About 50 people picketed Alaska Republican headquarters at lunchtime Tuesday over complaints that a national organization with "Republican" in its name was poised to spend big money to defeat Democratic state senators.
"Our Alaska politics are for Alaska people," said one of the picketers, Malcolm Roberts of Backbone, the watchdog group opposing the political influence of the oil industry. "We're electing our state legislature. This should not be manipulated by Outside money of whichever party."
Roberts said the demonstration, by Backbone, Alaska labor groups and others, was called following a report in Alaska Dispatch that the Republican State Leadership Committee of Washington, D.C., had registered as a political group in Alaska.
Matthew Walter, the political director of the RSLC, said Tuesday that the organization planned to contribute at least $100,000 to independent groups in Alaska trying to influence races in the state Senate, where legislation to cut billions in oil taxes died last session. Walter declined to say precisely how much money the RSLC would spend and which organizations it would support.
"We do intend to make a contribution or contributions to existing ongoing efforts within the state of Alaska, in part to counter the money that's flooding into a lot of these races from left-leaning and labor resources, to ensure that the state senate returns to a body that's more reflective of the voters of Alaska," Walter said.
"No Alaskans like that," said one of the picketers, Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. "Alaskans in general don't like it when Outside money comes in."
Inside the old bungalow housing state Republican headquarters, on West Fireweed Lane, the chants from picketers and horn-honking from supportive motorists filtered through the thin walls of a conference room.
"I've never seen the Democrats in that bad a shape to where they wanted to picket us," said Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.
Ruedrich said he saw no sign that the Republican State Leadership Committee had spent "any money on any media in the state."
But that may be because the organization is unaffiliated with the Republican Party, either nationally or in Alaska, and won't be making its own commercials.
The organization was founded in 2002 to support Republican candidates seeking state office. A similar independent Democratic organization, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, hasn't registered in Alaska. Beltrami said they wouldn't be welcome.
Walter said the RSLC plans to spend about $37 million nationwide in this election.
The national political watchdog group, Open Secrets, says the RSLC's biggest contributor is the health insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, at nearly $2.5 million. The organization is also supported heavily by industrial and oil and gas interests, including Koch Industries, owned by the conservative Koch brothers.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER