APOC receives complaint against issue ads

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's campaign watchdog agency is considering whether to investigate if GOP gubernatorial candidate Frank Murkowski is linked to issue ads aimed at his opponent.

An Anchorage resident filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to ask for an investigation. The allegations are being evaluated, a commission spokeswoman said.

John Alexander said in his complaint filed last week that the Murkowski campaign is benefiting from attack ads aired by an Alexandria, Va., nonprofit.

The ads accuse Gov. Tony Knowles and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer of eight years of mismanagement that has left the state economy in poor shape.

The ads have been aired in television stations in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau by the nonprofit Americans for Job Security.

Alaska law allows corporations or groups to spend freely on advertising to promote or oppose issues. But spending on behalf of candidates is regulated and tax-exempt groups are barred from contributing.

While the ads do not mention Murkowski, Alexander said, they are clearly aimed at aiding his campaign.

''I do believe the campaign is involved somehow,'' Alexander said.

Murkowski, one of Alaska's two Republican U.S. senators, is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. Ulmer is seeking the Democrat nomination for governor.

The Murkowski campaign has denied involvement in the advertising campaign and the Virginia group has also denied the charge.

''What we're doing is talking about public policy,'' said Mike Dubke, president of the group. ''What we are not doing is anything political. I cannot fathom the connection here.''

The group has spent about $75,000 on advertisements airing around the state that takes aim at Alaska's economic performance while Knowles has been in office.

Americans for Job Security has also recently aired issue ads in Indiana and New Jersey, Dubke said.

In the eight years since the Democrat governor has taken office, the state has budget deficits, personal income has dropped and young people are ''fleeing Alaska,'' said one television spot.

The Knowles administration fired back last week, arguing the ads are misleading. State Labor department officials counter that young people leave the state for college or military service, but that every age group above 22 has grown.

Knowles officials also argue that the number of jobs grew in the 1990s despite a general decline in the timber and oil industries.

Chris Ellingson, assistant director for the Alaska Public Offices Commission, said the agency is reviewing Alexander's complaint to determine whether an investigation is needed.

Alexander, a Democrat who served as state Labor commissioner under former Gov. Bill Egan, said the ads have been structured to hurt Ulmer.

Alexander also noted that both Murkowski's campaign and the pro-Republican nonprofit have taken aim at young people leaving the state for jobs elsewhere.

Both Ulmer and Murkowski are seen as frontrunners for their parties' nomination and could face each other in the Nov. 5 general election.

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