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PACKWOOD REVERSES STAND, SEEKS PUBLIC HEARINGS

Sen. Bob Packwood, reversing his earlier position, said Friday he wants public hearings into charges that he committed sexual and official misconduct.

Packwood, R-Ore., said he changed his mind because the Ethics Committee "changed its rules in the middle of the game" by investigating two recent complaints filed against him.The Finance Committee chairman said that when he originally declined his right to a hearing, he thought the record of the 2 1/2-year ethics investigation had been closed.

It was not clear whether Packwood still has the right to a hearing. The six-member ethics committee rejected hearings on a tie vote, and the Senate voted against a resolution by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to force public hearings.

Packwood, making his announcement in a written statement, also blamed Boxer for his reversal.

"Sen. Boxer has succeeded in politicizing this process so that it is now impossible, no matter what decision the committee makes, to convince the public that their decision was anything but a political one," Packwood said.

He said it now was clear "that fair treatment of all participants will be impossible without public hearings and public cross-examination. I now look forward to moving ahead in this process."

Packwood called his earlier decision not to request hearings "a close call," based on information that the investigative record was closed. He said the ethics committee formally notified him the record was closed on July 31.

Since then, the committee decided to investigate two complaints of sexual misconduct - one by a former intern in Packwood's office. The woman was 17 when she alleges that Packwood suddenly kissed her when he brought a college letter of recommendation to her home in 1983.

"After stating it was closed, the committee changed the rules in the middle of the game and allowed two more accusers whose allegations were already known to them to be considered," Packwood said.

"It's clear that the record is not closed," said the senator, who has denied the accusation by the former intern.

Packwood also blasted the news media, contending it "reports every allegation against me as thought it is fact" but refuses to cover depositions "that prove an accuser is not telling the truth."