Murkowski counters attack ads

Posted: Sunday, October 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A broadcast ad campaign launched by a soft money-powered political group says Sen. Frank Murkowski voted against federal education spending numerous times in recent years, and they have a list of specifics to back up the claim.

But Alaska's junior Republican senator said he actually voted to increase education spending annually in his 22-year U.S. Senate career.

Murkowski's gubernatorial campaign launched his own television ads Saturday to counter those being paid for by the American Small Business Alliance.

The alliance, which says it is not connected with Democrat Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer's campaign for governor, flooded airwaves during the past several weeks with its cartoon depiction of a chain saw-wielding moose trying to expose Murkowski hiding behind trees.

''Which politician voted for some of the biggest cuts in education in history? Frank Murkowski. Who voted against funding to fix our schools? Frank Murkowski. And which politician even voted against the student loans Alaska college students depend on? It was Frank Murkowski,'' the ad narrator says.

The alliance bought about $150,000 worth of television advertising and an unspecified amount of radio advertising starting in mid-September, according to spokesman Tyler Prell in Washington, D.C.

A Republican Party of Alaska response ad features U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, comparing the claims to ''moose droppings'' and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, saying, ''These ads are dead wrong and this is one moose that deserves to be shot.''

When asked Friday, an alliance spokesman provided a page-and-a-half list of Murkowski votes to back up the ad.

Murkowski voted Sept. 11, 1997, to kill an amendment that would have added $12 billion nationwide for elementary schools to do with what they wished, according to the alliance. He also voted March 31, 1998, against an amendment to add $7.3 billion to hire 100,000 new teachers. The next month, on April 23, he voted against adding $50 million for after-school programs. The additional funding was advocated by former President Bill Clinton.

Murkowski acknowledged Friday that he voted against some specific bills and amendments that would have boosted education funding.

''I think what you have to address, though, is the bottom line and that is the recognition that in each of the 22 years, I've voted to increase federal funding for education without exception. Now that's the bottom line. Now what happens in the middle -- all these bills aren't always good bills,'' he said.

The federal Department of Education's budget has grown from $14.7 billion in 1982 to $48 billion in 2002, according to a Murkowski campaign news release.

Murkowski's ''bottom line'' votes were for the final departmental spending bills created by conference committees tasked with merging House and Senate versions, according to the release.

The alliance also detailed Murkowski's votes from 1997 to 2000 in which he opposed bills that would have spent up to $6 billion on ''crumbling schools'' and provided up to $25 billion in tax incentives for people to buy bonds to fix such schools.

He also voted against increasing the maximum size of federal Pell grants for college and against reducing college student loan fees.

Jason Moore, spokesman for Ulmer's campaign, said the lieutenant governor agrees with the thrust of the American Small Business Alliance ads, even while opposing the use of such soft-money campaigns in Alaska.

''We certainly believe that when you look at Murkowski's record that he is not a friend of education,'' Moore said. He cited many of the same votes as the business alliance.

Moore said the Ulmer campaign has had nothing to do with the alliance and does not know who provided its money.

''That's the problem with soft money,'' he said. ''There's no required disclosure.''

He said Ulmer had called the group and requested that the ads be removed.

Murkowski said he had been told the alliance is backed by the AFL-CIO, the largest labor union federation.

Prell had no comment on that claim. Prell told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the ads have nothing to do with the gubernatorial campaign and so sponsors do not have to be identified.

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