The Alaska senators’ committee

Marketplace Staff Oct 10, 2007

One of the political campaign committees that helped pay for Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman’s fishing trip to Alaska in 2003 was the Alaska Senators Committee.

The committee, formed that year by Republican senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, accepted thousands of dollars sent to an Anchorage post office box. It held a fundraiser in Alaska and flew Coleman to Anchorage, where he attended that fundraiser. But, it never registered with the Federal Election Commission.

“This sounds really problematic,” said Ken Bohm at the National Legal Policy Center. “It sounds like an FEC complaint on three or four levels.”

Federal election rules allow candidates to form joint fundraising committees, as Stevens and Murkowski did in 2003 by forming the Alaska Senators Committee. But the committee never filed with the FEC.

“It looks like they failed to establish a joint fundraising committee, at minimum they should have set up a separate bank account for this event,” said Larry Nobel, a former general counsel at the commission and an election law attorney at Skadden Arps.

The Alaska Senators Committee was set up by Curtis Thayer, an Alaska energy lobbyist and former congressional staffer for Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Thayer was also a finance consultant in Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s 2004 reelection campaign.

Thayer initially said he couldn’t recall how the group was registered or how it filed its records with the Federal Election Commission. He did remember that a joint committee was set up with Ted Stevens’ leadership PAC in the summer of 2003.

Dick Ladd, a Washington lobbyist, ran Stevens’ PAC in 2003. He told Marketplace he signed a joint fundraising agreement with the Murkowski campaign creating the new committee. Campaign finance reports show that Stevens’ Northern Lights PAC sent the group, the Alaska Senators Committee, a check for more than $8,500. That check appears to have been cashed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign.

Murkowski’s campaign also received more than $11,700 from the Alaska Senators Committee in the fall of 2003, according to campaign finance reports, but the original source of those donations is unclear.

“The big question is where did that money come from?” Nobel asked. Because the Alaska Senators Committee never filed any reports, it’s unclear who the original donors were.

Thayer said he didn’t believe it was necessary to file separate disclosures for the group.

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