APOC mulls fine over rapid-fire disclaimer in pro-Dunleavy ad
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) will soon decide whether to fine a group that backed Gov. Mike Dunleavy's run for office last year, based on a lengthy disclaimer on a radio ad state staffers say aired too fast to be readily heard.
The commission met Thursday in Anchorage to consider the proposed $900 fine against Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy (FFAF), a group unaffiliated with his gubernatorial campaign, according to APOC paralegal Michael Schwahn.
“The commission chose to take that order under advisement, so we will see a final order within the next 10 days on the complaint,” Schwahn said.
A complaint against Families For Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy was brought last year by departing state Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, who unsuccessfully asked APOC to remove the ad from the airwaves. Steve Strait, the group’s chair, acknowledged in November that the speed of the disclaimer was “a little fast” and said it would be changed.
KTVA staff listening to the one-minute ad posted online by APOC heard its disclaimer, which begins at 43 seconds into the clip, relay the following 73 words in 13 seconds – a sustained rate of roughly 5.6 words per second.
“This communication was paid for by Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy; Steve Strait, chairman, approved this message. 645 G Street, Suite 100, PBM 1071, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. The top contributors to Families for Alaska’s Future-Dunleavy are the Republican Governors Association, Washington, D.C.; Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C.; GOPAC, Washington, D.C. This notice to voters is required by Alaska state law. We certify this advertisement is not authorized, paid for or approved by candidate.”
According to a memo written by Schwahn, a replacement disclaimer was later prepared for the ad, but the original ran from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2 — just before the Nov. 6 general election in which Dunleavy prevailed over Democrat Mark Begich. Staff at APOC found both the original disclaimer and its replacement “indiscernible,” rejecting a claim by its creators that state law requiring disclaimers to be “easily heard” is subjective.
“If the Commission were to accept FFAF’s argument that ‘easily heard’ is a subjective standard and thus cannot be applied to the ads, unintelligible audio disclaimers read at breakneck speed, such as the ones in this case, would be considered legal, as long as it could be proven that the required information was hidden inside,” Schwahn wrote.
After initial messages APOC left in November with FFAF’s attorney weren’t returned, Schwahn recommended imposing the full penalty — which the commission can reduce by 50 percent if a group is an “inexperienced filer” of APOC records — as well as investigative costs of $212.50.
Jeff Bridges contributed information to this story.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.