ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Law enforcement officials have completed their investigation into whether a U.S. Senate candidate and former State of Alaska official illegally obtained a fishing license for a sportfishing event two years ago. They have turned it over to a special prosecutorial branch of the Department of Law, an official said Thursday.
Kelly Tshibaka, a former commissioner in the state Department of Administration and a Republican candidate for Senate, received the license during an event on the Kenai River in 2019.
Records show she received the permit in August 2019, eight months after she moved to Alaska to take the commissioner’s job, the Anchorage Daily News has reported. To obtain a resident fishing license, state law says the person must have lived in the state for 12 consecutive months before applying for a license.
Tshibaka signed the license application, acknowledging she had read the rules for residency. She also indicated on the license that she was a resident for 15 years, 8 months.
A person could be fined up to $300 for knowingly violating the law on fishing licenses, a misdemeanor.
“After a thorough investigation by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers into the media reports regarding Mrs. Tshibaka the investigation has been completed and will now be reviewed by the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions,” Department of Public Safety spokesperson Austin McDaniel said in an email to The Associated Press.
When asked if it were unusual to involve the special office, he said in a follow-up email that law enforcement regularly works with prosecutors when building cases.
“Due to the circumstances involved with this investigation, the Alaska Wildlife Troopers requested an independent review of the case by the legal experts at the Alaska Department of Law,” McDaniel said.
Tim Murtaugh, a senior adviser to Tshibaka’s campaign, said she attended the 2019 Kenai River Classic in her capacity as commissioner.
He said her confirmation hearings were public and it was well-known she had just returned to the state.
“The event organizers asked if she had a current fishing license, and when she said she didn’t, they issued her one,” Murtaugh said in an email to the AP.
“The form was filled in for a license that expired after one day, going from August 22nd to the 23rd, which is only available to non-residents. This shows clear intent to purchase a non-resident license, not a resident license,” he said.
Tshibaka announced her resignation from the state on March 29, the same day she said she would challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Murkowski, who was critical of former President Donald Trump, was censured by the Alaska Republican Party, which later endorsed Tshibaka in the race. Trump also has endorsed Tshibaka.
Murkowski has not announced whether she will seek reelection next year. However, last month Kevin Sweeney, a consultant to Murkowski’s campaign, said she had raised about $1.15 million in the second quarter of this year and had $2.3 million on hand.
That, Sweeney said, “strongly positions” Murkowski for a reelection bid.
Murkowski on Monday declined to discuss reelection plans.
Associated Press journalist Becky Bohrer in Juneau contributed to this report.