Assembly members want to regulate campaign fundraising by city officials

Nathaniel Herz

Four Anchorage Assembly members are introducing a pair of ordinances Tuesday that would regulate fundraising by municipal officials running for elected office.

One of the measures, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, would require disclosure of any fundraisers held by city officials on publicly-funded trips, and require reimbursement in proportion to the amount of time spent on them.

A second, sponsored by Assemblyman Dick Traini and two of his allies, would bar Anchorage officials from accepting campaign contributions raised by city-level lobbyists, or by certain lobbyists working for the city.

The measures come a month after Mayor Dan Sullivan held a fundraiser for his campaign for lieutenant governor while on a city-funded trip to Washington, D.C. He did not reimburse the city for travel expenses.

Blank Rome, a lobbying firm that has earned more than $400,000 working for the city since Sullivan took office in 2009, hosted the fundraiser at its Washington office.

A spokeswoman for Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment about the two proposed ordinances.

Demboski said the idea for her measure came after she heard Sullivan discussing the Washington fundraiser on talk radio.

"I heard him make a comment that if Assembly members had a problem with it, they should change the ethics code. So I took this as an opportunity," she said. "If an elected official is going to engage in certain activities on a taxpayer funded trip, I think it's appropriate they disclose it and pay the taxpayer back. It's that simple."

Her measure would require municipal employees and elected officials to disclose "any engagement in personal work, vacation, or fundraising" while on a trip paid for by the city.

Officials would also have to reimburse the city for their travel expenses based on how much time they spent on those activities, though just how those calculations would be made is not yet clear.

Demboski said she would ask for her ordinance to be referred to the Assembly's ethics and elections committee for review.

Traini said his measure would not restrict contributions by individual lobbyists. Instead, the ordinance is designed to bar them from hosting fundraising events.

"That's a free speech issue," he said in an interview. "I do think it's different when you're holding a fundraiser."

Joshua Decker, the interim director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, said his organization saw no problems with Traini's ordinance, related to free speech.

Traini also plans to refer his measure to committee.

He did not elaborate on why lobbyists hired by the city should be subject to different rules than other city contractors.

"We may have to look at that," he said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

 


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com