ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Former Gov. Frank Murkowski may have misused his much-maligned state jet by using it for trips dominated by campaigning and by failing to reimburse the state for dozens of trips by his wife, according to a review of state records.
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Governors can ethically travel on state aircraft while campaigning as long as the "primary purpose" of such trips is official business, according to state attorneys and the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
But on three of the 28 dual-purpose trips Murkowski took during his campaign season from June through August, the governor spent more than half his time campaigning, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News. Murkowski lost his re-election bid and left office in December.
Senior Assistant Attorney General David Jones said the amount of time spent on official business is one factor to consider in determining the "primary purpose" of a trip, but not the only one.
"We would consider all of the relevant circumstances, including percentage of time spent, but that factor would not necessarily be determinative," Jones wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News.
But Alaska Public Offices Commission Executive Director Brooke Miles said she thinks the amount of time spent on state business is important. The commission acts as the state's campaign-finance watchdog.
"I would say if more than 50 percent of the trip was on campaigning, then the principal purpose of the trip wasn't for state work," Miles said. "That would be my recommendation to the commission if I were making one."
Following a directive from APOC, Murkowski also reimbursed the state, but at a rate far less than the cost of flying the state's Westwind II jet.
Murkowski also broke from the policy of previous governors in failing to reimburse the state for his wife's travel on state aircraft during his four years in office.
"As a general rule if Nancy doesn't go I don't go," Murkowski had said in a handwritten explanation. "That's the way it was in the Senate for twenty-two years, and that's how it will be as long as I'm governor."
Frank and Nancy Murkowski couldn't be reached for comment.