Ballot Measure 1′s oil company opponents must disclose Outside headquarters, former lawmaker argues in complaint

A former Alaska lawmaker is filing a complaint with state campaign regulators alleging that an opposition group to the proposed oil tax increase is violating the law by running ads that don’t disclose the out-of-state headquarters of its large oil company donors.

The ads, run by OneAlaska - Vote No on One, are “illegally misleading” Alaskans by listing the top three contributors to the ads — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips Alaska and Hilcorp — as being Anchorage, Alaska companies, said Les Gara, a member of the steering committee for Vote Yes For Alaska’s Fair Share and a former state representative from Anchorage.

Gara said he helped write the “right to know” law and advocated for raising oil taxes while he served in the Legislature.

In other advertising, OneAlaska has also improperly listed the location of BP Alaska as Anchorage, Gara said. He said on Friday the complaint has been filed with Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Gara said that while BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Hilcorp have subsidiaries in Alaska, state law requires the disclosure of the companies' principal place of business, Gara said. Their principal place of business for ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Hilcorp are their headquarters in Texas, and BP’s headquarters in London, he said. The ads need to say that, not Anchorage, said Gara.

“There can only be one principal place of business,” even if a company owns 100 other subsidiaries all over the world, Gara said, adding that the courts, state law and logic support that determination.

Kara Moriarty, campaign manager for OneAlaska, called the complaint “frivolous."


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

“The law says you list a principal place of business, not the parent company," Moriarty said. “Those are two different things, so that is what we believe is factually and legally wrong with this complaint.”

OneAlaska has used the “Anchorage, Alaska” disclosure for about a year, she said.

“It seems a little odd to me we are getting this complaint just 18 days before the election,” she said.

“If APOC chooses to hold an expedited hearing, we look forward to pointing out how we have been following the law.”

The citizen-led Fair Share proposal, or Ballot Measure 1, seeks to raise oil production taxes on ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Hilcorp, the leading oil producers in Alaska.

Along with BP, which is trying to complete the sale of its assets to Hilcorp and leave Alaska, the companies have contributed the vast majority of the more than $18.5 million OneAlaska has raised.

[Ballot Measure 1 pits Alaska’s biggest oil companies against a citizen effort led by an oil and gas attorney]

With little time before the vote on Nov. 3, and many Alaskans already voting, Gara said he has asked the agency to expedite the complaint.

“Alaskans have legal right to know who is trying to influence them with campaign ads, and when Outside corporations are trying to influence our elections,” Gara said in a statement on Friday.

The OneAlaska group late last month filed its own APOC complaint against the Fair Share group. The group asserts that some of the Fair Share Facebook ads did not properly include the state of residence of their top three contributors, including the group’s chair, Robin Brena, and his family-owned real estate company, or include a message of approval from Brena. The ads did list the city, Anchorage, but not the state. Two additional ads included no disclaimer at all, OneAlaska said.

APOC has not taken any action yet on that complaint, said Matt Singer, an Anchorage attorney for the OneAlaska group.

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.