This appears to be the first hint of business ties between Penney and Murkowski, though Penney and his family have given Murkowski $10,500 in campaign contributions since 2003, according to the online database politicalmoneyline.com.
Penney didnât want to discuss the finances of the deal when I spoke with him on the phone.
"Why should I tell you?" Penney said. "I have sold millions of dollars worth of property. I consider that a private transaction."
When I pointed out that if he sold the property for below market value, it could be considered a sweetheart deal -- he scoffed.
âThere was not a campaign contribution,â he said. âThis was a land transaction.â
Murkowki's office called the purchase exempt from Senate financial disclosure, citing a clause in the ethics manual which says "property which is held or maintained solely for recreational or personal purposes does not have to be reported." (ethics manual) The committee declined to comment for this story.
"She bought this for personal use just like millions of other people," Danielle Holland said. "My response to your question, times six, is it's for personal use."
Not everyone agrees that "personal use" is an acceptable reason not to disclose a land purchase, like Ken Boehm of the Chairman of the National League and Policy Center. Boehm said that clause refers to "assets," but not the "transactions" portion of the disclosure forms.
"It's quite clear that the rules for financial disclosure require the disclosure of a real estate purchase or of an asset for more than $1,000," Boehm said. "There are seven exceptions, and this isn't one of them."
Boehm said that for transactions, the closest exception is for a private residence.
"Vacant land that you may one day have a residence on is not an exclusion," he said, adding that Murkowski should consider filing an amendment to her disclosure to say what she paid.
Boehm spearheaded an ethics complaint against Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) for misrepresenting his finances on official disclosure forms. Now Mollohan's under federal investigation for his habit of entering into real estate deals (including a farm and some beach-front property) with beneficiaries of his many earmarks. Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) and Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) can also attest to the headache of failing to disclose property deals.
A scholar at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, Norman Ornstein, flagged the new earmark rules as reason for erring on the side of disclosure. Under the reformed rules, senators need to be transparent about financial interests they might have near where federal funds are going to be sent.
"If people donât know that you have the property then it makes it harder," Ornstein said.
Of course, the infamous earmarking efforts of Alaskan lawmakers would make such a concern even more pressing.