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Report rips foes of Pebble mine prospect

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published June 6, 2009

Key opponents of the Pebble mine prospect used a sham organization and otherwise hid the source of about $2 million that fueled an initiative last summer to block the mine, Alaska Public Offices Commission staff concluded in a report released Friday.

The APOC staff report details numerous violations of state campaign law, recommends maximum fines, and suggests the commission consider sending the case to the state Attorney General's Office for a criminal investigation.

The staff was investigating a complaint brought in March by the two companies trying to develop the proposed copper and gold mine, along with the Resource Development Council, an Anchorage-based pro-business group.

Such staff reports normally go to the commission for a hearing and a decision. In this case, however, the commission has arranged for a hearing officer and the next steps weren't clear late Friday.

Nearly 90 percent of the $2.9 million that Alaskans for Clean Water used to push Ballot Measure 4 came directly or indirectly from Anchorage money manager Bob Gillam, an avid fisherman who owns a large home on Lake Clark near the Pebble prospect, the APOC report said.

Alaskans for Clean Water was the public face behind the anti-Pebble campaign, but the source of much of its funding was a mystery during the buildup to the statewide vote on Aug. 26. The "Clean Water" initiative, billed as way to stop Pebble, was rejected by voters.

Gillam gave $855,000 directly to Alaskans for Clean for Water -- much more than he previously disclosed -- and funneled another $1.6 million through a Washington, D.C., group called Americans for Job Security, plus $150,000 through the Anchorage-based Renewable Resources Coalition, the new report said.

"The use of another organization to hide the true source of a contribution would violate the basic tenet that voters have a right to know where the money is coming from," the report said.

To further his cause, the report said, Gillam recruited three other men: Anchorage political consultant Art Hackney, Renewable Resources Coalition president Richard Jameson, and Michael Dubke, a political consultant who was the sole employee of Americans for Job Security for a decade, ending in March 2008. Hackney is one of the original directors of the Renewable Resources Coalition and a board member of Americans for Job Security.

"However, as might (be) expected when the staff and directors of these organizations were so intertwined, the corporate boundaries were blurred, crossed and ignored. These actions have resulted in numerous violations of the campaign disclosure laws," the report said.

Gillam, Hackney, Jameson and Dubke essentially functioned as a political campaign group, but never registered as one, and should face the maximum penalty for failing to do so, the report said. The amount depends on how long the group operated and wasn't specified.

Gillam and the accused organizations -- the Renewable Resources Coalition, Alaskans for Clean Water, and Americans for Job Security -- responded Friday with a written statement:

"The APOC staff report misstates the facts, disregards the law, and ignores an advisory opinion issued by the Alaska Public Offices Commission last spring that reached a very different conclusion on these issues.

"The respondents are confident that substantial evidence, ignored by APOC staff, will prove that they carefully complied with the law. The staff's conclusions are simply wrong, and we will welcome the opportunity to present the facts in this matter to the Commission for review."

Hackney said he thought the staff report "will get torn to pieces" by the commission.

"The long and short of it is that it's a bunch of crap. Absolute crap," Hackney said. "We were about as squeaky clean as we could get in terms of disclosure."

The commission includes two Democrats, two Republicans and a fifth member nominated by the rest. Gov. Sarah Palin appointed all the current members except the current chair, Elizabeth Hickerson, a Democrat.

The staff report said that Americans for Job Security was a "sham entity" that illegally allowed money to pass through it.

"AJS has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country," the report said.

APOC staff found the Renewable Resources Coalition illegally passed money through it, failed to register as a political group, failed to report its political activities, and failed to report expenditures. The staff found the clean water group accepted illegal contributions and failed to report all contributions.

The report calls for maximum fines for the organizations involved.

Hackney is also the creator of a television advertisement now airing against the Pebble project and sponsored by a group called Alaska Wild Salmon Protection Inc. The new APOC report said that corporation was created as a way for Gillam to employ lobbyists without disclosing he was doing so.

A pro-Pebble group, Truth about Pebble, on Friday called the new ad blatantly false and asked for it to be pulled.

Hackney said the ad was on target and he wasn't taking it off the air.

Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

By LISA DEMER

ldemer@adn.com

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