Lobbyist and former Anchorage television reporter Jonathan White is consulting with lawmakers on how to better communicate with the media.
White, a registered lobbyist who works as a government relations specialist with the Nerland Agency, has been working as a media consultant for House Republicans and is in discussions with House Democrats to offer the same services. The agreement with House Republicans is valued at up to $5,000.
The Nerland Agency is an advertising and public relations agency in Anchorage. It also was hired by lobbyist Mitchell Gravo to lobby the Legislature.
The agreement does not violate lobbying laws, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, and lawmakers say it will improve their ability to communicate with the Alaska public.
But Andree McLeod, a former nonpartisan candidate for the House District 24 in Anchorage, said it appeared to be a conflict of interest for the Legislature to hire a registered lobbyist. McLeod also questioned whether state funds should be used to make the incumbent lawmakers better politicians.
"If they wanted to use their own money, it's fine and dandy, but they are using public money," McLeod said.
House Speaker Pete Kott, an Eagle River Republican, said his caucus discussed the need for media training in December because of the high number of freshmen lawmakers.