The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) was told Wednesday that the mining advocates didn't do anything wrong when they funnelled money from one group to another to fight an anti-mining ballot measure in 2008.
The commission, meeting in Anchorage and by teleconference, heard a recommendation from its staff that it dismiss a complaint involving the Council of Alaska Producers, a group of mining companies, and Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown, a political group which fought the ballot measure on the companies' behalf.
The Clean Water measure, placed on the ballot by initiative petition, focused on the Pebble Mine, but other mining companies joined to fight it as well. The owners of Juneau's Greens Creek Mine contributed more than $1 million to the campaign which defeated the measure.
In the two years since the election the groups on both sides of the measure have continued battling over the legality of various aspects of the campaign.
APOC staff last year filed a complaint against the measure's opponents, saying one improperly operated as a "pass through" to fund the opposition.
On Thursday, Assistant Attorney General John Ptacin told an administrative law judge that the commission's staff determined after further investigation that the complaint it had itself filed should be dismissed.
What the measure's opponents did "is either entirely legal … or at best has not been determined by this commission to be a violation of law," Ptacin said.
The law the staff first thought had been violated does not clearly relate to the facts of the debate over the mining measure, he said.
A key factor in the staff's opinion was the fact that both the producers and AAMS fully disclosed everyone they did, and the way they organized the opposition effort was not used to hide anything or gain any advantage, he said.
The groups "reported every dime going in and out," Ptacin said.
Political consultant Art Hackney supported the Clean Water initiatives, and his attorney, Scott Kendall, opposed the dismissal motion. The staff recommendation, he said, "put a Band-Aid" over the lack of compliance with the law, Kendall said.
Council of Alaska Producers Executive Director Mike Satre said after the hearing that the group supported the motion to dismiss.
The commission went into executive session after the arguments were made. It did not say when it would issue a written order after reaching a decision.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or email@example.com.
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