Bentley criticized by foe for work on behalf of Serbs

October 03, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Michael C. Hickey Jr., who is waging an underdog campaign && to unseat four-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, has demanded that she resign as president of Serb-Net Inc., a private Serbian-American public relations and lobbying group.

Mrs. Bentley, who helped found the group, said she is merely the honorary president and will not resign. She said she ceased being active president in June.

Mr. Hickey, a Harford County attorney and Democratic nominee in the second congressional race, also renewed charges yesterday that Mrs. Bentley is neglecting her local constituents and using her elected office to support Serbia's cause.

A five-person group calling them selves The Maryland Coalition to Stop Ethnic Cleansing also has charged Mrs. Bentley with misusing her elected office. The group has paid for an advertisement scheduled to appear in The Sun tomorrow.

Mrs. Bentley, who is of Serbian extraction, denied the allegations and said she has been present and voting at nearly every house roll call. She also said she routinely works 12 to 14 hours a day, and rarely misses committee sessions. If she must resign from Serb-Net Inc., she said, "Then every member of Congress would have to resign from every group they are honorary president of."

"For your information I am in touch with the State Department on a daily basis to get this war stopped. I want peace there [in the former Yugoslavia] and I want everybody to have their human rights and their homes," she said, adding that anyone guilty of war crimes, Serb or not, should be tried by a war crimes tribunal and punished.

J.C. McClure, a Washington, D.C., woman who helped place the newspaper ad, charged that Mrs. Bentley has used her position to block U.S. actions against alleged Serbian aggression and raise money to enhance the Serbian regime's image in the United States.

"In mythology," the ad reads, "Medusa's glance turned people into stone. In Congress, Helen Delich Bentley's interference on behalf of Serbia helped turn Bosnia into rubble and Kosova into a prison."

The ad also charges that three of Serb-Net's 12 directors "represent various Chetnik organizations." Chetniks, it says, are linked with "terrorism, destruction, mass executions and the Nazi-like practice of ethnic cleansing."

Mrs. Bentley said the Serb-Net directors whose groups have the word "Chetnik" in their names are Americans of Serbian descent and have no links to any Serbian-Yugoslavian groups.

Mr. Hickey's charge that Mrs. Bentley is neglecting her constituents is partly based on a Serbian-American newspaper article paid for by the Bentley campaign. The article reads in part: "Serbs have only one voice in Congress -- Helen Delich Bentley. She has sacrificed her career to promote and fight for Serbia and Serbs. . . . Mrs. Bentley has only two Serbs in her congressional district, yet she spends a majority of her time helping Serbs."

When asked about the article, Mrs. Bentley said, "Sometimes your friends kill you with love." She said the original text she supplied for the letter read: "Helen spends the majority of her time spent on foreign policy on Serbian issues."

Her supporter mistakenly left out the foreign policy qualification, changing the sentence's meaning, she said.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Mrs. Bentley has amassed more $300,000 for her re-election campaign and has received at least $80,000 from Serbian-Americans across the country.

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