Investigator recommends dismissing issue ad complaints

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Alaska Public Office Commission investigator has recommended dismissing campaign finance complaints against the Murkowski for Governor campaign and a Virginia group that ran critical television ads targeting Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and Gov. Tony Knowles.

Complainants John Alexander and John E. Robertson argued that the Murkowski campaign provided information that Americans for Job Security used to produce the commercials and that the group's ads amounted to an improper and unreported campaign contribution.

The commercials told viewers that, ''Under the Knowles/Ulmer administration, Alaska has the lowest economic growth of any state in the country'' and that a government management study ranked Alaska above only Alabama as the ''worst run state in America.''

In a memo to the commission, APOC investigator B.A. Davis said the ads do not expressly ask viewers to vote for Murkowski or against Democrat Ulmer and that they appeared in May and June, nearly three months before the Aug. 27 primary election. Also, the ads are directed at Ulmer in her capacity as lieutenant governor, not as a candidate for governor, Davis' memo said.

She concluded the commercials should not be considered ''an expenditure intended to influence the outcome of an election'' under Alaska's campaign disclosure law.

The commission will consider the complaints Monday. It can accept Davis' recommendation, direct her to investigate further or look at the evidence and reach a different conclusion.

The Murkowski campaign acknowledged three contacts between campaign officials and AJS staffers, but said the campaign's themes, strategies or polling results were not discussed.

A single report given to AJS was not enough to make the commercials a campaign contribution, Davis said.

''A campaign should be able to discuss the candidate's position on an issue without that discussion alone leading to a prohibited campaign contribution,'' Davis said in her memo.

Alexander, a former state labor commissioner, said he disagreed with the recommendation. He said it points up the need to strengthen the state's campaign finance law governing such ''soft money'' political advertising.



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