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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

And in Alaska we called this Legend a "Lobbyist"

Former commissioner, racketeer dies in Portland

By DAN JOLING, Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE (September 2, 7:15 p.m. ADT) - Lewis M. "Lew" Dischner, who served as Alaska's first state commissioner of labor and was convicted of racketeering after leaving office, died Tuesday in Portland, Ore. He was 85.

Dischner was at home with family when he died, said longtime friend Howard D'Spain of Mesa, Ariz. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Dischner was president of the Carpenters Local 1243 in Fairbanks before statehood and was a leader in the Teamsters Union. A longtime Democratic Party activist, he was appointed Department of Labor commissioner under Gov. Bill Egan, when Alaska became a state in 1959.

He later became a Juneau businessman and powerful legislative lobbyist for the North Slope Borough as oil dollars flowed into the borough from the recently constructed trans-Alaska pipeline and the borough attempted to provide 20th century services to people in the harsh Arctic.

In the North Slope Borough scandal, Dischner and his partner, Carl Mathisen, were convicted in 1989 on more than 20 felony counts of extortion, mail and wire fraud and racketeering. Dischner also was ordered to forfeit $5.8 million.

"Lew Dischner was a great man who just went astray at one point in his life," said Doug Pope, Dischner's Anchorage attorney. "Whether people will remember him that way I guess only history will tell.

"He was a great man who contributed to the growth and development of Alaska before he was ever charged with a crime."

Dischner negotiated with oil companies to ensure that only Joint Crafts Council members were hired for construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, according to his family and friends, and during the 1970s arranged for high school seniors to serve as pages in the Legislature to expand their knowledge of state government.

But his public service record was forever tainted after his conviction for bribing former North Slope Borough officials with gifts and trips, then using their influence over borough contracts to win kickbacks from contractors.

Dischner and Mathisen were convicted of corrupting the North Slope Borough government during the administration of Mayor Eugene Brower between 1981 and 1984.(more)

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