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Campaigns over Measure 2 get heated

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The battle over Ballot Measure 2 and Alaska's aerial predator control program intensified Thursday with each side complaining to the state's political watchdog agency.

McGrath resident Donne Fleagle alleged in a letter to the executive director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission that Alaskans for Wildlife has been engaged in "an apparent pattern of deception and willful attempt to mislead the public."

Fleagle says the group reported only $2,542.52 in campaign expenses and no expenditures for television advertising in a 30-day report filed July 28. She contends the group has paid more than $24,000 for television advertising on one Anchorage television station, and has ads running on two others.

She also says Alaskans for Wildlife failed to disclose money spent on a direct mail campaign.

An APOC official said Thursday the complaint would have to be reviewed before it could be formally accepted.

Nick Jans, co-sponsor of Ballot Measure 2, predicted that the complaint won't fly because the donations Fleagle is referencing came in after the 30 days and will show up on an APOC report due Aug. 19.

"APOC records will show that and our bank account backs it up," Jans said.

Jennifer Yuhas, chairwoman for the No on 2 campaign, said in a news release that Alaskans for Wildlife is not being upfront with voters. She said the group's campaign disclosure forms say Alaskans for Wildlife purchased the ads but the address provided is for the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife.

Jans said it is no secret that Defenders is helping pay for the campaign. The opposition is relying on Safari Club International to pay its bills, he said.

"We don't have anything to hide here," Jans said. "Outside money coming into this issue is nothing new."

Also Thursday, the Alaska Wildlife Alliance filed a complaint with APOC that says the state is illegally trying to influence the outcome of Ballot Measure 2.

The alliance says in the last two weeks the state has twice distributed brochures through the state's largest newspaper touting its predator control program. The group says the state also purchased radio spots that ran in the past 10 days, as well as sending Board of Game members around the state to campaign against the initiative.

"The timing and one-sided nature of the Palin administration's propaganda are an illegal attempt to influence voters," said John Toppenberg, the alliance's director.

The alliance says the state is prohibited from spending money advocating for or against a ballot proposition, unless the Legislature specifically appropriates the funds for that purpose.

Tim Barry, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the Legislature did make an appropriation of $400,000 so that the Board of Game could educate and inform the public about the state's intensive management program.

He said while the information was coming from Fish and Game, the agency had not "been doing any campaigning or putting inserts in papers or making speeches about the issues."

Jans, who is an adviser to the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said the information is clearly an attempt to influence the outcome of the election.

"It is pretty unprecedented the state would campaign against its own citizens to influence an election," he said.

The ballot measure will be decided in the Aug. 26 statewide primary election.



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