Gov. Murkowski still has large Senate war chest

Campaigner spent some while running for governor

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Frank Murkowski still has $230,000 in campaign money he collected to run for the U.S. Senate before entering and winning the 2002 race for governor of Alaska.

Murkowski reported the total in an end-of-year statement filed with the secretary of the U.S. Senate this week.

The statement also shows that Murkowski spent about $30,000 from the Senate campaign account during the last six months of the year, a time when he was running for governor. Most of the $30,000 went to airplane travel and catering.

Murkowski is allowed to keep the remaining $230,000 indefinitely, Steven Weiss, spokesman at the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The center tracks campaign laws and contributions.

The governor also is allowed to distribute the money in contributions of up to $4,000 each to individual candidates for federal offices anywhere in the country over the course of a two-year election cycle. That rule prevents him from giving more than $4,000 to the election campaign of his daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Lisa Murkowski filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission last month, and held a fund-raiser Wednesday night.

With his leftover Senate account, the governor also is allowed to contribute up to $10,000 apiece to political action committees, Weiss said. Or Murkowski could give the money to the national Republican Party. Such a contribution would not be considered "soft money," the unlimited contributions to parties that were banned recently by Congress, because the money initially was raised by Murkowski through contributions subject to the individual caps, Weiss said.

Federal rules prohibit Murkowski from using the money for personal expenses. State law also prohibits Murkowski from transferring the money to a campaign for state office. That law would prevent him from using the money in a gubernatorial re-election effort or from giving it to anyone running for the state Legislature.

Murkowski's expenditure of $30,000 from his Senate account during the last half of 2002 came at a time when he was running for governor. But there was no certainty he would win the governor's seat and so, technically, he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate as well.

Even after he won the governor's race, he was allowed to raise and spend money as a declared Senate candidate. Indeed, some of the biggest checks written from the account came after the gubernatorial victory. The campaign paid Ann Hand of Washington, D.C., $7,600 on Dec. 23 for "event supplies." It also paid the political action committee associated with the Seattle-based law firm Van Ness Feldman $2,500 on Nov. 30 for reception catering.

Tom Roberts, an attorney with Van Ness Feldman and a former Murkowski staff member, is now treasurer of the Senate campaign account and signed the end-of-year campaign statement. The largest check written on the account last year, though, went to an Anchorage-based organization called The North Star Foundation.

The group incorporated on Jan. 31 last year and Murkowski's campaign sent it $50,000 on March 19.

The foundation's goal is to promote economic development in Alaska, said Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes. He served for many years as treasurer for Murkowski's Senate campaign and managed his gubernatorial campaign.

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