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My Turn: Anonymously-funded outside groups mislead Alaskans

Posted: November 15, 2013 - 1:08am

On Wednesday, the Alaska Dispatch revealed that Koch-affiliated organizations are behind misleading, anonymous websites that discourage Alaskans from seeking health coverage. The same Koch-affiliated groups organized a town hall in Anchorage this week. Americans for Prosperity, which was founded and is funded by the Koch Brothers, is working with the “Foundation for Government Accountability, an anonymously-funded organization from Florida, to promote the sites “Know the Facts Alaska” and “Don’t Enroll Alaska.” These Outside groups are attempting to undermine health care enrollment efforts by United Way Alaska, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), and Enroll Alaska.

“Alaskans are standing together to correct misinformation from anonymously-funded Outside interests,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaskans get our information from friends and neighbors, not anonymous sources with hidden agendas.”

The websites “Know the Facts Alaska” and “Don’t Enroll Alaska” were created using software designed to keep their creators anonymous. However, the Dispatch found that both websites and their Facebook pages were created simultaneously, and that the two organizations are running paid advertisements on the same schedule, suggesting that one buyer is purchasing the ads. As the Dispatch reported, one of the websites purports to be impartial but offers misleading information designed to discourage enrollment in health coverage. These Koch-affiliated websites claim to analyze individuals’ circumstances to see if they should enroll in health care, yet they always recommend against health care enrollment, regardless of answers participants provide. A representative from the Foundation for Government Accountability said that transparency of who’s behind the websites “almost doesn’t matter.”

Heidi Gay, an employee of Americans for Prosperity, said that the Foundation for Government Accountability ran both websites, and a Foundation employee confirmed its involvement. Americans for Prospevrity featured Center for Government Accountability employees at a “town hall” on Tuesday designed to criticize the Affordable Care Act and local organizations that are enrolling Alaskans in health coverage. Like Americans for Prosperity, the Foundation for Government Accountability reportedly uses Koch funding, although the Foundation does not disclose most of its donors. The Koch-affiliated speakers at Tuesday’s town hall could not answer some questions from Alaska doctors and veterans, and instead referred audience members to their anonymously-created websites.

In contrast to Koch scare tactics, The Alaska-based organizations Enroll Alaska, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and United Way Alaska are working to enroll Alaskans in health coverage. Representatives from Enroll Alaska and the Alaska Primary Care Association said that the Koch-affiliated websites offer misleading or false information.

Americans for Prosperity, the Foundation for Government Accountability, and other Koch affiliates are using the health care debate as part of a broader strategy to gain control of the Senate. During the 2012 cycle, Americans for Prosperity spent $36 million to influence the U.S. Senate races. The Koch Brothers’ “secret bank” Freedom Partners spent $250 million during the last election cycle. Freedom Partners has refused to reveal its donors but is bankrolling a network of organizations like American Energy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity, and the 60 Plus Association.

• Zack Fields is communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party.

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