ANCHORAGE - Oil companies have spent more than $1.4 million in recent months on advertising in a bid to win voter support for their views on oil taxes and a natural gas pipeline.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Association spent more than $800,000 on ads and public relations last fall, according to lobbying reports filed with the state. The industry was grappling with the state over an oil tax hike at the time and was unsuccessful in convincing the state to keep the tax from rising.
The reports cover the last three months of 2007 and show the oil company Conoco Phillips spent about $600,000 in December alone on advertising.
The ads were intended to convince Alaskans to support its proposal for a $30 billion natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.
The Conoco ad blitz continued in January and February. The company didn't have figures for release on how much it spent but must report them to the state in coming weeks.
Conoco is rethinking the ad campaign and other strategies in response to Gov. Sarah Palin's refusal to negotiate long-term state gas taxes.
"We're going to re-evaluate everything," company spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said.
Conoco had argued it shouldn't have to report the advertising cost to the state as lobbying expenses.
"Since the advertisements at issue do not include any request to contact the administration or any member of the Legislature (they simply encourage the public to review the proposal at the company's Web site), they do not appear to be reportable," Conoco's Michael Hurley wrote.
But the executive director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission disagreed.
"These advertisements clearly and strongly support attempts by Conoco's lobbyists to influence legislative and/or administrative action," APOC executive director Brooke Miles wrote back.
Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, who supported the oil tax hike, said the ads were misleading.
"Their goal was to try and scare the public into trying to scare their legislators," he said.