Coffey releases files, tax returns in advance of mayoral campaign

Nathaniel Herz

Thirteen months before Anchorage's next mayoral election, research files are starting to emerge on Dan Coffey, the prominent lawyer and former Assembly member who last fall announced his candidacy for the office.

But instead of the documents being unearthed by a rival, Coffey is releasing them himself.

In a move he hopes will blunt attacks later in his campaign, Coffey this week provided the Daily News with copies of his last three tax returns, plus a binder with five files on controversial aspects of his political and professional history.

"This is a distraction. But if everybody has a chance to find out about it now, then the answer is real clear. You want to know about it? Go read about it -- it's been out there since March," he said, referring to the files, in an interview in his Midtown office on Monday. "I don't want to deal with this crap in January."

Coffey said he plans to post the files on his campaign website.

There's an introduction, with a tagline: "Only those who never accomplish anything don't make mistakes" -- as well as Coffey's own perspective on five elements of his background that could leave him open to criticism during the campaign. All have previously drawn media attention.

Then there are the tax returns, in which Coffey, who filed jointly with his wife, reported nearly $2 million in income between 2010 and 2012.

Coffey, 67, served on the Assembly between 2004 and 2010. He announced his candidacy for mayor in October -- doing so unusually early, with 18 months until the election, in April 2015.

Coffey is an Anchorage native, and owns a consulting firm that works with clients on projects involving government regulation. He also performs work for a local law firm.

Coffey's tax returns show $148,000, $214,000 and $227,000 in net income from his consulting business in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. He reported total earnings of $577,000, $683,000 and $709,000 in each of those years, with the balance, he said, coming primarily from investments and rental properties he owns.

The returns show donations of about $92,000 to charity over that same three-year period.

Asked if he wanted to comment on the figures, Coffey responded: "That I make good money? God, after 30 years in the profession, I better."

"I'm not ashamed of it," he said.

He added that he would take a "hit" if he were elected and traded his current income for the mayor's salary of $130,000.

Inside the binder, Coffey delves into five areas that could be problematic for him during his mayoral campaign.

They include:

• A private conversation in 2008 between Coffey, then chairman of the Assembly, and Assembly member Bill Starr that was unknowingly recorded and later broadcast on a radio station. In it, Coffey uses profanity and remarks about "doling" out campaign contributions to Assembly candidates, and withholding money from those who don't vote the way he wants.

• A case where state regulators found that Coffey violated lobbying and campaign finance rules in 2011 and 2012, when he was lobbying the Legislature and Gov. Sean Parnell to support the expansion project at the Port of Anchorage.

• His list of legal and consulting clients, many of them involved in the liquor industry.

• A letter Coffey wrote to a federal judge in 2005 urging leniency for Josef Boehm, who was being sentenced on drug and sex trafficking charges.

• A pair of minor violations of sportfish regulations that Coffey, a former chairman of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, was cited for last fall.

Coffey's history has already inspired plenty of attacks, including a website -- dancoffeyconflicts.com -- created by the campaign of an opposing Assembly candidate in 2007.

The files he released, and plans to post on his website, do not sidestep any of the controversies. They include a transcript of the taped phone call, and a copy of the letter Coffey sent to the judge in the Boehm case.

"Where the attacks were unfounded, I have set the record straight. Where I have made a mistake, I disclose what happened, and offer no excuses," Coffey wrote in his introduction to the files. "My intent is to inform, not to avoid responsibility for what I have done or failed to do."

But the release is ultimately intended to steer the conversation away from Coffey's past, as is clear from his summation of his violations of the lobbying and campaign finance rules in 2011 and 2012.

"I resolved the matter expeditiously, and it is now behind me," Coffey says in the file. "Another lesson learned."

At the Daily News' request, Coffey also compiled a list of his consulting and legal clients since early 2013. They include telecommunications company GCI, two high-profile developers, JL Properties and Pfeffer Development, a home-building company, Hultquist Homes, plus lobbyist Wendy Chamberlain and Anchorage Assembly Chairman Ernie Hall.

With more than a year until the mayoral election, Coffey has been studying city issues, and researching his own background. He said he has read more than 900 historical newspaper articles that mention his name.

"I think I'm going to be way better prepared than anybody else, bar none," he said. "I'm going to know way more about all of this stuff."

He has already raised more than $50,000 for his campaign, according a report filed with state regulators last month.

And, just in case, he said, he plans to have his office swept for hidden recording devices.

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


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com