House members object to ads attacking Rep. Croft on income tax

Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Members of the state House have state their opposition to newspaper ads that singled out Anchorage Representative Eric Croft for attack for his stand on a state income tax.

Thirty-seven of 40 representatives signed a letter Wednesday written by Anchorage Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, the minority leader, condemning the personal nature of the attack on Croft and the anonymity of the campaign's financial backers. With Croft, D-Anchorage, not signing the letter and Rep. Scott Ogan hospitalized in Anchorage after a heart attack, Rep. Vic Kohring was the only member of the House who declined to sign the letter.

Kohring, R-Wasilla, said he, too, was ''disturbed'' by the ad campaign, but was afraid that people would assume that he supported an income tax if he signed the letter.

The unusual display of bipartisan solidarity in Juneau were the nearly full-page ads that ran in the Anchorage Daily News last week and this week. The ads were signed by Common Sense for Alaska Inc., an Anchorage-based group that has periodically surfaced over the past 25 years in debates on state fiscal policy.

Croft, one of 12 Democrats and five Republicans on the losing side of the vote last week for an income tax over a sales tax, was singled out for ridicule in cartoonish images in the ads and was the only legislator mentioned by name in the text. The ads showed a map of Croft's district and gave his Juneau office number and e-mail address.

One image showed him ripping apart a home as the family fled, the other showed him blindfolded and riding a donkey.

Common Sense business manager Chuck Achberger, a political and business consultant, said the ads were intended to get income tax supporters to ''rein in and pay attention.''

''I'm basically taking the stand that without a (fiscal) plan, and a reduction of government spending, there shouldn't be any new taxes. Eric Croft and company have picked the income tax as the horse they want to ride,'' Achberger said.

Croft was a leader among the group that favored the income tax, Achberger said.

Asked who was paying for the campaign, which also included mailings in Croft's district, Achberger would only say Common Sense. Achberger would not reveal if anyone or any group had contributed money especially for the ads. That way, they wouldn't be subjected to political pressure, he said.

Croft told the Anchorage Daily News there is widespread speculation in Juneau that one of the contributors is Bob Gillam, chief stockholder in McKinley Capital Management and, by Gillam's own estimation, perhaps the richest man in Alaska. Gillam didn't return calls placed last week and this week to his office and home. Croft said he also tried to reach Gillam, without success.

However, Gillam's lobbyist, Ashley Reed, said Wednesday, ''I understand that my client is one of several contributors to the campaign.''

If true, Croft says, he's not surprised.

''I take it to be that arguably the richest person in the state doesn't want to pay anywhere near what I consider to be his fair share,'' Croft said.

''I'm not going to be intimidated by rich people who don't want to pay for the services they receive,'' he said.

Bunde, who voted against the income tax, said he and other legislators ''disagree daily and mightily'' but manage to still work together by keeping personalities out of the debate. He described the Common Sense ads as ''slick like the liquor and tobacco ads'' that operate on many levels.

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