APOC says senator broke ethics rules

Sen. Ben Stevens accused of failing to disclose income

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Alaska Public Offices Commission staff is accusing outgoing state Senate President Ben Stevens of multiple violations of financial disclosure rules and recommending thousands of dollars in fines.

The staff recommendation goes to the five-member commission, which meets in Anchorage later this week. It was tentatively scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday.

Two complaints against Stevens were brought by the Republican Moderate Party, arguing that Stevens failed to disclose income from a consulting business and from service on the board of directors of Semco Energy. Semco is the parent company of Enstar, Alaska's largest utility, and natural gas provider to the Anchorage and Mat-anuska-Susitna Borough areas.

Stevens, a Republican, did not run for re-election; he leaves office in a few days.

Stevens' staff did not return a phone call from the Empire.

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APOC staff determined that Stevens, in both cases, should have reported the income, said Brooke Miles, executive director of the commission.

The state requires reporting income only if the person has a controlling interest in a company, but the statute doesn't specify what a controlling interest is.

Stevens argued that the consulting firm in which he once had part ownership wasn't required to reveal its income sources because Stevens didn't have a controlling interest - neither he nor a family member owned more than 50 percent.

The firm, Advance North, was formed by Stevens and Trevor McCabe, a former legislative director for Alaska's U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, Ben Stevens' father. That firm is now fully owned by McCabe.

Ray Metcalfe, a former state legislator who brought the complaint in 2005 on behalf of the party, said Stevens' argument "defies common sense" and questioned who controlled the company if not Stevens.

APOC staff concluded that Stevens did have a controlling interest and should have reported payments to Advance North.

Alaska law provides for a penalty of $10 a day for late filings. APOC staff calculated that late filings for 2004, 2005 and 2006 would amount to a penalty of $10,170 and recommended the maximum be assessed.

Stevens and Advance North received hundreds of thousands of dollars that were not disclosed during that period.

The Republican Moderate Party also accused Stevens of failing to report about $74,000 in payments he received from Semco Energy in 2005.

Stevens told APOC he had not reported the Semco income because he deferred receiving it during calendar year 2005 under a program offered by the company.

"Although the compensation could be deferred for IRS tax purposes, staff concludes that it still qualified as income under Alaska's disclosure laws in 2005 when it was earned," according to an APOC report.

APOC staff recommended that Stevens be fined $10 a day, or $630, for the 63 days during which he failed to disclose the income.

Also scheduled to be heard this week are staff findings that the Republican Governors' Association violated Alaska law by its participation in the November gubernatorial election on behalf of winning Republican candidate Sarah Palin.

The staff has said the Palin campaign itself did not commit a violation by coordinating with the association.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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