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Alaska faces fine over undeclared bullets, lighter

Posted: July 10, 2014 - 11:05pm

ANCHORAGE — The state faces a fine of at least $7,000 after a lawmaker attempted to ship bullets, a cigarette lighter and an aerosol can by air to Juneau without declaring them.

The lawmaker, Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said he plans to reimburse the state for the penalty. He called it an embarrassing mistake.

The 2013 incident was made public at a Legislative Council meeting Wednesday, though not all the details were provided. It wasn’t until after the meeting that council chairman Mike Hawker identified the lawmaker as Keller and said bullets were among the items Keller had tried to ship.

The council adopted a new policy on shipping household goods from lawmakers’ home districts to Juneau for sessions. The new policy meets a condition set by federal authorities to reduce the initial penalty, which was $19,400, Hawker said.

If there is another violation, the Legislature could be assessed the maximum fine of $75,000 and have its “known shipper” number suspended. The numbers are issued by the Transportation Security Administration to vouch for a shipper’s integrity, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The Legislature’s top attorney, Doug Gardner, said the Legislature will cancel its old number and get a new one that will be used by staff trained in identifying hazardous materials for shipping packages by air. He said it would be “catastrophic” to have the number suspended since the Legislative Affairs Agency routinely ships documents and other material throughout the state.

Under the new policy, Hawker aide Juli Lucky said legislators will have to ship their goods to Juneau under their own names or with an independent company with its own known shipper number, but the Legislature will still pay for shipping.

Hawker, R-Anchorage, said Keller has been “stand-up” from the moment the package was intercepted at the Anchorage airport in January 2013.

Keller said he packed for Juneau as he had in the past, with he and his wife tossing into a new trash container items to bring. While he usually took the container in his pickup, he said he took it to the Alaska Airlines freight desk in Anchorage that time.

“I wasn’t focused at all,” he said.

Keller said he remembers declaring his unloaded pistol in a locked case but not the ammunition, aerosol can of static-cling fighter and the lighter for his pipe. He said he wasn’t there when the items were found, but was called back to the airport to retrieve them.

“They saw right away it was a dumb oversight,” he said.

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