The "six figure" contribution pledged by an industry-backed Washington, D.C., organization to influence Alaska's election has wound up in the bank account of a new political group run out of the midtown office of a BP contractor.
The $100,000 contribution, from the Republican State Leadership Committee of Washington, D.C., is being spent in part to beat Democrats in the Senate bipartisan coalition who blocked oil-tax cuts, the latest spending reports show.
The Alaska organization that received the money, the Accountability Project, was formed Aug. 29 and operates out of Advanced Supply Chain International, a logistics management company serving the oil, petrochemical and mining industries. The company has been a BP contractor since the year of its founding in 1999, it says on its website, and has also worked for Conoco Phillips.
Last week, when the state's Republican Party headquarters was picketed by union workers and members of oil-industry watchdog Backbone over the influence of Outside money, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee declined to say how it would spend money in Alaska -- only that it would give "in the six figures."
Even with the $100,000 now reported by the Accountability Project, RSLC political director Matthew Walter wouldn't say whether he was sending more money to Alaska.
"That's the only one we'll confirm at this point," he said in a telephone interview Thursday. "There's still some time left in the elections."
The RSLC had about $37 million to spend on elections this year.
Both RSLC, based in Washington, D.C., and the Accountability Project are independent expenditure organizations, or Super PACs. As long as they don't coordinate with individual campaigns, they can spend unlimited sums for and against candidates and collect unlimited donations from businesses and wealthy individuals. The Accountability Project is part of Alaska's small contribution to the $1 billion that the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics estimates will be spent by Super PACs this election, mostly in the Obama-Romney race.
According to reports filed by the Accountability Project over the last week with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, it has already spent more than $100,000 targeting incumbent Democrats in three hard-fought Senate races: Sen. Hollis French against Bob Bell, Sen. Bill Wielechowski against Bob Roses, and in Fairbanks, Sen. Joe Paskvan against Pete Kelly.
The money has been equally spent on negative mailers, ads and telephone calls against the incumbents and positive ones for the challengers. The mailings began last week, two weeks before the election.
The Accountability Project has also spent $22,000 on races in four House districts, three in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks.
Scott Hawkins, chairman of the Accountability Project and president of Advanced Supply Chain International, said he got in touch with the Republican State Leadership Committee when he heard it wanted to spend money in Alaska. He was already involved in one pro-business organization, Prosperity Alaska, but created the Accountability Project because he didn't want to muddle the older group with election politics, he said.
The contribution by the RSLC, which is not affiliated with the Republican Party, amounted to 70 percent of the $142,023 raised by the Accountability Project as of its most recent report Wednesday. Advanced Supply Chain accounted for another 17 percent, with the remainder coming from other business groups or individuals.
While oil taxes are a concern of his, Hawkins said, the legislators he targeted are those with failing ratings on Prosperity Alaska's "report card" on numerous development and business issues. He called them the "far left crowd," a group of mostly Democrats but also Republican Senate President Gary Stevens of Kodiak and Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka.
"We're trying to raise the voice of the private sector," Hawkins said by phone from Arizona, where he is on a road trip. "The reason I approached the RSLC is because we're getting so horrifically outspent by organized labor."
The most negative of his anti-Democrat material ties incumbents to President Obama, he said.
Rep. Les Gara, a Democratic House member from Anchorage not targeted by the Accountability Project, said the RSLC appears to be avoiding disclosure of its own contributors by giving its money to the Alaska group instead of making its own independent campaign. He called it "money laundering" through the Accountability Project, but Hawkins and Walter both said they were following the law.
Gara was instrumental in passing a disclosure bill through Legislature to temper the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United case, which opened the door to unlimited contributions to super PACs by corporations and unions. The Alaska law requires independent groups to disclose their top three contributors in each ad.
The disclosure in the Accountability Project's mailers includes the Republican State Leadership Committee and Advanced Supply Chain International.
But Gara says the disclosures should drill down further and reveal that the RSLC is supported by health insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and oil giants like Exxon and Koch Industries, owned by the conservative Koch brothers, according to the nonpartisan website OpenSecrets.org.
Gara said he wasn't planning on challenging the legality of the way the RSLC contribution was reported. "All I can do is try to shine some light on who these folks are so voters aren't in the dark about it," he said.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER