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Rep. Les Aspin, who is leading efforts for more M-1 tanks than the Pentagon requested, is dating a steel executive whose company obtained more than $6 million in M-1 contracts, a newspaper reported.

In its Sunday editions, the Wisconsin State Journal also said an institute Aspin created to help Wisconsin industry win defense contracts is helping Sharon Sarton's firm compete for more Pentagon work.Aspin has been chairman of the House Armed Services Committee since 1985. The Wisconsin Democrat, who was divorced in 1979, began dating Sarton 31/2 years ago. She manages Scot Forge Co.'s Clinton plant, which makes a piston mechanism that cushions the shock when the M-1 tank's cannon fires.

The Washington Times reported last month that Sarton, who is also divorced, accompanied Aspin on a military flight to the Middle East and was listed as his technical representative. Aspin reimbursed the Pentagon $1,765 for her 11-day trip.

Sarton also accompanied Aspin this year on a military flight from Denver to Washington after he suffered heart problems while skiing.

"I really resent this," Sarton said when asked about her company's defense contracts and her relationship with Aspin, 52.

All contracts between Scot Forge and the Defense Department were won by competitive bidding, she said.

"I guess he does his job and I do my job," Sarton said.

Aspin responded in writing, "I don't receive direct political benefits from API (Aspin Procurement Institute). The only benefit I derive is knowledge on the part of Wisconsin businesses and working people that I am on their side."