Democrats complain about Voice of the Times

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Alaska Democratic Party condemned the Voice of the Times as political attack advertising Friday and accused publisher Bill Allen of making illegal campaign contributions in the form of support from the conservative editorial page.

The Voice of the Times is a half-page editorial section that appears in the Anchorage Daily News under an agreement to maintain a diversity of views after the Anchorage Times, owned by Allen, folded in 1992. Allen is chairman of Veco Corp. He and other executives at the company are generous supporters of Republican candidates.

This week, the Voice of the Times published editorials critical of Democratic state Senate candidates Bettye Davis and Mike Szymanski, who are locked in tight races with Republicans Terry Martin and Jerry Ward.

''The clear intent of both pieces is to generate antipathy for Ward and Martin's opponents and generate support for Ward and Martin, and as such, should be considered campaign contributions,'' Democratic Party Chairman Chris Cooke wrote in a complaint to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

''The Voice of the Times is not a newspaper,'' Cooke said. ''It's ad space, just like what J.C. Penney buys. If they use that ad space to promote political campaigns, they have to follow APOC.''

Both the Voice of the Times and the Daily News reject the notion that the half-page is advertising.

''They're mad because we had an opinion on candidates?'' asked Bill Tobin, an editor at the Voice of the Times. ''Don't they know about the First Amendment?''

Mike Sexton, publisher of the Daily News, said the Voice of the Times pays only for ink and paper, not regular advertising rates.

''The contract states that it provides a diverse voice for the community,'' Sexton said. ''This has never been counted as ad space.''

In the past, the public offices commission has informally found that the Voice of the Times qualified for the exemption newspapers enjoy from the campaign watchdog agency's rules, said Shelley Ebenal, APOC's assistant director.

''It's been our policy that editorials are free press,'' Ebenal said. She added that the facts would be reevaluated in this case, although probably not within the next few weeks. ''It's not going to happen before the election in any way shape or form.''

Cooke's complaint accused Allen of violating at least one section of the state's campaign finance law.

The complaint contends the editorials are either illegal corporate contributions from Veco or violations of the $500 limit on contributions from individuals because Allen already has contributed the maximum to both Martin and Ward. The complaint also pointed out that Veco employees have donated $11,000 to Ward's and Martin's campaigns.

Allen did not return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Friday afternoon.

While the Voice of the Times offers mostly conservative views and the Daily News editorial page mostly liberal fare, neither page holds faithfully to a party line.

The Voice of the Times has supported Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, especially on oil development issues. Paul Jenkins, one of the section's editors, was among the harshest critics of Republican gubernatorial challenger John Lindauer during Knowles' 1998 run for re-election.

The Daily News mainly endorses Democrats, but is backing several Republicans in races for the Legislature this year.

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