini at any point called on their business partner Stevens to assist them in the purchase.
“I’ve never spoken to Senator Stevens about this issue,” Hyde wrote in an e-mail.
Funding Lags for Project
Since the land deal was finished, federal funding has slowed significantly for the project. Despite a price tag of at least $29 million in construction costs, Stevens appears to have taken only modest interest in securing funding for the project since the land transfer. Stevens set aside $3 million in 2005 for site preparation, while the archives earmark diminished to just $1.9 million last year.
However, according to a May 11, 2007, Anchorage Daily News story, $290,000 tagged for the construction has been reprogrammed for a new speed-skating-rink project being planned next to the NARA land. Stevens also secured a $940,000 earmark specifically for the skating rink in 2004, according to the story.
NARA’s Judson said that while plans for the new building are complete — and that NARA has a standing contract with a non-Alaskan contractor to construct its facilities — the project has fallen behind schedule, largely because of a lack of funding, and he said it was unclear why further money has not been forthcoming. “We haven’t seemed to be able to get in the queue for money,” Judson said.
Saunders said that while Stevens supports the project, it is unclear whether any future funding will be earmarked for the construction of the archives building. “While it is safe to say that Sen. Stevens continues to support this project, he and his staff will consider future National Archives funding requests on a case-by-case basis,” Saunders said.