AG's purchase of 7,000 Coeur shares questioned

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On the same day he dumped the stock shares that brought him under question for pushing an international coal deal, Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes sold his part in a company seeking to open a Juneau gold mine.

On Oct. 6 last year, while selling stock in KFx, Renkes sold his shares in Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. Coeur d'Alene is the parent company of Coeur Alaska, which is attempting to open the Kensington Mine near Juneau.

A governor-appointed investigator's report Tuesday cleared Renkes of violating the state ethics code for negotiating a state coal deal with Taiwan that could benefit KFx. The report said Renkes' shares, at one time $126,000, did not create a significant conflict.

Juneau environmentalists are questioning Renkes' purchase of shares in the Idaho-based mining corporation in 2003 and 2004 and his service in 2002 on the board of a Coeur d'Alene Mines subsidiary that prepared environmental reports for the proposed Kensington Mine.

"It raises the question in our mind, if KFx hadn't come to light, would our state's top attorney still be invested in a controversial gold company that wants to do business in Alaska, and needs numerous permits from the very agencies that Renkes is supposed to advise?" said Buck Lindekugel, a staff attorney with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Renkes stepped down from the board of the Coeur subsidiary, Earthworks Technology, when he was appointed attorney general in late 2002, said Rich Richins, the former company's president.

"Earthworks was dissolved two years ago," said Richins, now a consultant for Coeur Alaska, which is developing the mine 45 miles north of downtown Juneau.

Richins said Earthworks originally asked Renkes, then in Washington, D.C., to serve on its board because Earthworks was looking for "people we thought had good business savvy."

Robert Bundy, a former U.S. attorney appointed by Gov. Murkowski to look into Renkes' alleged ethics violations, said Tuesday that he looked at Renkes' ownership of Coeur d'Alene stock.

At one point in 2004, Renkes owned 7,000 shares in Coeur d'Alene stock, according to his Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. disclosure filings.

Bundy said Renkes didn't buy the Coeur d'Alene stock himself. His financial adviser, Dale Anderson of Juneau, made the purchases without advice from Renkes on the matter, Bundy said.

The Coeur d'Alene stock was placed in a guided portfolio management (GPM) account that was managed by Anderson, Bundy said.

"(Anderson) said it was his idea and never talked to Renkes about it," Bundy said.

Anderson declined to comment Tuesday other than to say he was glad that Bundy's investigation was finished.

Anderson deferred comment to his employer, the large financial investment firm Smith Barney, where a company spokeswoman also declined to comment.

Bundy said he didn't look into the Coeur d'Alene matter much further because he wasn't aware of any action related to the Kensington project that Renkes had undertaken on behalf of the state or the Department of Law.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at

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