Murkowski did not disclose trip as gift - as required by state law

Posted: Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gov. Frank Murkowski never disclosed that a November 2004 trip to New Orleans was paid for by a political group whose donors include an Alaska oil services company and a prominent lobbyist.

Murkowski was reimbursed $1,908.57 for airfare to the Republican Governors Association annual meeting by a so-called 527 group named the Alaska to America Energy Initiative.

However, the gift was not disclosed, as required by state law.

Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg on Friday said the governor was in the process of filing a gift disclosure form. She said the failure to disclose the trip was an oversight by staff.

"The governor receives a lot of gifts throughout the year and it's the staff's responsibility to flag those gifts and make sure they are properly filed," Hultberg said.

The Alaska to America Energy Initiative also paid $2,592 for former Murkowski policy director Kris Knauss to accompany the governor. Knauss did not file a disclosure form for that gift until June 20.

Knauss' trip was determined to be official business and Hultberg said the state planned to pay the money back.

According to Murkowski's travel authorization form, the trip to New Orleans was considered personal business, so his trip was considered a personal gift.

The governor can't claim he was on state business because the Republican Governors Association meeting is a partisan meeting.

However, the authorization form shows that Murkowski was paid a state lodging per diem of $249.47 for his Nov. 19 stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans. He also charged $211.95 to a state credit card for dinner at Antoine's, a French Quarter restaurant, on Nov. 20, the form shows.

Hultberg said she could not say whether the state paid for the hotel and dinner, or if Murkowski paid for or reimbursed the state for those items.

The Alaska to America Energy Initiative was organized by Juneau banker Win Gruening and had just five donors, according to tax filings. Among those donors is Veco Corp. and lobbyist Sam Kito Jr.

The only expenditure recorded by the group is $2,592 spent for Knauss. The money spent on the governor's reimbursement has not appeared on any of the group's filings to date.

The group is a tax-exempt, nonprofit 527, named after a section of the IRS code under which it is organized.

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