Oil tax measure group cries foul over ‘attack ad’ that links it to Alaska environmental organization

The group behind a measure to raise taxes on the oil industry said Tuesday that an ad by the Alaska Chamber, which attempts to tie the proposed oil tax increase to outside environmental groups, is misleading and called for it to be yanked off the air.

The 30-second ad says, “Ballot Measure 1 is endorsed by an extreme ballot measure group bankrolled by outside political activists” that wants to shut down the Alaska economy.

It’s referring to the Alaska Center, an environmental group whose top contributors include the Tides Advocacy Fund in San Francisco and the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., according to the center’s website. The Alaska Center is endorsing the ballot initiative.

The Alaska Center has nothing to do with the Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share group, though the Vote Yes group appreciates the Alaska Center’s endorsement, said Robin Brena, chairman of the Vote Yes group. The chamber’s “attack ad” implies that the ballot measure group is bankrolled by extreme environmental groups who aren’t from Alaska, he said.

[Ballot Measure 1 would change how big oil companies operate in Alaska. Here’s how.]

“We haven’t gotten a penny from an environmental outside group,” Brena said. “Everyone on our steering committee that I know of is pro-Alaska and pro oil-development.”

The ad ran online in the Anchorage Daily News, as well as on cable TV stations, on the radio and on Facebook, said Kati Capozzi, president of the Alaska Chamber.


She said the Alaska Chamber formed as an entity for political campaigns in August. The entity will “promote a healthy business environment in Alaska,” according to its filing with state campaign regulators.

“We certainly didn’t say the campaign is funded by extreme environmental groups,” Capozzi said. “We said an extreme environmentalist group has endorsed the Yes campaign and we want to make sure Alaskans understand” who endorsed the measure, she said.

The Alaska Center is an opponent of the Chamber’s efforts to promote the economy in Alaska, she said.

Leah Moss, a spokeswoman for The Alaska Center, said 86% of the group’s financial supporters come from Alaska, though two large supporters are from the Lower 48.

“The ad was surprising to us, since we are not a sponsor (of Ballot Measure 1),” she said. “We are just endorsing it.”

Brena said he thought the ad was ironic due to its funders.

It was funded almost entirely by ConocoPhillips Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska, who provided $400,000 each to the Alaska Chamber entity in late August, according to campaign reports.

The parent companies of ConocoPhillips Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska are based in Houston, Texas.

The oil companies, along with ExxonMobil, are also the major donors to OneAlaska, the campaign opposition group to the Fair Share measure.

The Chamber’s ad, according to its disclosure language, was also funded by Calista Corp., an Alaska Native corporation, which provided $500 to the Chamber, according to the report.

ConocoPhillips and Hilcorp are local, hiring Alaskans and spending billions of dollars in the state to promote development, Capozzi said.

“I would gladly take the funders for (our) ad over the funders for the Alaska Center,” Capozzi said.

The Chamber spent more than $700,000 on the ad, through Brilliant Media Strategies in Anchorage, according to public records.

Voters will decide the oil tax measure on Nov. 3.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.