Official recommends dismissing case against anti-initiative group

Complaint sought funding disclosures from Alaska's Future

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006

JUNEAU - The head of the Alaska Public Offices Commission says a group opposing a ballot initiative should not be forced to disclose where its cash is coming from.

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APOC Executive Director Brooke Miles, in her recommendation to the commission, said a staff investigation into Alaska's Future concluded the evidence did not support a complaint that the organization was formed to oppose the initiative.

She recommended the commission dismiss the complaint at a Wednesday hearing.

That initiative would levy a $1 billion annual tax on the companies that hold the leases to the North Slope's natural gas reserves until a natural gas pipeline is built. After it is built, part or all of the tax payments would be returned as tax credits.

Voters will decide whether to pass the initiative in the Nov. 7 election.

Television commercials opposing the initiative have been running across the state funded by Alaska's Future, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

Initiative sponsors Eric Croft and Harry Crawford, both Democratic lawmakers from Anchorage, say Alaska's Future is a front organization used by the state's largest oil companies to funnel cash for a campaign against the gas reserves tax plan.

Croft and Crawford filed a complaint with APOC to compel Alaska's Future to disclose its sources of income.

"When people influence elections in Alaska, we need to know who it is," Croft said.

Miles' staff analysis, dated Friday, says a review of Alaska's Future's bylaws shows the group was not formed primarily to influence an election, and only a small percentage of the group's activities involved communications intended to influence the outcome of the ballot question - just 4.73 percent of the group's total expenses.

Only for those expenditures would disclosure be required, which Alaska's Future has already done. The group reported that it spent more than $33,000 by the end of August on advertising against the tax initiative.

The APOC investigation shows most of Alaska's Future's activities went to en-

courage Alaskans to contact their lawmakers about a natural gas pipeline and a new oil production tax law that passed the Legislature this summer.

The group says it did not solicit or accept donations specifically meant to oppose the ballot measure, and APOC staff "was unable to obtain any evidence to the contrary," the report reads.

Croft said he and Crawford will argue against the recommendation on Wednesday, when the commission makes its decision on their complaint.

Allowing the nondisclosure of income will give future special interests a blueprint on how to influence Alaska elections without leaving their own fingerprints, he said.

"We're disappointed with the initial recommendation that they can continue to hide the donors," Croft said. "I think we've got a fighting chance because I just think they're wrong. There's no question they ran ads to influence elections in Alaska."

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