Ethics law targets Juneau lobbyist

Bullock thought to be only person banned from job

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2007

Trying to improve ethical standards in the Capitol, lawmakers have banned Geoffrey Bullock from working as a lobbyist next year.

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Bullock, a Juneau resident and professional lobbyist, is thought to be the only person among the state's nearly 400 registered lobbyists to whom the Legislature's new ban on felons working as lobbyists would apply.

"On the face of it, I can't lobby," Bullock said. "They're effectively putting one person out of work."

The Alaska Legislature has been dealing with ethical issues for years. Over the last six months, four members of last year's Legislature have been indicted on federal corruption charges. All four have pleaded not guilty.

One of three people who pleaded guilty to offering bribes to legislators was a registered lobbyist.

The Legislature's ethics bill unfairly targets lobbyists by holding them to higher standards than lawmakers themselves, Bullock said.

"I could be a legislator, but I can't be a lobbyist," he said.

Bullock was convicted on three counts of wire fraud in 1997 after a fish processing deal in Russia collapsed and he was accused of misusing company funds. He has completed a sentence at a federal prison camp in Sheridan, Ore., and is in the progress of making court-ordered restitution.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission will accept Bullock's lobbying reports for the remainder of the year, but would not be allowed to accept his registration for next year, said Tammy Kempton, a member of the commission's staff who handles lobbying issues.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, proposed the lobbyist felony ban, which involves "moral turpitude" because of the billions of dollars at stake in decisions made at the Capitol.

Under state law, moral turpitude crimes range from murder and rape to theft and perjury.

"I personally feel this is not the building to have felons with moral turpitude issues in," Stedman said.

Stedman, a financial planner, said that his and many other professions have regulations that often prevent convicted felons from working; he maintains that it's not the Legislature's fault if someone has broken the law in the past and can't be a lobbyist.

"When you cross that line there are consequences that last a long time," he said.

Bullock said he paid for something that happened in the past, and that the crime in any case was outside the lobbying work he's done since 1992.

"I was incredulous," he said. "I couldn't believe they would do something so mean."

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, who serves on the Senate Finance Committee with Stedman, said the law was too narrowly targeted at professional lobbyists.

"Nothing bans a felon from running for the Legislature, nothing bans a felon from hiring a lobbyist," he said.

Elton said Bullock, a 44-year-old father and foster parent, has been open and honest about his past mistakes.

"I believe in the power of people to turn their lives around," he said.

Elton failed in his effort to remove the lobbying ban, but he voted for the wide-ranging ethics package on the floor. It passed unanimously in both houses of the Legislature and is awaiting the expected signature of the governor.

Bullock said he has not yet decided how to respond, but said he couldn't rule out a legal challenge. Also, he may look for a way to work as a consultant so that he doesn't have to register as a lobbyist.

Rick Smith, a VECO Corp. vice president who pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges and is awaiting sentencing, did not meet the requirements to register as a lobbyist, according to the commission.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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