Who’s behind the ads attacking Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson?

For a little over a year, a nonprofit called the 907 Initiative has been producing TV and radio spots, digital advertising, newspaper editorials, mailers and yard signs in Anchorage, almost all of it targeting Mayor Dave Bronson.

They look like typical political attack ads, but the progressive organization is carefully avoiding the line that triggers campaign finance disclosure laws.

Recent ads feature dramatic music, unflattering photos and the slogan, “Incompetence has a price tag.”

Bronson said he became aware of the campaign over the summer. He said it hasn’t affected him personally.

“The message is no more important than the messenger,” Bronson said. “Find out who they are and where they get their money and I think that will answer a lot of the questions for you.”

907 Initiative founder and executive director Aubrey Wieber said the organization advocates for progressive values, but its work isn’t about influencing elections. He describes it like this:

“Government watchdog, civic advocacy type of organization,” he said in a recent interview. “And basically, work to educate the public on issues, elected officials. And the idea is to reach people on a variety of mediums.”


The group is advocating for following the law and good governance, said Wieber, a former Anchorage Daily News reporter.

Focusing on issues rather than elections is an important distinction: Alaska’s campaign finance laws say third-party groups that spend money supporting or opposing someone running for office must be more transparent. For example, they have to disclose who their donors are.

Alaska political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt said he thinks the 907 Initiative’s work is clearly designed to affect public opinion, but it’s not electioneering.

“We’ve been running issue ads in Alaska forever on all sorts of things,” he said. “And this squarely, I think, fits in it. So it feels political, but nonetheless, it’s allowable.”

Lottsfeldt said he is a volunteer for the campaign of mayoral candidate Suzanne LaFrance, who’s running against Bronson, but has no ties with the 907 Initiative.

Wieber said he has consulted the state commission that deals with campaign finance to stay clear of electioneering. Like many nonprofits, he said, he won’t say who is financially backing his organization.

“It’s a really standard thing,” Wieber said. “It’s a tense environment. I get violent threats on a pretty regular basis. And so, (I) try to just minimize the impacts of that, I suppose.”

The initiative has donors from in-state and out of state, and started last year without much seed money, Wieber said. He recently hired the nonprofit’s second employee.

While social media advertising is only a part of the 907 Initiative’s spending, Meta does disclose some data about advertisers on its social media platforms. According to the Meta ad library, the 907 Initiative has spent about $45,000 just on Facebook and Instagram ads in the last year. Google also has an ad library but doesn’t disclose spending figures. Putting out mailers and reserving ad time through local broadcasters also often costs thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

And the 907 Initiative’s current board members are public:

Many of the ads criticize Bronson for the city’s snow removal effort after record storms in December 2022 and again last month.

The 907 Initiative would’ve treated a different mayor the same, Wieber said, even if their politics were more aligned with the organization.

“If somebody else, another leader had misstep after misstep … yeah, we would definitely look at that,” he said, regardless of politics.

Meanwhile, the messaging is getting a lot of attention.

During an Anchorage Assembly meeting last month, chair Chris Constant came close to echoing the 907 Initiative’s slogan.

“This, my friends, is the cost of incompetence,” he said, near the end of a lengthy dispute over whether the Bronson administration had overstepped its contracting authority.

Wieber worked on Constant’s unsuccessful run for Congress last year. Constant said the similarity between his comment and the slogan was coincidental. He said he isn’t part of the 907 Initiative.


But Constant has promoted the organization’s content. Constant posted a five-image reel on Instagram last month featuring an Alaska Public Media headline of Mayor Bronson announcing “We are ready” for snow, followed by photos of the 907 Initiative’s yard signs with the slogan and Bronson’s face buried by snow. The reel has more than 97,000 plays.

It’s just politics, Bronson said.

“This is my opinion: They’re working to make sure I’m defeated in April, so they’re doing what they have to do,” he said. “You know, they have the right to do that.”

Ballots for the April 2 mayoral election will be mailed in March.

The 907 Initiative has, so far, been involved in just one other high-profile political matter. During the 2022 fall election cycle, it worked with the Alaska Public Interest Research Group to file two campaign finance complaints against groups that campaigned for Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection.

In one complaint, the groups accused the Republican Governors Association and the group A Stronger Alaska of illegally coordinating with the governor’s reelection campaign. Federal courts have ruled that independent groups like these can raise and spend unlimited amounts on elections, so long as they don’t coordinate with an official campaign.

In a second complaint, they accused the Republican Governors Association of using A Stronger Alaska as a “sham” organization to obfuscate campaign activities and failing to fulfill various campaign disclosure requirements.

The accused organizations deny they did anything illegal or improper.


As a result of the complaints, the Alaska Public Offices Commission tried to investigate further and subpoena records from the two groups, but the groups challenged the legality of the commission’s order and refused to comply.

The two sides continue to fight it out in state Superior Court.

This story originally appeared on Alaska Public Media and is republished here with permission.