Cowdery retracts request for fund-raising help from lobbyists

Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Republican Rep. John Cowdery sent 103 lobbyists letters asking for their help in raising money for his Senate campaign from their spouses and clients. Alaska law prohibits lobbyists from raising money for legislative candidates.

Cowdery, who is seeking the Anchorage seat vacated by Republican Sen. Sean Parnell's retirement, retracted the Oct. 6 request this week in letters to the lobbyists and the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

''Even though the statute appears to allow this letter, I do not want to involve my campaign in any gray areas of state law,'' Cowdery wrote in a letter to Karen Boorman, executive director of the campaign watchdog agency.

Cowdery, who is battling Democrat Sarah Scanlan for Parnell's seat, was traveling from Whittier to Anchorage on Friday and did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press.

Boorman said Cowdery didn't violate the law for candidates, but any lobbyists who granted his request would break a separate law governing their behavior.

''They can't engage in fund-raising activity of any kind for a legislative campaign,'' Boorman said Friday.

Cowdery's initial letter read: ''As a lobbyist, I realize that you cannot contribute to me unless you live in my Senate district. However, anyone else can contribute to my campaign including your clients, spouse and other family members. I hope you will convince them that I'm the good guy and that we have a great relationship.''

In his letter to APOC, Cowdery said the letter went out to 103 lobbyists. That's about half of the people registered with the commission as lobbyists, but more than the number of active lobbyists practicing in the Capital.

Some of the letters went to lobbyists with primarily Democratic constituencies who are unlikely to support Cowdery, a conservative Republican. By this week, copies of the letter were circulating among Democratic activists.

While the law does ban fund-raising activity by lobbyists, it does allow them to personally advocate for candidates. A candidate can only accept a contribution from a lobbyist if he or she lives in the candidate's district.

In his retraction letter to the lobbyists, Cowdery strongly urged them not to solicit contributions for him. ''PLEASE DO NOT ASK ANYONE TO MAKE A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION TO ME. IF YOU KNOW OF ANYONE WHO SENT ME A CONTRIBUTION BASED ON THE OCTOBER 6TH LETTER, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I'LL RETURN IT.''

Boorman said no violation of law has occurred provided the lobbyists all follow the retraction and not the original letter.

''He's fixed it,'' Boorman said. ''If he's followed through and others follow through and don't make illegal contributions, there's no problem.''

Cowdery, a retired contractor, has served three terms in the House.

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