Former lawmaker ousted by disclosure violation back in game

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A former lawmaker who was thrown off the ballot 14 years ago for waiting too long to disclose personal loans from a lobbyist is running for the state Senate.

Republican Marco Pignalberi jumped into the race for GOP Sen. Tim Kelly's east Anchorage seat. Kelly, a Republican, announced his retirement last month.

Pignalberi, who currently works as chief of staff to Rep. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, said he was prepared to put both the violation and his record of government service on the table and let voters decide.

''I'm taking the skeletons out of the closet and I'm putting them out there for everybody to see,'' said Cowdery.

Pignalberi was elected to the House in 1984, but removed from the ballot in 1986 during his re-election campaign for violating the law that requires candidates to disclose their financial interests to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

He was several weeks late in disclosing loans from Lewis Dischner, a powerful lobbyist, according to an affidavit Pignalberi filed as part of an agreement with the campaign watchdog agency to close his case. In the affidavit, Pignalberi said he paid back $35,000 of the $43,000 Dischner loaned him between August 1984 and January 1985.

Pignalberi said he failed to disclose the loans because Dischner was embroiled in the federal investigation of corruption and racketeering in the North Slope Borough.

''I didn't want to be tied to him politically,'' Pignalberi said. ''It was a dumb, terrible mistake.''

Dischner, whom Pignalberi describes as an old friend, loaned him the money between August 1984 and January 1985, during and immediately after his first campaign.

''I lost my job in the middle of the campaign, so I borrowed some money from him for personal purposes,'' Pignalberi said. ''I shouldn't have done that.''

In the agreement, Pignalberi agreed to pay a $7,650 fine and drop an appeal of his removal from the ballot. The commission agreed not to recommend that the attorney general prosecute him on criminal charges.

Republican Rep. Ramona Barnes, who lost to Pignalberi in the primary in 1984, won in 1986 and has held the seat since.

Pignalberi said he was running for the Senate because he was not happy with the other Republican seeking to replace Kelly -- former Rep. Terry Martin.

''It would be fair to say that Terry's pretty much tied into the extreme right wing and the religious right and the super-conservative wing of the party and I'm not,'' said Pignalberi.

Pignalberi served as an assistant commissioner for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and worked for Anchorage Mayors George Sullivan and Tom Fink.

Martin, who retired from the House in 1998 after 20 years in office, was best known for his stands against abortion and the death penalty and his contention that lawmakers and other state officials conspire to hide the true size of the state budget. He did not return phone calls on Friday.

Former Rep. Bettye Davis will take on Will Theuer and Hugh Wade for the Democratic nomination.

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