State elections watchdog orders ‘No on 2’ campaign to fix or take down ads

Two white men in side-by-side photos speak into microhones
In radio ads, the group Defend Alaska Elections – Vote No on 2 identified former Gov. Sean Parnell, left, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, right, as two of its three top contributors. The Alaska Public Offices Commission ruled the group violated state law because the Alaska Republican Party and others had contributed over 100 times as much as the named contributors by the time the ads aired. (Photo of Parnell by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska. Photo of Begich by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Alaska’s elections watchdog commission says that a group opposing a ballot measure to overhaul elections violated state law when it aired radio ads with outdated contributors. The Alaska Public Offices Commission, or APOC, ordered the group to redo or take down the ads. 

The group, Defend Alaska Elections – Vote No on 2, produced ads that identified its top three contributors as hovercraft moose hunter John Sturgeon, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and former Gov. Sean Parnell. By the time the ads aired, though, that information was inaccurate — the top contributors were the Alaska Republican Party, the national political organization Republican State Leadership Committee and either Americans for Prosperity or Northern Holding Inc.

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Sturgeon had given $1,000, and Begich and Parnell gave $250 each. The Alaska Republican Party and Republican State Leadership Committee gave $50,000 each, while Americans for Prosperity and Northern Holding Inc. each gave $45,000. 

State law requires political ads to include the top contributors on the date the ad is communicated. 

The group argued that the relevant day was when it produced the ads. Brett Huber, a former senior policy advisor and campaign manager for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, is leading the Vote No on 2 group. 

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The group supporting the ballot measure, Yes on 2, filed the complaint. 

APOC ruled on Thursday that the relevant day was when the ads first aired. That means campaigns won’t have to update their ads each time their top contributors change. 

APOC told the group to change the ads as soon as possible and no later than three business days from the order on Thursday. Commission staff will determine what if any penalty Defend Alaska Elections will have to pay.