Politics

Campaign regulators recommend $3,850 fine against group opposing salmon measure

Staff with the state agency overseeing Alaska campaign finance laws recommends a fine against the industry-backed group fighting the Stand for Salmon measure, for violations associated with the group's name.

Stand for Alaska — Vote No on One, was improperly named for about three months when it called itself Stand for Alaska, without the ending that now clearly shows opposition to the measure, as required by law, staff with the Alaska Public Offices Commission concluded in an Aug. 11 report.

The report from Tom Lucas, campaign disclosure coordinator for APOC, recommends a maximum fine of $3,850 against Stand for Alaska-Vote No on One, partly for that violation. Other violations were related to YouTube videos with "paid-for-by" lines incorrectly bearing the group's previous name for 16 days to 24 days, depending on the video.

An official with the opposition group said they made an honest mistake, while an official with Stand for Salmon said their opponent tried to sow confusion to gain an advantage.

The measure goes before voters in November. Opponents have argued it will stop projects across the state. Supporters say it will protect salmon and other fish, without hurting the Alaska economy.

The report's recommended maximum penalty is half of what it could be. Lucas notes that this is the opposition group's first election cycle, and the group is an "inexperienced filer."

"This is a pretty nitpicky kind of thing," Kati Capozzi, campaign manager of the Stand for Alaska group, said of the complaint.

As soon as the measure was assigned a number by the state — Ballot Measure 1 — the opposition group in mid-June tagged "Vote No on One" to its name, Capozzi said.

Lucas' report said the group should have changed its name in March, when the state certified the Stand for Salmon initiative for the ballot.

Capozzi thought her group had taken the required steps at that time, changing its group type to a ballot opposition group, from an initiative opposition group.

Capozzi said her group fixed the ads as soon as it understood the nature of the Stand for Salmon complaint, filed with APOC on July 6.

Ryan Schryver, director of Stand for Salmon, said their opponent faces a losing battle and took inappropriate steps to confuse voters.

"They have to create distrust and confusion to be successful," he said.

Stand for Alaska had raised $9 million by late July, with large sums coming from oil and mining companies, APOC records show. The group had spent $2.7 million.

Stand for Salmon raised $1.1 million through mid-August, with much of that recorded as "non-monetary" staff time, such as education or voter outreach, from groups such as The Alaska Center or the Wild Salmon Center in Oregon. It has spent about $1 million.

The agency's commissioners considered staff's recommendation for the fine on Wednesday. The board expects to make a decision on a possible penalty by Sept. 8.