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Stevens, Sheffield emails expose possible campaign violations

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and Municipal Attorney James Reeves have been notified today by AkPIRG of a request to inspect and copy, certain public records "in the custody of or subject to the control of the Municipality of Anchorage, including its Port of Anchorage."

In the Public Records Act request, AkPIRG wants access to all emails between Bill Sheffield, Director of the Port of Anchorage, and members of the entire Alaska Congressional Delegation.

In the Public Records Act request, AkPIRG wants access to all emails between Bill Sheffield, Director of the Port of Anchorage, and members of the entire Alaska Congressional Delegation. They would also like any email between any candidate for, or member of, the Alaska Legislature.

The request is for emails dated between Jan 1, 2002 and the present that relate to any "election campaign activity, including but not limited to election campaign fund raising."

AkPIRG made the request when they discovered several emails exchanged between U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and Port of Anchorage Director, William Sheffield. In the emails, Sheffield offers to host a fundraiser for Steven's 2008 campaign. If true, Sheffield may have broken Municipal Code (1.15.025 I.4.b) "A Municipal employee shall not...While on duty, engage in political campaigning for elected public office, political endorsement, or election campaign fundraising for any person or office."

Stevens/Sheffield Emails (PDF)

Some emails, provided by AkPIRG, between Stevens and Sheffield dated from late November 2006, talk about campaign fundraising and a fund raiser to be around Christmas time 2006. Campaign records show a $1000. dollar donation from Bill Sheffield to Ted Stevens reported 12/30/06.

Letter to Municipality of Anchorage and Mayor Begich from AkPIRG

Mayor Mark Begich
Municipality of Anchorage
632 W. 6th Avenue, Suite 830
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

Mr. James Reeves, Municipal Attorney
Municipality of Anchorage
632 W. 6th Avenue, Suite 730
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

Re: PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST Sent by facsimile - Mailed copy to follow

Dear Mayor Begich and Attorney Reeves:

Pursuant to the Alaska Public Records Act (PRA) and its implementing regulations, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AkPIRG) requests the right to inspect, and copy if desired, the following "public records" (as defined in AS 40.25.220(3)) in the custody of or subject to the control of the Municipality of Anchorage, including its Port of Anchorage, all e-mails between William Sheffield of the Port of Anchorage and any member of the Alaska Congressional delegation or his or her staff, or between Mr. Sheffield and any candidate for, or member of, the Alaska Legislature, which e-mails were created after January 1, 2002 and which e-mails refer to or relate in any way to election campaign activity, including but not limited to election campaign fund raising.

AkPIRG has been prompted to make this request by the discovery of the attached emails between Mr. Sheffield and Senator Ted Stevens in which Mr. Sheffield offers to hold a fund raiser for the Senator's 2008 re-election campaign. Under the Municipal Code, "A municipal employee shall not . While on duty, engage in political campaigning for elected public office, political endorsement, or election campaign fundraising for any person or office." Code, 1.15.025 I.4.b.

The requested public records are not relevant to any litigation to which the AkPIRG is a party.

If you determine that any of the requested records or parts of them are nondisclosable, please specify the legal authority and facts supporting nondisclosure.

If you determine that portions of any of the requested records are nondisclosable, please segregate those portions, specify the legal authority and facts supporting nondisclosure, and release the remainder of the record.

We ask that you waive any fees associated with this request pursuant to AS 40.25.110(d). AkPIRG will examine these records to educate its members and the general public concerning elections and election financing. AkPIRG publishes a regular newsletter and maintains a website to educate its members and the public about such matters, and currently is an advocate for the Clean Elections initiative. The requested records will enable AkPIRG and the public to be informed about elections and election financing. While AkPIRG understands that the Municipality does not ordinarily waive fees in response to public records act requests, this presents a situation in which the AkPIRG's and the public's interest in disclosure outweighs the cost to the Municipality.

If you decide not to grant a fee waiver, or if fees associated with this request will amount to more than $25, please contact me before fulfilling this request. Please also contact me if I can clarify this request or if you need further information.

AkPIRG looks forward to receiving your response within 10 working days of your receipt of this request as required by Alaska law. Thank you in advance for promptly attending to this request.

Yours truly,
Steve Cleary
Executive Director, AkPIRG

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Myrl Thompson

Myrl Thompson is a veteran Capitol watcher, former candidate for state House, and award-winning free-lance journalist based in Wasilla, Alaska.