Palin, Croft call for expanded ethics investigation in case involving Renkes

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2004

ANCHORAGE - A Republican former mayor and a Democratic state lawmaker have called for a formal state ethics investigation of both the governor and his attorney general.

Former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, said Friday an ongoing ethics investigation of Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes over conflict-of-interest allegations concerning a coal deal the state signed with Taiwan in September is inadequate.

That's because the outside counsel was hired by Renkes' confidant, Gov. Frank Murkowski, which compromises the investigator's ability to expand the probe to include the governor and could affect his ability to aggressively pursue facts, Palin and Croft said.

The two sent a letter to Renkes urging him to "follow the law" by referring the matter to the state personnel board in accordance with the Executive Branch Ethics Act.

The board is an independent agency composed of members appointed by the governor. The board hears complaints of ethics violations brought against executive branch employees.

"People are asking, 'What's the governor's role in this?"' Palin told the Anchorage Daily News. "Not only do Alaskans deserve to know the truth, but both gentlemen deserve a fair hearing."

At issue is Renkes' stock ownership in a Colorado company, his actions in promoting the company as attorney general, and what he told the governor.

The Department of Administration's personnel board needs to investigate both Renkes' and Murkowski's actions, Palin and Croft said. The state should not rely solely on former federal prosecutor Robert Bundy, appointed as outside counsel by the governor in early October.

Murkowski asked Bundy to review Renkes' stock ownership in KFx Inc., a company integral to the Beluga coal deal, and the official actions Renkes took to advance the giant project.

State documents examined by the Daily News indicate Renkes played a central role in crafting the coal proposal and touting the benefits of KFx's coal-drying technology. Renkes said he did not tell Murkowski that he owned more than $100,000 worth of KFx stock and was buying more as the coal deal was being negotiated.

The governor, through his press secretary, has said Murkowski had no knowledge of Renkes' stock ownership, although Renkes had disclosed it in required filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission and the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., where he is one of six trustees.

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