Industry group’s salmon initiative complaint to be heard Tuesday
State campaign regulators on Monday afternoon agreed to hear arguments Tuesday morning over a complaint alleging that the groups pushing the contentious Stand for Salmon voter initiative committed multiple fincancial disclosure violations.
Commissioners with the Alaska Public Offices Commission concluded Stand for Alaska-Vote No on 1’s Sept. 20 complaint against Yes for Salmon-Vote Yes on 1, Stand for Salmon and The Alaska Center warranted an expedited hearing with Election Day 43 days away.
The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at APOC’s Midtown Anchorage offices.
The roughly two-hour Monday hearing over whether to expedite the complaint was largely a debate over the merits of the complaint against the groups advocating for Ballot Measure 1, which would establish stringent new permitting requirements for development projects in salmon habitat.
Stand for Alaska, funded primarily by oil and mining companies, alleges in its Sept. 20 complaint that the three groups are coordinating their campaign efforts without admitting as much to APOC and Alaska voters.
The complaint notes that the same individuals are in leadership positions in both Stand for Salmon and Yes for Salmon and all three share the same Downtown Anchorage office space.
Matt Singer, an attorney with Holland and Knight representing Stand for Alaska, claimed further that The Alaska Center has not disclosed the source of nearly $270,000 it has spent supporting the Ballot Measure 1 efforts.
Stand for Alaska insists much of the money behind Ballot Measure 1 has come from Outside environmental groups.
“Alaskans are entitled to know who’s spending money to influence their votes,” Singer said, adding that the matter needs to be resolved quickly because post-election fines would do little to help voters.
Earlier this month APOC levied a $1,925 fine against Stand for Alaska for having a name that did not clearly indicate the group’s position on the issue; that led the group to add “Vote No on 1” to its official name.
Stand for Alaska’s complaint against Yes for Salmon also points out that the group didn’t add “Vote Yes on 1” to its name until Aug. 15 despite the fact that Stand for Salmon filed its complaint about Stand for Alaska’s name July 6.
Birch Bittner Horton and Cherot attorney Jack McKenna, representing the salmon advocates, said Yes for Salmon didn’t change its name because its position on the Ballot Measure 1, which is also referred to as the Stand for Salmon initiative, is right in its name.
The organizations don’t have to file as a single group with APOC because The Alaska Center and Stand for Salmon have missions that go beyond Ballot Measure 1, according to McKenna.
To the primary funding sources, McKenna questioned why The Alaska Center should have to disclose where its contributions to the Ballot Measure 1 effort came from if the three largest donors to Stand for Alaska — BP, ConocoPhillips and Donlin Gold — don’t have to explain the sources of their money, whether it’s from investors, or profits made inside or outside of Alaska.
He also contended that Stand for Alaska had roughly “$2 million missing from its books” until it fixed its APOC filings Saturday.
McKenna insisted the complaint is a political maneuver aimed at derailing the campaign.
“There’s a reason the media had this complaint before APOC did,” he said.
Singer responded that technical issues prevented Stand for Alaska representatives from filing the complaint with the commission as soon as they originally planned.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].