JUNEAU (AP) -- A poll by a committee supporting a 1999 advisory ballot measure improperly attempted to influence voters, the Alaska Public Offices Commission said.
The commission ruled 3-1 Wednesday that the Vote Yes! Committee should have divulged who paid for the poll.
Vote Yes! backed a measure asking whether to use Permanent Fund earnings to balance the state budget. It failed when 83 percent of voters cast a no vote.
A complaint was filed against the committee by Dennis Harris, of Juneau, who was angered after being quizzed by a pollster in August 1999.
''I was very upset by the deceptive content of the phone call and that's what got me started on this in the first place,'' Harris said.
Callers were asked their opinion of the initiative before being told a yes vote would save the state's dividend program and mean no new taxes.
''Would it change your mind if you knew that voting no is more likely to result in the end of your dividend check than voting yes,'' callers who remained opposed were asked.
State law requires a communication intended to influence the outcome of an election must divulge its source of funding.
''I think this was clearly intended ... to try to get people to vote yes on this,'' said Commissioner Mark Handley.
Harris said the poll of 26,000 people was larger than was needed to gather an opinion. A professional pollster said about 500 respondents are needed for an accurate poll.
The poll was likened to ''push polling,'' where questions contain false and damaging statements about an opposition candidate.
But Kevin Bruce, president of an Anchorage advertising agency hired as a consultant to the committee, denied that it was a push poll.
''And that's what's so outrageous about this ruling,'' said Bruce, of Northwest Strategies. Polling was done by R.T. Nielson Co., of Salt Lake City, Utah.
He said it was similar to polls intended to identify what issues resonate with voters. A large number of people were contacted to identify potential supporters to mobilize later on election day, Bruce said.
Bruce said if callers know who is paying for a poll it will taint the outcome.
The Vote Yes! Committee could be fined up to $50 for each day the poll was conducted.
The committee disbanded after the election and it was not clear how fines would be imposed, said commission Director Brooke Miles.
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