Republicans claim Ulmer underpaid for use of boat

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Democrat gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer improperly received a $13,200 discount from a charter boat company for a May fund-raiser held in Whittier, the state's Republican Party leader said.

But a spokesman for Ulmer's Republican opponent acknowledged on Thursday that they were offered the same trip at a discounted price, a practice allowed by the state's campaign contribution rules.

Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich filed a complaint on Wednesday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging Ulmer should pay the full cost of the chartered cruise. Based on the price paid by other organizations for similar cruises, he estimated that cost at $15,000.

''We want them to pay the cost of the charter. It's a campaign cost, it cannot be a contribution,'' Ruedrich said Thursday.

Ulmer's campaign held a fund-raiser on the Phillips Cruises ship Klondike Express on May 11, charging the 154 attendees $100 each for the three hour tour, according to the complaint.

Campaign records show that Ulmer paid the cruise company $1,232 for the use of the ship and for food. The company is owned by Brad Phillips, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Under state law, individuals and sole proprietor businesses such as Phillips' charter service are limited to giving $500 in total contributions to a candidate per year.

If Ulmer received a discount for the charter service that would be considered a campaign contribution, said Brook Miles, director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

But Miles said the business could legally offer the discounted service if it also extended the rate to other political campaigns.

Ulmer is the state's lieutenant governor and the Democrat candidate for governor. She faces Republican U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski in the Nov. 5 general election.

Murkowski spokesman Dan Saddler said the cruise company also offered their campaign use of its tour service. Saddler said he does not recall when the offer was made or its specifics, but that the cost of the cruise was below the normal price.

Ruedrich said the cruise company would have had to also extend the discount to Wayne Anthony Ross, who lost in his bid to be the GOP candidate for governor, as well as those running on the other party tickets.

Ruedrich also alleged that Ulmer's campaign failed to list the $100 ticket price that each person paid as an individual campaign contribution.

This is the third time the Republican Party of Alaska has leveled allegations of fund-raising impropriety against Ulmer or the state Democratic Party.

In August, the state GOP alleged that Democrats used sloppy accounting and improperly sent more than $107,000 to candidates including Ulmer. That complaint is under APOC review, Miles said.

Democrats dismissed that complaint as trivial and said it reflected Republican fears that Ulmer was gaining ground on Murkowski, who past polls have shown to be leading in support.

Ulmer spokesman Jason Moore said the Democrat candidate surpassed $1 million in fund-raising this week and echoed earlier comments that the partisan attacks by the GOP are ''bogus.''

''He charged us twelve hundred bucks and we paid it,'' Moore said of boat owner Phillips. ''If he comes back and says we have to pay more, we will pay more.''

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