Republicans charge Democrats with spending violations

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska filed a formal complaint Thursday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, charging state Democrats with sloppy accounting and improperly sending party money to candidates.

The Democrats' response to the allegations by Randy Ruedrich: categorical denial.

''Everything's as it should be,'' said Scott Sterling, a Wasilla attorney and Ruedrich's counterpart with the Alaska Democratic Party. ''We've produced all the paperwork of registers and transactions. Our accounts are properly accounted for.''

Furthermore, Sterling said, the party has asked APOC officials to point out any filing problems.

''They have not,'' Sterling said.

APOC director Brooke Miles said Thursday that Democrats submitted a preprimary report last month that included money earned by the party through its charitable gaming permit, and how it was then disbursed to nonprofit organizations. That information is not required by law. Democrats filed an amended report Wednesday, Miles said.

Sterling said the party filed electronically and APOC software was not able to delineate between charitable gaming income and its general account. Sterling said the amended report makes clear the differences.

In his complaint to the APOC, Ruedrich made three allegations:

-- Ruedrich claimed that the July 27 report indicates that Democrats improperly directed $107,348 to a fund for direct support to candidates. According to Ruedrich, that figure includes $65,000 received from charitable gaming, $20,000 of a $25,000 donation from former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr., a Republican; $15,500 from four corporate donors; and more than $7,000 from the Democratic National Committee.

Ruedrich said the July 27 balance for the fund for candidates is less than $49,000. Therefore, he concludes, the Democrats must have improperly disbursed the remaining money to candidates.

Ruedrich said Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, a Democrat candidate for governor, received $50,000 from the account and Hollis French, a candidate for state Senate District M in Anchorage, received $5,000.

''It appears to go to the lieutenant governor as a passthrough,'' Ruedrich said, a claim the Ulmer campaign denied.

''It's completely non-legitimate,'' said Ulmer spokesman Jason Moore.

-- Since Ulmer and French received contributions from gaming revenue, national party funds, corporate donors or Thomas' excess contributions, Ruedrich said, the candidates should give the money back, Ruedrich said.

-- He claimed the end balances for 2000 and 2001 do not match the opening balances in the accounts for the following year, with differences of $10,530 and $5,178. Furthermore, he said, for 2001, the report shows $190,675 spent and only $71,067 itemized.

Asked if he thought the discrepancies were sloppiness or fraud, Ruedrich replied that it certainly was the former and that the APOC should investigate to find out if it were the latter.

Ruedrich said earnings from charitable gaming are not to be mixed with other earnings, or even reported, and he questioned why Democrats would send that information to APOC.

''What was the motivation for that sloppiness?'' he asked. He suggested one motivation may have been to maintain an even cash flow.

Sterling and Moore assigned a political motive for Ruedrich's complaint.

''They are upset and worried that Fran Ulmer is closing in on (Republican contender) Frank Murkowski,'' Sterling said.

Moore said Republicans may have timed the complaint to detract from a half-hour television program on Ulmer scheduled to be broadcast Thursday.

Miles said the APOC will investigate the complaint. The first step is a letter to the affected parties outlining what laws would have been broke -- if the allegations were found to be true -- and requesting responses.

After responses are received, an investigator would prepare a preliminary report and present it to the commission at a regular meeting.

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