GOP chairman faces state ethics probe

Randy Ruedrich denies claims he engaged in partisan activies while on oil, gas commission

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2004

ANCHORAGE - The state attorney general's office is investigating possible ethics law violations by Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich when he worked last year as one of three members of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Ruedrich resigned from the commission in November, a few days after the attorney general's office initiated the investigation based on a complaint from the commission chairwoman, Sarah Palin, that he engaged in party business at his state office.

On March 1, the attorney general's office sent Ruedrich a letter outlining 25 allegations against him.

"We think that if the activity is what it appears to be, then there's violations of the Ethics Act," said Assistant Attorney General Barbara Ritchie, chief of the opinions, appeals and ethics section.

Ruedrich on Monday waived his confidentiality rights, allowing the matter to be made public, and filed his official response, denying all but one of the allegations.

Most of the allegations contend Ruedrich engaged in partisan activity while on the job at the oil and gas commission, a quasi-judicial regulatory agency that oversees underground operations of the state's oil industry on private and public lands and waters.

Investigators reviewed Ruedrich's e-mails, interviewed witnesses and sifted through his recycled paper box and compiled anything of a political nature. Nowhere did they find documents or e-mails that he generated during work hours, he said.

"I think that speaks clearly to the fact it that was not my intent to conduct business at the office, nor did I conduct business," Ruedrich said.

Three of the allegations deal with the presence of statewide public opinion polls conducted by Hellenthal and Associates. The polls include voter sentiments regarding Gov. Frank Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, her likely opponent in the November election, former Gov. Tony Knowles, and a possible primary opponent at the time, John Binkley.

Ruedrich said he kept the polls at the office for other issues that focused on public policy. As a senior member of the Murkowski administration, he said, he needed the information at his fingertips to answer questions.

"There's a lot of what I could call administration policy information someone is going to call me on," he said.

Other documents collected by investigators that clearly were political, such as an analysis of a poll, were sent mistakenly from his home computer to his office computer, he said.

Ruedrich acknowledged one error: forwarding a confidential attorney general's opinion to attorney Kyle Parker, who represented Evergreen Resources on matters pertaining to methane gas development in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Ruedrich said he did not realize until after he sent the memo that it had been marked confidential.

He also acknowledged participating during the work day in conference calls arranged by the Republican National Committee. They were short, he said, and he routinely worked past his 7.5-hour work day.

"Moreover, I was instructed not to submit a leave slip for such short periods of time," he said. "I doubt whether it is common practice for state employees to submit a leave slip when they briefly handle a private matter during the work day."

Other allegations deal with Republican party e-mail sent to his AOGCC computer. Ruedrich said he either did not open the transmissions or merely forwarded them to his home computer where he conducted Republican Party business.

The allegations also included items on paper, retrieved from his recycling box, that contained AOGCC items on one side and political subjects on the other. Ruedrich said they do not indicate that he engaged in partisan activity at the office, only that he recycled by using both sides of a piece of paper.

"I have always been a greenie at heart," Ruedrich said. "Not only do I recycle, I'm cheap."

Ruedrich has a doctorate in chemical engineering and had worked in the oil and gas industry for more than 30 years. In Alaska, he worked for ARCO as a senior drilling engineer and was general manager of Doyon Drilling.

Ruedrich took over as Alaska chairman of the Republican Party, an unpaid position, in June 2000.

Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed him to the AOGCC in February 2003. The job pays $118,000 per year. Ruedrich said at the time he would continue political work on behalf of the Alaska Republican Party,

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