Lawmakers use special session for commercials

Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2004

Camera crews and photographers trailed lawmakers Wednesday around the Capitol, collecting footage of them in action for campaign commercials for the November election.

It was about the only action they saw as legislators worked the second day of an uneventful special session.

Northwest Strategies, a public relations firm in Anchorage, shot video and photographs for seven or eight unnamed Republican clients during committee meetings and House and Senate floor sessions.

During an afternoon session in the House, a videographer and a photographer roamed the floor during breaks, collecting video of Republican Reps. Mike Hawker, Nick Stepovich, Gary Wilken and Speaker of the House Pete Kott, among others.

Jerry Mackie, a lobbyist, former state representative and an owner of Northwest Strategies, said the camera and photography crews received permission from the House and Senate prior to the special session to photograph and record video of their Republican clients.

"When I was in the Legislature I had people come and shoot pictures of me," Mackie said.

He said he was attending the special session as a lobbyist and not in his role as an owner of the advertising firm. But he said he did not have any particular clients for any of the special session agenda items.

"I'm just here keeping an eye on things," he said. But during a conversation in the hallway next to the House Finance committee hearing room, Mackie stopped a photographer to tell her to get a photo of Stepovich.

Mackie would not reveal his company's clients. He said copyright law prevents advertising firms from buying video footage of lawmakers on the floor from television news stations or live public broadcasts of meetings.

House Rules Chairman Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, said it is not uncommon for paid photographers to be given special access to the floor, noting that Democratic lawmakers had their own photo crews on the House floor near the end of the regular session in May. Rokeberg said Democrats had agreed that videographers would be allowed on the House floor as long as they only took photos of their own clients, not their clients' opponents.

But House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, said he had not heard about the videographers until they appeared Wednesday on the House floor. He said Rokeberg and Northwest Strategies should have contacted the Legislative Ethics Committee for permission before granting the videographers access.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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