June 16, 2011 |

APOC renews investigation into Thomas ads

With the Alaska Legislative session over for the year, the Alaska Public Offices Commission has renewed its investigation involving a complaint against five Haines individuals for a series of ads last summer featuring Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines.

"We are looking into the matter," said APOC executive director Paul Dauphinais.

The 17 "thank you" ads ran last summer in the Chilkat Valley News during Thomas’ re-election campaign for the state House of Representatives. Haines resident Jim Studley, who served as deputy treasurer of Thomas’ campaign, organized the ads. The ads were paid for by residents and businesses supporting Thomas.

Complainant and Anchorage activist Linda Kellen contended no required paperwork was filed with APOC for any of the ads. She brought her complaint against Studley and four other individuals who organized the advertising because she said they also were involved with the campaign.

In a November report to the commission, APOC staff said only two of the ads that contained the word "vote" amounted to political speech regulated by the commission. They also said the ads didn’t meet the requirements of "proper independent expenditures." As those ads weren’t truly independent and were coordinated by individuals listed as campaign officials, they were prohibited, according to staff.

The staff reported that Thomas was informed that the thank-you ads would run but was not involved or consulted in the creating of the ads.

The staff report recommended Thomas be fined $50 and publish a "remedial ad" to correct the two ads. They also recommended some of the individuals involved with the advertising attend training sessions on independent expenditures.

After a staff report is issued on an investigation, the commission decides whether to adopt its recommendations. But the investigation was halted during the legislative session because legislators have immunity under the constitution while the legislature is in session.

Dauphinais said APOC does not publicly discuss any matter under investigation unless it is decided to bring the item up at one of the commission’s regularly scheduled meetings.

The next scheduled APOC meeting is September 14-16.