Former legislator to leave custody, join father's PR firm

Sean Cockerham | Tribune Media Services
Former state Rep. Tom Anderson, left, did most of his time at a federal prison facility in Sheridan, Ore.
AL GRILLO / Associated Press archive 2007

Former state Rep. Tom Anderson, sent to federal prison for corruption in 2007, is set to be released this month. His plan for life as an ex-con? Public relations.

The 43-year-old Anderson has been in a Seattle halfway house since February. When he's released, it will be into the custody of his parents, who live in the Mat-Su Valley.

"They've committed that they are going to get him back (to Alaska) before the first of June," said Anderson's father, who is also named Tom.

Tom Anderson Sr. is a former director of the Alaska State Troopers. He's also co-founder of the startup Anchorage public relations firm where his son will work. The other co-founder is Frank Dahl, who owns Blues Central in Anchorage.

Anderson Sr. said his son will be required by the terms of his release to live with him until the end of July.

During that time he also has to have an eight-hour-a-day job that's approved by probation supervisors.

Because a startup public relations outfit might not qualify, Anderson has a temporary job lined up through July at a Wasilla insurance firm. His father declined to name the firm, saying he's not sure that's been fully cleared with probation officials yet.

The plan is for him to then begin working at the public relations firm in August. The former lawmaker is already advertising the new career on the social networking site LinkedIn, saying he's going to be a "communications and PR/Campaign/Digital Media Adviser at New PR firm in Alaska."

A message sent to Anderson via the email address he provided on LinkedIn was returned by his father.

Anderson listed his most recent past employment on LinkedIn as "State Representative at Alaska State Legislature." He served two terms as a Republican from East Anchorage.


Anderson has been spending most of his time since his 2007 sentencing at a federal prison facility in Sheridan, Ore. He was the first lawmaker who was convicted as a result of the broad FBI investigation into corruption in Alaska politics.

A federal jury convicted Anderson of taking secret payments in return for pushing a private prison company's interests in Alaska. The charges were bribery, conspiracy, extortion and money laundering.

Anderson Sr. said his son tutored other prisoners and ran the law library at the Oregon prison camp.

"He's always had a good attitude, and he'll come out of it all right," he said.

The startup public relations firm where he'll be working is called Optima Public Relations LLC. Co-founder Dahl said the plan is for the company to work for businesses, groups and political campaigns. They'll do marketing strategies, public relations and some advertising work, he said.

Dahl said the company has "two or three" large companies outside of Alaska lined up as clients, and a couple of medium-sized companies in the state. He declined to say who they are, saying the public relations business is still being organized.

It's an offshoot of a company he and Anderson Sr. had called Alaska Public Strategies. He said that company, with lobbyist Paul Fuhs as a partner, worked on an ad for Lisa Murkowski's 2010 Senate race. (The Murkowski campaign said the pro-Murkowski ad was by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and not connected to the campaign.)


Dahl is no stranger to former representative Anderson. He wrote an opinion column for the Daily News in 2006 after Anderson was indicted, with the headline of "Don't rush to judge hard-working man."

Dahl is the former president of the trade group for bar owners, the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel and Restaurant Retailers Association (CHARR). He hired Anderson as the group's executive director in the early 2000s, before Anderson was in the Legislature. Anderson also did consulting work for CHARR after he was elected.

Dahl said energy and intelligence are the main reasons he's hiring Anderson after his prison term. Anderson has a law degree from Hamline University in Minnesota, although he never practiced as an attorney, and a master's in public administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

"And the other reason is that he is a friend and of course he's Tom Sr.'s son. So it all fits," Dahl said.

Video: Tom Anderson surveillance (2004)