Sea Party spent at least $100K on petition drive

The group behind a citizens’ initiative to re-establish an Alaska Coastal Management Program spent more than 100-thousand dollars on its nearly month-long signature gathering effort. Casey Kelly has more.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is chairman of the Alaska Sea Party and a primary sponsor of the initiative.

“While we still have some bills coming in, rough estimate is 100- to 105-thousand dollars,” says Botelho.

From the time it was founded in October to the end of December, the Sea Party reported more than 67-thousand dollars in income to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. It spent more than 59-thousand dollars. Revenue and expenditures for this month (January) are not yet available.

The North Slope Borough gave the Sea Party campaign 25-thousand dollars. Other major donors included the Bristol Bay Borough, the Bristol Bay Native Association, the cities of Valdez and Aleknagik; two Community Development Quota groups: The Western Alaska Community Development Association and the Alaska Pribilof Island Community Development Association; as well as the Alaska Municipal League and the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

The Sea Party’s APOC filing shows the group paid Anchorage consultant Scott Kohlhaas 50-thousand dollars – by far the group’s largest expenditure. Botelho says Kohlhaas – a 2010 candidate for state House as a Libertarian – organized the petition drive in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su, which included using paid signature gatherers. He also provided verification services. Elsewhere in the state, the Sea Party used about 250 volunteers.

The group delivered 34-thousand signatures to the Division of Elections on Tuesday. By turning them in before the legislature convened, the group achieved its goal of giving lawmakers an opportunity to pass substantially similar legislation during the 90-day session. Botelho admits part of that is a desire to avoid a costly campaign to get voters to approve the initiative.

“We’ve been told that we should expect to be looking at a campaign of about a half a million dollars. And of course, that doesn’t take into account the extent to which there might be an organized opposition,” he says.

Lawmakers on Tuesday gave no assurances that they would consider a coastal management bill this session.

The federally funded program, which helped industry and communities navigate the complicated federal and state permitting process for coastal development projects, closed last year after the legislature and Parnell administration failed to work out a deal to reauthorize it.

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