Tom Anderson's dual role as a legislator and consultant has drawn criticism over the years, but he defends it as work he's well equipped to do.
The 39-year-old Anchorage Republican has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a law degree from Hamline University School of Law in Minnesota (though he's never practiced law).
He is known as personable, funny, chatty and well-connected. His father is the former head of Alaska State Troopers. The younger Anderson worked as chief of staff to then-Rep. Terry Martin and was appointed to an Anchorage School Board seat in 2000 but lost an election to keep it eight months later. He was working as a government consultant for industry before he ran for state office.
For the past four years, Anderson has represented East Anchorage in the state House. For the first three years, he reported $65,000 in private consulting income on the side. Nearly half that money, $30,000, came from Veco, the oil field services and construction company whose ties to legislators now are under investigation by the FBI.
Disclosure reports by state legislators for outside work done this year are not required until next March. For Anderson and others who are leaving the Legislature after this year, they will not be required at all. But reports required by the Municipality of Anchorage, where Anderson says his recent work has taken place in his new role as a local-government lobbyist, provide some additional information about his work in 2006.
Efforts to interview Anderson for this story were unsuccessful. He provided brief answers to several questions via e-mail.
"I have attempted at all times to fully comply with the laws and regulations governing the conduct of public officials," Anderson wrote.
He said his ability to perform as a responsible legislator for his district had never been compromised. To avoid conflicts, he did not begin his municipal lobbying this year -- for the Anchorage Home Builders Association and the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, or CHARR -- until after the regular legislative session was over, he said.
When Anderson registered as a lobbyist with the city this year, he reported working for the home builders on "homebuilding & construction," and for CHARR on the proposal to ban smoking in bars. He said in an e-mail that he worked to delay the effective date of the ban, which the Assembly agreed to. He said he no longer works for CHARR.
Even if Anderson is following the rules, his new role doesn't sit well with Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini. Traini is proposing to bar state legislators from lobbying the Assembly or the School Board altogether for a year after leaving office.
"It just sets up a bad relationship when the same body you go to for funding comes to you to lobby for other things," Traini said.
A legislator can't realistically set aside elected duties to lobby, he said. "The moment you take office you represent your constituents. There is no time out."
In 2002, while Anderson was being paid $40,800 by the bar, restaurant and liquor trade group, he won his House District 19 seat.
After his first session in 2003, Veco approached him about a consulting job, Anderson told a Daily News reporter two years ago. His first role was to seek out civic and charitable events for Veco to become involved in and to watch out for local zoning cases, he said at the time. He noted on his disclosure form that he was "consulting on community council and local government affairs." He also has said his Veco duties didn't conflict with his being a lawmaker.
Anderson attended meetings of the Northeast Community Council during his first year in office as their legislator. His other role, as Veco's monitor of municipal neighborhood issues, didn't come to light until he filed his disclosure in 2004. Council officials said they were surprised. Veco, with offices around the world, had no local projects that four former and current council leaders knew about.
Peggy Robinson, a former Anchorage School Board president, raised his Veco work in her unsuccessful 2004 legislative race against Anderson. She also raised a questionable Anderson-Veco connection immortalized on a yellow sticky note.
The note was passed around May 13, 2003, during a meeting of the Labor and Commerce Committee, which Anderson chaired. Robinson got it from the office of another Republican legislator and was told Anderson wrote it. Up for discussion: A bill that would have loosened state regulation of pipelines.
"Vote 'yes' and remind Veco BP Phillips Exxon this summer," Anderson supposedly wrote on the note. Robinson featured the yellow sticky on a campaign mailer. Anderson responded at the time that he wrote a lot of notes and didn't remember that one but always voted his conscience, "not on who contributes to my campaign."
In September of 2003, Anderson took another job, consulting for the Alaska Telephone Association, a trade group of local phone companies. Its members tend to be rural companies. Anderson's Labor and Commerce Committee oversaw telecommunications issues, including a controversial and bitterly fought measure earlier that year to extend the life of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska for four years. The commission regulates telephone companies.
Jim Rowe, the long-time executive director for the Alaska Telephone Association, said he met Anderson that year and then hired him for $5,000 a month for four months to instruct association members how to be more effective in their dealings with legislators in Juneau. Anderson spoke at a trade show for the association and at least one other meeting and spent more time just with him, Rowe said in a recent interview.
"I understand that any relationship with Tom Anderson at this time is apt to be looked at with skepticism and a business/consulting relationship with even a more critical eye. Nonetheless, Tom treated me fairly, provided instruction to my membership, and I like him," Rowe said in a follow-up e-mail.
In 2004, Veco hired Anderson again, this time for $17,500 to consult on "Russian business endeavors," according to the disclosure he filed in 2005. Neither Veco nor Anderson has explained what he did. In 2005, Anderson only had a small Veco contract, $2,500 for "election/proposition research," according to the report he filed in April.
This year, in the heat of debate over oil tax increases, Anderson hand-delivered notes to his colleagues on the House floor passed from Veco chairman Bill Allen, sitting in the visitor's gallery, according to several legislators.
After marrying Rep. Lesil McGuire last year and moving to her district, Anderson chose not to run again. McGuire, also a Republican, is running for the state Senate seat being given up by Ben Stevens.
After the regular session this year, Anderson worked briefly again for the liquor trade group. In July, Anderson got a new job as municipal lobbyist for the Anchorage Home Builders Association, which is paying him $2,500 a month through the end of the year.
Four months earlier, Anderson had been prime sponsor of a bill making it easier for the state to fine unlicensed contractors. House Bill 81, which passed into law, was a priority for the home builders association.
Anderson's sponsorship of the bill had nothing to do with his getting hired, said Ray Hickel, president of the home builders association. Other legislators worked more on it, he said. The association needed a municipal lobbyist and there were few other choices.
Anderson appeared before the Assembly in August to tout a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam's Club in Muldoon. The community council in January had voted to oppose the rezoning. Members were concerned the two stores would undermine the area's town center plan.
In his e-mail, Anderson said he appeared before the Assembly as part of his new, post-legislative work.
"At the end of the day, I have to answer first, certainly, to myself in terms of integrity and honesty," Anderson said in 2004. "And a close second is to my constituents."
Reporter Tom Kizzia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in Homer at 907-235-4244. Reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at email@example.com or 257-4390. Reporter Don Hunter also contributed to this story.