Alaska Sea Party, Vote No on 2 trade charges of campaign disclosure violations

The groups sparring over a ballot measure to restore the Alaska Coastal Management Program traded barbs today (Friday), accusing each other of campaign disclosure violations.

KTOO’s Casey Kelly has more.

The Alaska Sea Party filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, arguing Vote No on 2’s television and online video ads violate state campaign disclosure rules.

The law requires groups to cite on screen in writing, and through an audible disclaimer, their top three financial backers.

At the time the ads were produced No on 2’s top three contributors were the Alaska Miners Association, Shell Oil Company, and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. Since then, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have displaced Shell and AOGA on the group’s website, but not in the ads.

“The ads should stop,” says Sea Party Policy Director Lisa Weissler. The group is sponsoring Ballot Measure 2.

“It’s a very clear violation of the law, and so it should stop or they should do it right. And they should have penalties assessed,” says Weissler.

No on 2 Spokesman Willis Lyford argues the group did nothing wrong. But he says the ads have now been updated to include Exxon and Conoco in the top three, as well as a verbal disclaimer.

“On the advice of our lawyer we’ve already changed the ads up. The new advertising will have the audio portion that they’re suggesting is needed,” Lyford says. “Our view on that is, well, you’re better to have belt and suspenders. We want to make that change and then let the process play out and see what actually is the case.”

Lyford calls the Sea Party hypocrites. He notes the group’s website features YouTube videos, and no audio disclaimer about its top contributors. He says the rules should apply to all campaign videos.

“Doesn’t matter whether it’s paid advertising or not,” he says. “It is advertising, and if in fact their submission is correct, then they’re guilty of the same violation.”

The Sea Party touts itself as a grassroots organization. Its top three contributors are the North Slope Borough, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

Weissler says the group is pulling the YouTube videos from its website until they can be updated to include a disclaimer. But she says there’s a difference between videos posted online at no cost, and expensive television commercials.

“This is the reason for the law is that there’s money that comes in from outside, unlimited donations can come in from outside and people need to know whose voices are being represented in these sorts of ads,” says Weissler.

State Senator Hollis French (D-Anchorage) sponsored the 2010 state law that required groups to disclose their top contributors. He says the audio disclosure should apply to all campaign videos, but it’s especially important for television ads.

“It’s crucial that people who are perceiving these commercials, whether you’re watching a TV ad or even listening to it in the background, it’s crucial that those people know who has donated to the entity behind that ad,” French says.

Alaska Public Offices Commission Executive Director Paul Dauphinais says the commission will take up the Sea Party’s complaint on Monday.

The two sides also have filed complaints challenging the other’s name, citing a state law requiring a group’s moniker reflect an issue or goal, and not simply express opposition or support of a particular measure. Dauphinais says those complaints won’t be heard until next month.

Measure 2 on the August 28th primary ballot would reestablish the Alaska Coastal Management Program. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act allows states that adopt an approved coastal management program to have greater input into development decisions along their coastlines. It also streamlines the regulatory process of various local, state, and federal agencies.

Alaska had a program for more than 30 years. But in 2011, the legislature and Parnell administration failed to reach a deal to reauthorize it.

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