Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, right, and former Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, saw ethics complaints against them dismissed on Nov. 29. (Photos by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, right, and former Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, saw ethics complaints against them dismissed on Nov. 29. (Photos by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Committee dismisses complaints that two Alaska lawmakers committed ethics violations

The body charged with policing the ethics of members of the Alaska House of Representatives has dismissed complaints alleging two members improperly allowed an Alaska Right to Life representative to misuse state resources.

The complaints said current Rep. David Eastman and former Rep. Christopher Kurka, both Wasilla Republicans, violated the ethics law during a visit to the State Capitol by Pat Martin over two days in April 2022. The complaints alleged that Martin was an “unregistered lobbyist” for Alaska Right to Life. Martin’s official title with the group is outreach and development director.

The complaints said Martin and his assistant used Eastman’s office as their “base of operations” for most of one day and part of an evening, while they used Kurka’s office for most of the other day. The complaints said this use of the offices included storing petitions.

But the House subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics dismissed the complaints on Nov. 29. The subcommittee confirmed that Martin is not a registered lobbyist and said it was outside the scope of the investigation as to whether he was an unregistered lobbyist.

Security footage was available for one of the days – April 14 – and showed Martin visited Eastman’s office for just over three hours, and Kurka’s office for more than an hour. The subcommittee report found that security footage wasn’t available for the other day, April 15.

The subcommittee found that there was no documented evidence that Martin used “public funds, equipment, services or another government asset or resource, e.g., legislative computers, phones, office supplies, copy machines.”

The subcommittee also said there wasn’t documented evidence that he stored petitions in the offices, while noting that visitors to the Capitol sometimes store things in legislators’ offices.

In a news release announcing the dismissals, the subcommittee said that even if the allegations in the complaints were true, they wouldn’t amount to violations of the Legislative Ethics Act.

However, the subcommittee chided both Eastman and Kurka for not responding to its investigators’ phone calls. Both responded after the fifth time they were called, nearly four months after the original calls.

Legislative ethics complaints are confidential, unless confidentiality is waived. Eastman and Kurka waived their confidentiality, while the person who filed the complaint did not, so their name was not made public.

The subcommittee includes two legislators – Palmer Republican Rep. DeLena Johnson and Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan – and five members of the public, who are appointed by the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

• Andrew Kitchenman has covered state government in Alaska since 2016, serving as the Capitol reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO before joining the Alaska Beacon. Before this, he covered state and local governments on the East Coast – primarily in New Jersey – for more than 15 years. This story originally appeared at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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