It shouldn’t have taken an order by the Alaska Public Offices Commission to stop the false political ads claiming that businessman John Sturgeon, former Gov. Sean Parnell and former Sen. Mark Begich are the three largest contributors to the group that opposes Ballot Measure No. 2, dealing with elections.
The real top contributors to the group opposing the election initiative are the Alaska Republican Party, the State Republican Leadership Committee in Washington, D.C., and Americans for Prosperity in Virginia. Others include the Club for Growth in Washington, D.C.
I agree with those who say it is right to cut Sturgeon some slack, as he does not much experience with the machinery of a political campaign. The same cannot be said about Parnell and Begich. Their behavior is this matter has been disgraceful.
Campaign leader Brett Huber, adman Art Hackney and lawyer Matt Singer recognized the political value in listing Sturgeon, Parnell and Begich as the top money men fighting the initiative, capitalizing on the political reputation Sturgeon earned by fighting the federal government and Parnell and Begich earned by serving in public office.
But what Huber, Hackney and Singer failed to recognize is that ads falsely promoting Sturgeon, Parnell and Begich for a financial commitment they never made will diminish their political reputations.
A demand for campaign honesty by Sturgeon, chairman of the opposition group, or Parnell or Begich would have stopped the false ads immediately. But the former governor and former senator kept quiet in the face of the suggestion that they were backing the campaign with tens of thousands in cash, instead of hundreds. Sturgeon has now given $2,000, while Parnell and Begich among the many people who chipped in $250.
The former governor and the former senator are not big spenders on this campaign, but it’s no secret what happened here.
The anti-initiative group claimed to have discovered a loophole in the law. Since the group technically had no real contributions in mid-September other than small amounts from Sturgeon, Parnell and Begich, it could list them as top contributors when it reserved all of its radio time for the entire campaign.
The big money for Huber’s group miraculously appeared after the radio time was reserved.
When the ads started running on radio, the top contributors to the effort were already the Alaska GOP and the two Outside political action committees. But to create the impression that the political opposition in Alaska was also the financial opposition, the group stuck with Sturgeon, and the two $250 donors who used to hold high office.
The commission recognized the sleight-of-hand after a hearing Wednesday and issued a common-sense ruling Thursday, giving the Defend Alaska Elections three days to fix the radio ads in which Sturgeon, Parnell and Begich falsely took credit for a level of campaign financing commitment that they knew was false.
Meanwhile, the group pushing the election initiative has filed another complaint over an alleged undisclosed in-kind campaign contribution from the group Protect My Ballot.