WASHINGTON -- Senator Arlen Specter yesterday denied any connection between special projects he gained for his state and a Washington lobbyist whose wife works in Specter's office.
''That would be a blatant conflict of interest, inappropriate, and I don't think that happened," the Pennsylvania Republican said in a phone interview with reporters.
But Specter also said he would speak further to the aide, Vicki Siegel, to ascertain whether she was aware that some applicants for projects might have been represented by her husband.
''I would be shocked if she was involved in any earmarking knowing that her husband was involved, but I'm going to check it out," he said.
Specter was responding to a USA Today report published yesterday that said Specter had succeeded 13 times in the past four years in securing $48.7 million worth of defense projects for six clients represented by a lobbying firm cofounded by Michael Herson, Siegel's husband.
Siegel was Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations until about six months ago, when she started working part time on Israel and Jewish community issues.
''I can tell you categorically that Ms. Siegel's husband never lobbied me and I was never lobbied by his firm," said Specter, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He said he had spoken to Siegel, who had told him Herson never lobbied the office on any of the projects, and she had not lobbied on behalf of any projects.
Specter, who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn't permit the relatives of staffers to lobby his office, but he was asking his chief of staff to survey his staff ''and make a list of any relatives involved in the lobbying business."
Herson told USA Today that neither he nor anyone in his firm, American Defense International, had lobbied his wife or anyone else in Specter's office.