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Alaska Sea Party and 'Vote No on 2' groups file election complaints against each other

Katie Medred

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The Alaska Sea Party (ASP) -- the group behind the ballot initiative effort to restore Alaska's coastal management program, which lapsed last year -- has filed a campaign disclosure complaint with the Alaska Public Office Commission (APOC) against opposition group "Vote No on 2," which filed its own complaint against the Alaska Sea Party. 

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The Alaska Sea Party claims "Vote No on 2" has violated Alaska campaign law by failing to have both visual and audible finance disclosure information present in their TV and online commercials. (As of Friday afternoon, the ads had been removed.)

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Under state law, campaigns are required to list the current top three largest financial contributors, both in text and audio, during ads. Alaska Sea Party chair and Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said in a statement that the law exists in part because "the potential for unlimited donations and blatant election-buying from Outside sources" is a real threat.

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APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinais confirmed that state law says the top three contributors must be disclosed "written and audible at the same location" on ads. Dauphinais pointed out that given our modern lifestyle of turning on a TV, but not necessarily tuning into it, simultaneous audio and visual TV disclosure is all that more critical to campaign integrity.

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Botelho said failure by "Vote No on 2" to audibly announce donors "is particularly egregious give the hundreds of thousands of dollars (ASP's) opposition has received from Outside industry."

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As of July 30, "Vote No on 2" had raised $768,000 in cash and in-kind contributions -- far more than the $64,000 raised by the Alaska Sea Party. At that time, the largest contributors were Shell, which had donated at least $150,000, and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. Now, according to current ads by "Vote No on 2," the largest  contributors are the Alaska Miners Association, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.

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"Vote No on 2" countered with its own complaint to APOC against the Alaska Sea Party: "The promotional activities of the Measure 2 campaign over the last 60 days are inconsistent with their own filings."

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In a statement, "Vote No on 2" campaign lawyer Tom Amodilo said "ASP is exaggerating the nature of the issue because its video and audio promotional communications fail to contain ANY identification, written or oral, a clear violation of the law." He continued: "ASP should be reprimanded for trying to expedite its complaints when ASP itself is not complying with the same legal requirement."

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Ron Clarke, spokesman for the Alaska Sea Party, said that the only ads his group had were on YouTube, and his party was unsure if disclosure is required for such ads. APOC told the group however, that it is. Now disclosures have been included. “We want people to know where our money is coming from,” Clarke said. “The other side is being funded by big oil, and we want the public to know that too.”

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APOC has received both complaints and will be looking it.

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"As we get closer to election (time) this is what tends to happen,” Dauphinais said.

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This story has been updated to reflect "Vote No on 2's" APOC complaint. 

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Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com