Ulmer boat trip broke no election laws, APOC finds

Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The Alaska Public Offices Commission has ruled that Fran Ulmer did not violate election laws when her Democratic gubernatorial campaign held a fund-raiser using a discount-price boat ride in Prince William Sound.

As required under campaign finance law, the boat owned by Phillips' Cruises and Tours was made available to all candidates for governor, including Republican Frank Murkowski, the APOC staff said. Therefore, the cruise did not amount to an illegal gift to the Ulmer campaign.

Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who filed the complaint against Ulmer, said that the campaign manager for Republican candidate Wayne Ross called Phillips about the cruise, but his phone call was never returned.

During the hearing, Commissioner Sheila Gallagher said it was the candidate's responsibility to take advantage of the offer. ''Clearly, you may need to call more than once,'' she said.

The price for the boat for a three-hour cruise in the Sound typically is about $15,000, according to the APOC and Ruedrich. Ulmer's campaign paid $1,232. The difference of $13,268 amounted to a campaign contribution, Ruedrich claimed.

Under state law at the time, candidates could not accept corporate contributions; individuals could give no more than $500; and donated services, such as the use of a boat, could not exceed $500.

But if the provider of the service in this case a cruise makes it available to all candidates at a reduced rate, the donation is legal.

Phillips notified both Murkowski and Ulmer of his offer. Murkowski's campaign turned it down, saying it was not legal. But Ulmer took him up on the offer, as did Sen. Ted Stevens and former House speaker Gail Phillips, then a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

The commission did vote to admonish Ulmer for failing to include all employment information about donors to her campaign. On Thursday, the commission heard basically the same complaint against Murkowski's campaign and voted to admonish Murkowski.

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