ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is defending a Senate campaign ad even though a fellow Republican has characterized the ad as unprofessional and intentionally false.
The criticism this time is coming from Murkowski rival Wev Shea, an Anchorage attorney who hopes to unseat Murkowski. Democrat Tony Knowles, who also is running, called the ad deceptive and negative in late May, even before it began running.
The TV and radio ads being aired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee try to link Knowles to Sens. Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry - all of whom oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Shea, in a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said Wednesday he is offended by the "silly, unprofessional and intentionally false" commercials.
"Gov. Knowles has always supported ANWR development," Shea wrote. "I personally request on behalf of all Alaskans that you pull the ads."
Murkowski said she saw nothing wrong with the spot.
The 30-second TV commercial, which began airing about three weeks ago, said Knowles, if elected would "join forces" with Kennedy and Kerry, who the ad says wouldn't know a caribou "if it dropped in for a bowl of Boston clam chowder." A radio version adds Clinton's name.
Murkowski said she had nothing to do with the ads, but she also defended them.
"I've only seen the ad once, but it nowhere says that Tony does not support opening ANWR," she told reporters in Washington recently. "So it's not that it is factually inaccurate."
The ad, which she characterized as a "kind of cutesy cartoon," only points out that opponents of ANWR drilling are on the team Knowles would be joining, she said.
The ad conveys a "very apparent reality," she said. "If there had been factual errors, I would have contacted the (Republican) senatorial committee," she said. "If it had been dirty or negative, yeah, I would have felt compelled to say something about it."
In January, after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired an ad that benefited Murkowski, Knowles said he was rejecting any third-party ads and he challenged Murkowski to do the same. Even if she did issue a statement to any groups seeking to help her get elected, Murkowski said, her declaration would not have any teeth.
"I can say, 'I don't want that here, don't do it,' and I would hope that they would agree with my lead on that," she said. "But constitutionally, they've got a right to come in and run their advertisements. This is freedom of speech at its best, or its worst, depending on your perspective."
Shea said he was immediately offended by the ad but didn't think to complain to Allen until he received a letter from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, signed by Allen, inviting Shea to "inner circle" functions at the party convention in New York.
Shea said he gave the NRSC $10,000 for the 2000 election.
"I'm paying for these ads, if you know what I'm saying," he said.
The NRSC received Shea's letter Wednesday evening, spokesman Dan Allen said. "I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the ad is up, and it's a fair and accurate ad," Allen said.
Matt McKenna, a spokesman for Knowles, said Shea's complaint shows the issue is not party affiliation but the portrayal of Knowles' record and "partisan attack" campaign tactics.
Shea said he's not interested in helping Knowles.
"My position has been that integrity and truthfulness is the most important thing," he said. "What I'm concerned about is the credibility of the Republican Party with Alaskans."
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