Former Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Coffey must pay fines amounting to nearly $12,000 for failing to register as a lobbyist and giving campaign contributions to 20 legislative candidates outside his home district, which is illegal for lobbyists to do, the Alaska Public Offices Commission decided Wednesday.
The Anchorage Assembly in November 2011 agreed to hire Coffey under a no-bid $60,000 contract proposed by Mayor Dan Sullivan to lobby the Legislature and Gov. Sean Parnell for financial support of the troubled Port of Anchorage expansion, as well as work on other unspecified special projects, according to city records included in the APOC case against Coffey.
APOC filed a complaint against Coffey in December over reported violations of state lobbying law.
In a settlement reached Monday and approved Wednesday by the commission, Coffey admitted that he should have registered as a lobbyist as of Nov. 15, 2011, and that he shouldn't have given campaign contributions to candidates outside his home district between that date and Oct. 20, 2012. The prohibition on contributions extends for a year after a lobbyist registers.
He earlier had argued to APOC that he never lobbied more than 10 hours in any 30-day period and that when he contacted APOC staff in February 2012 about the matter, he was informally advised that he didn't have to register if he didn't exceed that 10-hour cap.
However, he portrayed himself as a lobbyist and his time records provided to APOC only included face-to-face meetings with legislators, not time with legislative staff members or Parnell administration officials, and not communications beyond meetings, according to the settlement agreement.
He told the Anchorage Port Commission at its Dec. 14, 2011, meeting that his job was to get a $350 million bond through the Legislature for the port project. He said he knew a lot of legislators and would register as a lobbyist. Since his contract started that November, he already had been in a lot of meetings with legislators, he told the port commission. Once the legislative session started, he would be working out of lobbyist Wendy Chamberlain's office in Juneau, he said.
Under the settlement, Coffey must belatedly register as a lobbyist for 2011 and 2012 and file required disclosure reports. He must pay a fine of $4,322 over the late registration and a fine of $7,500 for the illegal campaign contributions. The latter is equal to the amount he gave to candidates outside his district during the period at issue.
APOC could have assessed maximum fines of $36,610 but agreed to a lower amount, as recommended by its staff. Coffey has never been a registered state lobbyist and acknowledged his mistake, said Joan Mize, the commission's lobbyist program coordinator.
Coffey can try to recover the $7,500 from candidates, who have until Friday to disburse leftover 2012 campaign funds, said APOC excecutive director Paul Dauphinais. Coffey is already trying to recoup the money, but if he can't, he will pay the full fine, his attorney, Thomas Amodio, told the commission Wednesday. He's eager to resolve the matter and wanted to send a check for $4,322 even before the commission acted, Amodio said.
Three APOC commissioners decided the matter: Elizabeth Hickerson, Ken Kirk and Kathleen King. One seat on the five-member panel is open, and the other member had a scheduling conflict.
The 20 candidates are: Lance Pruitt, Dan Saddler, Joe Thomas, Lyman Hoffman, Mia Costello, Johnny Ellis, Bob Roses, Dick Traini, Cathy Giessel, Michael Dunleavy, Kim Skipper, Bob Bell, Anna Fairclough, David Pruhs, Craig Johnson, Bill Stoltze, Cean Stevens, John Coghill, Bill Thomas and Peter Micciche. During the period at issue, he contributed between $250 and $750 per candidate, according to APOC.
His occupation was usually listed as attorney on contribution reports.
Coffey did not return a call Wednesday and earlier declined to discuss the matter.
The Legislature in 2012 approved $48.5 million for the port project outright and included another $50 million in a statewide bond proposition that voters approved in November.
Issues with construction and design have stalled the port expansion. Consultants are supposed to recommend a solution early this year.
Reach Lisa Demer at email@example.com or 257-4390.