Ulmer disputes message in soft money issue ads

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Fran Ulmer says an Alaska group airing a soft money issue advertisement on television is trying to mislead voters about her stand on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A spokesman for Supporting Alaska Free Enterprise says there's nothing misleading about it.

Lt. Gov. Ulmer, the Democratic nominee for governor, said at a press conference Thursday that she strongly supports drilling for oil and gas in the refuge east of Prudhoe Bay.

''It tries to suggest I don't support ANWR,'' she said of the ad. ''That's not true,'' she said.

''Soft money'' generally refers to money spent indirectly to benefit or oppose a candidate. Groups can use soft money on issue ads and are not required to reveal where they received their money.

Ulmer was a Juneau state representative from 1987 to 1994. She said a House Joint Resolution approved in 1991 showed her support for drilling. The resolution backed responsible oil and gas development in the refuge and Ulmer was a co-sponsor.

Representatives of SAFE, a group incorporated this year ''to educate and inform Alaskans about the importance of economic opportunity, resource development, jobs and free enterprise,'' takes issue with that.

Curtis Thayer, executive director, said Ulmer three times as a legislator in May 1991 opposed appropriating money to lobby for opening the refuge. Those votes were on amendments to the state budget bill in the House Finance Committee and on the House floor.

''People have records,'' Thayer said. ''Some people like to run on their record. Some people like to run away from their record. She's trying to run away from her record.

Ulmer spokesman Jason Moore said his boss could not remember specifics of budget amendments 11 years ago and why she may have supported or opposed them.

More significant, Thayer said, Ulmer has been missing in action during crucial lobbying efforts. He said his group could find no indication that Ulmer lobbied for drilling with national leaders of her party in 1995. He said the same is true now as Congress debates energy legislation.

His group's ad links Ulmer with the anti-ANWR energy policy of President Bill Clinton and shows footage of Ulmer enthusiastically casting Alaska Democrats' votes for Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Clinton three years later vetoed a budget bill that included a provision to open ANWR to drilling.

Now, Thayer said, ''She is surrounding herself with Bill Clinton people and environmental groups, all opposed to ANWR.''

Ulmer acknowledged supporting Clinton and said one area of disagreement was not going to dissuade her.

''There are many things at play when you choose a president and a candidate to support,'' Ulmer said, such as the economy, education and children's health.

Ulmer says she and other Alaska Democrats lobbied hard at the '92 convention to change a party plank that opposed drilling in the refuge.

But she said the events of 1992 are not the issue in the campaign. She also took issue with the campaign technique of vilifying particular groups rather than addressing Alaska issues.

As for attack ads, she said, they are not appreciated by Alaskans.

''They're probably used to it in Detroit. They're not used to it in Fairbanks.''

She said she has not seen advertisements attacking the record of U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, the Republican nominee.

''From what I'm hearing from constituents is, they wish they would all go away,'' she said.

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