FAIRBANKS - A broadcast ad campaign launched by a soft money-powered political group says Sen. Frank Murkowski voted against federal education spending numerous times in recent years, and they have a list of specifics to back up the claim.
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But Alaska's junior Republican senator said he actually voted to increase education spending annually in his 22-year U.S. Senate career.
Murkowski's gubernatorial campaign launched his own television ads Saturday to counter those being paid for by the American Small Business Alliance.
The alliance, which says it is not connected with Democratic Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer's campaign for governor, flooded airwaves during the past several weeks with its cartoon depiction of a chain saw-wielding moose trying to expose Murkowski hiding behind trees.
"Which politician voted for some of the biggest cuts in education in history? Frank Murkowski. Who voted against funding to fix our schools? Frank Murkowski. And which politician even voted against the student loans Alaska college students depend on? It was Frank Murkowski," the ad narrator says.
The alliance bought about $150,000 worth of television advertising and an unspecified amount of radio advertising starting in mid-September, according to spokesman Tyler Prell in Washington, D.C.
A Republican Party of Alaska response ad features Murkowski's Alaska GOP congressional partners. U.S. Rep. Don Young compares the claims to "moose droppings" and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens says, "These ads are dead wrong and this is one moose that deserves to be shot."
When asked Friday, an alliance spokesman provided a page-and-a-half list of Murkowski votes to back up its claims.
Murkowski voted Sept. 11, 1997, to kill an amendment that would have added $12 billion nationwide for elementary schools to do with what they wished, according to the alliance. He also voted March 31, 1998, against an amendment to add $7.3 billion to hire 100,000 new teachers. The following month, he voted against adding $50 million for after-school programs.
Murkowski acknowledged he voted against some specific bills and amendments.
"I think what you have to address, though, is the bottom line and that is the recognition that in each of the 22 years, I've voted to increase federal funding for education without exception. Now that's the bottom line. Now what happens in the middle - all these bills aren't always good bills," he said.
The federal Department of Education's budget has grown from $14.7 billion in 1982 to $48 billion in 2002, according to a Murkowski campaign news release.
Jason Moore, spokesman for Ulmer's campaign, said the lieutenant governor agrees with the thrust of the American Small Business Alliance ads while opposing the use of such soft-money campaigns in Alaska.
"We certainly believe that when you look at Murkowski's record that he is not a friend of education," Moore said.
Moore said the Ulmer campaign has had nothing to do with the alliance and does not know who provided its money. He said Ulmer had called the group and requested the ads be removed.
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