Lawmaker: Governor's social media advertisement may break ethics rules

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - A social media advertisement from the governor’s office may violate rules that dictate how state funds are used to pay for political ads, according to legal advice received by an Alaska lawmaker.

The question of legality rests on whether the advertisement was made for a partisan political purpose or to benefit the public interest at large.

The ad was posted on one of three pages currently being run by the governor’s office to advocate for the governor’s policy positions and inform the public how they can contact legislators.

“One of the things the governor’s office has done is advocated and let people know how to engage their lawmakers and be involved in the committee process,” said Matt Shuckerow, the governor’s press secretary. He said the office has received numerous requests from people asking how they can get involved in the political process.

Mobile users click here to see one of the ads.

The Division of Legal and Research Services, a non-partisan division that advises the Legislature, sent a memo to Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, stating that the specific ad naming the House majority may break rules on how a public officer uses state funds for partisan political purposes:

"Based on the foregoing, if a complaint were filed against the governor related to the attached ad, the special counsel and the personnel board may determine that producing and paying for the ad constitutes a prohibited use of state funds by a public officer, under AS 39.52.120 (b) (6) of the Executive Branch Ethics Act."

Fields said the governor's decision to use state funds to pay for advertisements targeting specific lawmakers and groups within the Legislature is unprecedented.

The governor’s office disagrees. Shuckerow said the office has “received guidance from the Department of Law permitting this type of activity.”

“This activity is permitted and in no way unprecedented,” he wrote in an email. “Previous administrations, including Governor Walker, have used paid social media and implemented contact your Legislator tools.”

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