Cruise industry solicits voters

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2006

The campaign to oppose a ballot initiative that would levy a $50 head tax on cruise ship passengers incorrectly included an Alaska business and two other organizations on its roster of local supporters.

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Campaign organizers, known as Alaskans Protecting Our Economy, have been soliciting Alaskans for their support via e-mail and other means. The campaign was launched by Oregon public relations firm Pac/West.

The initiative, which will be on the Aug. 22 primary election ballot and listed as Measure No. 2, includes the head tax, a requirement to disclose the cruise ship's commission on shore excursions, taxes on gambling while in state waters and a requirement to have ocean rangers on board.

The University of Alaska Land Management program, the Alaska SeaLife Center and the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union were some of the groups listed on the Alaskans Protecting Our Economy Web site and a print ad as supporters.

Upon learning they were added to the campaign's list of supporters, directors of each group asked that their names be removed.

Jason Wettstein, spokesman for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, said he learned that an employee filled out a form attached to an e-mail from Alaskans Protecting Our Economy asking him to oppose to the initiative.

The employee thought the group was only soliciting individuals, not the groups they represent, Wettstein said. Instead, Alaskans Protecting Our Economy extrapolated the Alaska SeaLife Center as well from the form and added it to its roster of supporters.

"This is the kind of thing that you really want to clarify," said Wettstein, adding that the sea-life center has not taken a position on the measure.

Steve Connelly, an employee at the University of Alaska Land Management program said he also believed the form was only asking for his individual support. He said he didn't know why his employer was mentioned as well, but he thought it appeared to be a simple misunderstanding.

"We made a mistake. It was our fault," said former Fairbanks legislator and Alaskans Protecting Our Economy Chairman Steve Frank.

Putting the names on the list was not intentional and those groups have been removed, Frank said.

The form, which can be downloaded from the Alaskans Protecting Our Economy Web site, begins with this statement: "We/I (space for name) join the growing list of individuals and organizations in opposition to Ballot Measure 2 which would threaten Alaska's economy, cost Alaskans local jobs and create another level of state bureaucracy."It ends by saying, "Please add me/us to your list in opposition and feel free to use my/our name in your efforts.""It could have been more clear," Frank said. Alaskans Protecting Our Economy has targeted businesses for their support because they believe the initiative will take money out of the registers of local businesses. The $50 head tax would be passed on to the price of the cruise tickets, Frank said. "That's money that can otherwise be spent on discretionary items," he said.

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