Pro-Pebble forces accuse foes of hiding financial source

ILLEGAL? They say opposition concealed fact one man mostly bankrolled efforts to block mine.

March 21, 2009 

An Anchorage financial manager broke the law by secretly financing the bulk of last year's campaign to block development of the massive Pebble copper and gold prospect, the two companies trying to develop Pebble said Friday in a complaint filed with state elections regulators.

The complaint, filed by the Pebble Partnership and the Resource Development Council, an Anchorage business group, said the financier, Bob Gillam, and three advocacy groups violated state law in an attempt to hide his large donations.

"Disclosure and openness is very clearly laid out in state law," said Jason Brune, who heads the RDC.

The allegations are false, the groups and Gillam countered Friday.

Gillam owns a large home on Lake Clark near the proposed mine. It's been widely known he has helped bankroll a high-profile advertising and lobbying battle against the proposed mine, located in the headwaters of two of the five rivers that feed Bristol Bay's world-class salmon runs.

But the mining companies and RDC claim Gillam and the advocacy groups illegally hid nearly $2 million from Gillam to keep Alaska voters from finding out about it.

The accusations concern last year's multimillion-dollar fight over Ballot Measure 4. That so-called "Clean Water" initiative was an attempt by Pebble opponents to require stricter limits on water-pollution discharges from large mines. Voters rejected Measure 4 in August.

Gillam secretly provided large sums to the campaign that should have been disclosed to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, according to the complaint filed with APOC.

APOC said it plans to investigate the complaint, which alleges 18 violations of state disclosure law.

The advocacy groups targeted are the Renewable Resources Coalition, an Anchorage nonprofit; Alaskans for Clean Water, a pro-Measure 4 group; and Americans for Job Security, a pro-business group in Virginia, that helped fund the Measure 4 campaign and ran ads against Pebble.

The groups and Gillam issued a statement Friday saying they complied with state law.

"At first blush, the complaint distorts the facts and misstates the alleged evidence," the statement said.

The groups said the complaint is "a clear message to Alaskans that the Pebble Partnership will stop at nothing to silence their opponents."

The Pebble Partnership said it received information after the vote that led it to file the complaint. That information included e-mails from Los Angeles-based Fund Raising Inc., which worked with the three groups and Gillam during the campaign.

The pro-Measure 4 campaigners were worried about a perception that Gillam was bankrolling their fight "because our opponents will make him the central campaign issue," according to an April 2008 e-mail from Fund Raising Inc.

An October e-mail from Gillam mentions money he provided to the Americans for Job Security for the campaign. That group has refused to identify its donors, stating its money came from member dues.

State law allows APOC to assess a $50-per-day fine for any violation other than a late report.

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