Wildlife amendment campaigs spar over contributions

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The campaign for a ban on wildlife-related initiatives took $75,000 from a coalition of out-of-state interests that includes the National Rifle Association. Meanwhile, groups campaigning against Ballot Measure 1 won't disclose their individual donors.

The debate over whether to amend the Alaska Constitution to bar citizen initiatives on wildlife, has focused sharply on who's funding the campaigns.

Lawmakers who voted to put the measure on the ballot said they wanted to stop the influence of Outside animal-rights groups on Alaska game management. Opponents of the measure characterize it as a power grab by the Legislature aimed at stripping Alaskan voters of their right to make law through the initiative process.

The Coalition for the Alaskan Way of Life, the main group pushing for the amendment, received $75,000 from Ballot Issues Coalition, an organization that channels money into state initiative campaigns from groups including the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Association, the National Rifle Association, the National Trapping Association and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute.

Money from the group makes up almost a quarter of the campaign's contribution total of $215,952 reported to the Alaska Public Offices Commission this week.

However, the main opposition group -- No On 1 - Protect Our Constitutional Rights -- lists three umbrella groups -- Alaska Conservation Voters, Alaska Conservation Alliance and Northern Alaska Environmental Center -- as the source of nearly all of its $122,857. The donors to those organizations are not disclosed.

Listing only the umbrella groups is legal provided the money they donated wasn't solicited or given specifically to fight Ballot Measure No. 1, said Therese Greene, APOC's group coordinator.

''It's a heck of a loophole,'' said Frank Bickford of the Coalition for the Alaskan Way of Life. ''There's definitely something rotten in Denmark.''

Alaska Conservation Voters also has its own ballot group opposing the amendment. The group reported getting nearly all of its $138,812 essentially from itself, again with no breakdown of individual contributors.

''We've been raising money for different elections,'' said Mary Core of Anchorage, executive director of both the Alaska Conservation Voters, a nonprofit organization with individual members, and the Alaska Conservation Alliance, a nonprofit with membership groups. Core said the group does not disclose donors.

''We have not taken any money from any animal rights group,'' Core said, although she acknowledged that Outside foundations have contributed.

Vic Fisher of Anchorage, chairman of No On 1, said the original sources of his group's money are all Alaskan, ''so far as we know.''

Fisher said the yes campaign is hypocritical because it's being funded in part by Outside hunters, trappers and guides who don't want restrictions on their sport.

''This attack on us about money is the old business of attack the messenger if you can't attack the message,'' Fisher said.

Bickford acknowledged that thee Coalition for the Alaskan Way of Life is taking Outside money to prevent the use of Outside money on wildlife initiatives in the future.

''Unfortunately, in the political system we're in today, you have to spend serious money to get your message across,'' Bickford said.

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