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Financial details help fill out candidate profiles

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010

JUNEAU - Some of the candidates seeking to be Alaska's next governor would give up well-established careers if elected. And in taking on a job that pays $125,000 a year, a few likely would take a financial hit, too.

The Associated Press asked the candidates for copies of their most recent income tax returns and resumes; all but Alaskan Independence candidate Donald Wright were reached. Response was limited, and mixed.

Democrat Hollis French and Republican Ralph Samuels were the only ones to provide both by the requested deadline. Samuel's campaign did so in spite of initial concerns that it would open him to a level of scrutiny that candidates who didn't release their tax returns wouldn't face.

Other campaigns declined to provide returns, pointing instead to filings with state or federal election agencies for this race or prior bids. Gov. Sean Parnell's campaign manager, for example, said he'd already disclosed all he was legally required to disclose.

Financial records show some of the candidates, either separately or with their wives, earned more than $100,000.

French, a state senator, reported total income of $308,615 in 2008, much of that from rental properties and his wife's work as a real estate agent; his reported wage earnings from the state were $33,899. (A legislative pay raise, to $50,400, did not take effect until 2010.)

Samuels, who is single, reported total income of $117,572 in 2008, though that included earnings from the state (he was a legislator through 2008), Peninsula Airways Inc. and Holland America Line, which he left the airline to join as vice president of external relations that year.

Democrat Bob Poe, who like French and Samuels requested an extension on his 2009 tax filing date, provided the AP his resume and the amount he said he'd paid in taxes to the IRS for 2009, $78,887. In a separate financial disclosure to the state, he reported he and his wife earned nearly $260,000 in 2008 between her work at Shell Exploration & Production, $167,628, his own business consulting and dividend and interest payments. French and Samuels released 2008 returns.

Instead of releasing income tax returns, other candidates referred a reporter to their recent filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Those reports are fairly detailed, seeking information on such things as gross earnings and dividends over $1,000; retirement accounts; business interests and real estate holdings; names of any creditors; certain disclosure of gifts over $250, what they were and who from, and any financial relationships among certain public officials, legislators and lobbyists. But they don't show, for example, any businesses losses or taxes paid or due. And neither they nor the tax returns give a clear sense of overall wealth.

Carl Shepro, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said he doesn't think most Alaskans care how much money a candidate has, or how he got it, "unless there's some degree of suspicion."

Candidate disclosure reports either cover 2008 or 2009, depending on when the candidate made his run official. Parnell's is for 2009, a year he began as lieutenant governor and ended as governor after Sarah Palin's abrupt resignation in July. He had $140,220 in reportable household income between his state roles, his wife's work as a legal assistant and dividends. He reported $10,007.39 in gifts, including travel expenses paid by a third-party, such as the U.S. Navy for a visit to the USS Stennis; Pure Nickel Mining Co., for a site tour and employee visit; and the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships program, for a leadership seminar.

Candidates have until June 1 to officially declare. At least three had yet to do so by Wednesday: Samuels, Republican Bill Walker and Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, a former state lawmaker whose campaign provided the AP a resume.

"We don't have anything to hide," Berkowitz campaign manager Jon Blair said. "There's nothing to give you right now."

Blair provided a resume and also noted Berkowitz's prior financial disclosures with elections' agencies. Berkowitz's website lists Berkowitz's business interests, with his wife, who teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage, as including two restaurants and commercial real estate.

Walker, an Anchorage attorney whose campaign in February reported he'd put in about $110,000 into his bid himself, did not immediately respond to AP's request. His campaign manager cited recent deaths in the family and a stroke suffered by Walker's mother-in-law.

Libertarian William "Billy" Toien cited confidentiality and Republican Gerald Heikes, concerns surrounding his Social Security number, though they pointed to their filings with the state. Toien reported $54,884 between working at an Anchorage hotel, rental income, a dividend and stock sale in 2009; Heikes, nearly $50,700 for drywall, carpentry and household dividends, in 2008.

Republicans Merica Hlatcu and Sam Little didn't immediately respond to the request. The AP was unable to reach Alaskan Independence candidate Donald Wright, whose phone rang unanswered.



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