Investigation into Campaign Complaint Continues

Tara Bicknell, KHNS – Haines

An investigation continues into a formal complaint against District Five State Representative Bill Thomas and several of his re-election campaign members, regarding campaign disclosure law and a series of newspaper ads.  Alaska Public Offices Commission on Thursday rejected a staff recommendation to dismiss several complaints against Thomas and ordered further investigation.

Alaska Public Offices Commission began reviewing the legality of a series of “thank you” ads that ran in the Haines newspaper leading up to the state primary election, after blogger Linda Kellen-Biegel filed a complaint alleging that the campaign members that arranged the ads did not file the required campaign disclosure reports.

The ads in question ran on a weekly basis and contained photos and ended with the name and address of one of several Haines businesses indicating who paid for the ad.  They also showed either a photo or the name of Representative Thomas.

The weekly newspaper for Haines, the Chilkat Valley News, said the local businesses were billed for the ads, but that Haines resident James Studley, also listed as Deputy Director of the campaign to re-elect Thomas, coordinated the buy.  APOC law states that independent expenditures cannot be made in cooperation with an agent of the candidate.

APOC staff investigated the accusations and issued a report early last month recommending the complainant’s allegations be dismissed, with the exception that two of the ads that expressly included the word “vote” should be considered campaign expenditures and contributions that should have been reported to APOC.

A November hearing saw presentations from the complainant, who protested the recommendation, no member of the Thomas party was present. Following the hearing, the Commission chose not to dismiss the bulk of the complaints’ allegations at this time.

The determination is not final, and the commission requested further investigation.

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