|Twenty-five years of lobbying by Alaska's congressional delegation has not convinced Congress to approve oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Gov. Murkowski thinks he can change that. On April 27 he signed legislation funding a no-bid $3 million grant to Pac/West Communications, an Oregon PR firm that says it will use the money to target key Lower 48 constituencies with direct mail, print and radio ads.
The company has a history of deceiving Alaska voters. During the last election it flooded mail, newspapers and airwaves with bogus, fear-based ads against an initiative that would prohibit using dog food, doughnuts and other bait to attract black bears to shoot them. The company ran ads with messages like, "Don't let Outsiders change ALASKA. Want to know what the supporters of Ballot Measure 3 have to say about hunting? We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States ...' "
I will never forget the full-page ad of an enraged brown bear with its teeth bared, coupled with a caption that read, "What is scarier than this bear in your backyard if the bear ban passes. Vote "No" on Ballot Measure 3. Paid for by Alaskans for Professional Wildlife Management."
The initiative had nothing to do with brown bears. Baiting them had been illegal for decades. Alaskans for Professional Wildlife Management was registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission from Oregon by Jerod Broadfoot, the account manager for Pac/West Communications. His official title for the new organization was campaign manager, and the organization's Web site listed an 800 number that went to him.
According to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, most of the $517,000 he raised came from Outside organizations, $480,000 of which was paid to Pac/West Communications. The quote about banning all hunting across the U.S. was a fabrication.
Citizens United against Bear Baiting, or CUBB, a grassroots Alaska organization composed of hunters, former Board of Game members, wildlife enthusiasts and others, supported the initiative. Former Lt. Gov. Lowell Thomas Jr., Joel Bennett and I served as co-chairs. More than 30,000 Alaska voters signed our petition to put it on the ballot. The vast majority of the $122,000 raised came from Alaska organizations and individuals.
Broadfoot distributed a brochure with a photo depicting our group as Greenpeace demonstrators. Greenpeace had no involvement and the photo was a forgery, as evidenced by the word "GREENPEACE" digitized onto the banner and the lack of a logo that Greenpeace says it uses on all of its banners. He also tried to register our group's name as his own so as to prevent us from using it, but was bluntly told by the commission that he couldn't do that.
The most underhanded move was having Congressman Don Young claim in the voters' pamphlet, "This initiative is being proposed by out-of-state extremists like Greenpeace and P.E.T.A." Published by the state, the pamphlet was considered by voters to be a reliable aid when determining their vote.
Prior to publication, I asked the administration to remove the bogus statement. Greenpeace also wrote to the state saying, "Please be advised that any reference to Greenpeace in association with Ballot Measure 3 should be deleted before this false information is disseminated to the public." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a letter that said, "PETA has not contributed funds toward the effort to ban bear-baiting in Alaska."
The requests were ignored. More than 325,000 copies were printed and distributed to voters.
Executive vice-president Tim Wigley, described in a Pac/West Communications press release as "instrumental in the 2004 'No on 3' campaign in Alaska, defeating Greenpeace," outlined his philosophy in these terms:
"We can be as pure and right as we wish -- and we'll lose again! I'm in this battle to win."
Following their victory, Paul Phillips, the firm's president, gave $250 to Alaskans for Don Young.
The administration is making a huge mistake by hiring Pac/West Communications. Members of Congress will not be amused when they discover their constituents are being targeted with oil-drilling promotional ads.
Paul Joslin is a wildlife biologist and former co-chair of Citizens United against Bear Baiting.