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Rep. Tuck agrees to $14,000 fine for campaign finance violations

Lisa Demer

State Rep. Chris Tuck, the minority leader of the Alaska House, will pay a fine of more than $14,000 for mismanaging campaign funds and forfeit nearly $6,000 in unspent campaign funds, under an agreement accepted this week by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, mixed up his campaign and personal money, inadvertently used his campaign debit card for personal expenditures, and failed to accurately report campaign contributions and expenditures, according to the agreement Tuck signed in June.

Last month, the commission held off action because of questions about what additional reports Tuck must file. In the revised agreement, he agreed to file a final 2012 campaign report disclosing the forfeited funds. He also acknowledged "that his 2010 and 2012 reports have been amended to disclose the financial activity of his campaign to the best of his ability."

Tuck has said he and his bank both made mistakes. His campaign account was a sub-account of his personal one, but things got mixed up. For instance, online credit card contributions to his campaign were deposited in his personal account. He has said he repaid the campaign, worked hard to fix the errors and wasn't trying to deceive the public.

"I'm sorry for what I did. I did make errors. Not all the errors were banking errors," Tuck said Thursday.

Tuck, first elected in 2008, is seeking a fourth term. He is running unopposed in a district on the west side of the Seward Highway that stretches into South Anchorage.

The maximum fine would have topped $700,000, but APOC can reduce fines, which it does routinely.

The $14,000 fine still is significant, said Paul Dauphinais, APOC executive director.

Tuck said the APOC investigation, with the potential for steep fines and years of mistakes to untangle, is the toughest thing he's ever gone through "other than child custody."

Laws requiring disclosure are vital but APOC needs a mechanism to allow candidates to report and correct mistakes without a risk of big fines, he said.

He now has separate banking institutions for his personal and campaign funds and will use a certified public accountant for his books.

"As an electrician, I always tell people, 'Hey, don't do your own electrical work; hire a professional. Otherwise, you'll get burned,'" Tuck said. "I learned my own lesson."