Supreme Court rules against anti-Pebble financier

The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s ruling that a private air service violated campaign finance laws when it offered flights to two Lake and Peninsula Borough assembly candidates in September 2010.

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In 2011, the Alaska Public Office Commission filed a complaint against Bush Planes, LLC, the non-commercial air service owned by the multimillionaire anti-Pebble financier Bob Gillam.

APOC said Gillam’s firm made illegal corporate contributions when it offered airplane rides to assembly candidates Nana Kalmakoff and Michelle Ravenmoon without charging them a commercial fare.

The candidates were invited to join in the flights by former state legislator George Jacko, who Gillam had hired to be his “eyes and ears in Bristol Bay.” Jacko traveled throughout the Lake and Peninsula Borough on Bush Planes’ aircraft to advocate against the Pebble mine.

The air service held that Kalmakoff and Ravenmoon were simply hitching a ride on the previously scheduled flights, and that the candidates had paid their share of fuel costs.

But APOC imposed a $25,000 fine, plus an additional $30,000 in investigation and lawyer’s fees.

Bush Planes appealed APOC’s decision to a superior court, which upheld the decision and the penalty.

In its ruling Wednesday, the Alaska Supreme Court again affirmed the lower court’s and APOC’s decisions, saying that Bush Planes did violate state campaign finance laws.

The court also ruled that the amount of the fine imposed by APOC was not “unconstitutionally excessive.”

This isn’t Gillam’s first run-in with APOC. In spring 2010, Gillam agreed to pay the commission $100,000 in a settlement related to a ballot measure and alleged violations in a years-long advertising campaign against Pebble.

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Hannah Colton is a reporter at a in Dillingham.

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