Alaska TV stations warned not to air tea-party ad
JUNEAU, Alaska — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign is warning Alaska broadcasters not to air an ad by a national tea-party group that the campaign says is “littered with lies and intentional mischaracterizations” about her and her write-in campaign.
Attorney Timothy McKeever, in a letter to broadcasters yesterday, said they are under a “legal and moral obligation” not to air the new ad from Tea Party Express, which is supporting Joe Miller, the political upstart who defeated Murkowski in the August GOP primary.
Under federal regulations, “broadcast stations must allow ‘reasonable access’ to their airtime to candidates for Federal office,” McKeever wrote. But “this provision applies only to candidates and does not apply to advertisements which a station broadcasts at the request of non-candidate groups. … For messages proposed by such groups broadcast stations have the right and the obligation to make sure that the messages are truthful and accurate.”
A Tea Party Express spokesman said his initial reaction was that the group stood behind the ad.
At issue is an advertisement the group unveiled yesterday, titled “Arrogant Lisa Murkowski — You Lost!” It seeks to paint Murkowski as more interested in political self-preservation than in serving the interests of Alaskans. It also claims she didn’t “earn” her Senate seat and that she “tried to manipulate the Libertarian party into giving her their slot” on the ballot — claims McKeever called “materially false.”
Murkowski was appointed to the seat her father held when he became governor in 2002; she won it in her own right in 2004.
Murkowski has said friends — without her direction — approached the party to see what it would take for her name to appear as a Libertarian candidate and that she was not about to change her beliefs for political expediency.
Scott Kohlhaas, the Libertarian party’s chairman, said he did have a “get-to-know-you” with Murkowski’s then-campaign manager, John Bitney, who could not be reached in time for this story.
Libertarian leaders waited for Murkowski to ask for a ballot line but she never did, Kohlhaas said.
The party didn’t feel manipulated by Murkowski, he said. “Tempted, another story,” Kohlhaas said yesterday. “But manipulated, no.”
Tea Party Express also made claims about Murkowski’s record during the primary that she called mischaracterizations or lies.
For example, it repeated the claim — which Miller also stated — that she opposed repealing the federal health-care overhaul. Murkowski vehemently denied that and pointed to her record to back her up. Both Tea Party Express and Miller have stood behind the claim and the campaigns they ran.
Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell said the group has tried to “put out the purest form of the truth.” The ads unveiled for reporters yesterday were finished over the weekend, and the group hoped to make ad buys that would have them on the air this week.
During the primary, Tea Party Express reported spending more than $550,000 to help Miller, a Sarah Palin-supported candidate who favors limiting the powers of the federal government to those outlined in the Constitution.
The group has pledged to do whatever it takes to beat Murkowski in November — including spending $100,000 or more on print and broadcast ads and direct mail.
“Lisa, we beat you once, and we will beat you again,” chairwoman Amy Kremer said in Anchorage yesterday. She called Murkowski a “political diva.”
Murkowski has acknowledged not being ready for the impact the group would have. It ran seemingly ubiquitous ads in the primary’s final stretch after touring the state for weeks, holding at-times sparsely attended rallies.
Murkowski promised to avoid a repeat this time. She is running ads aimed at Tea Party Express featuring people vowing not to be “fooled” again, saying the group is poised to drop a “dirty money bomb” and is trying to “take our seat.”
Murkowski has called Tea Party Express an outside “extremist” group that “hijacked” the state GOP.
Eddie Burke, a former radio talk-show host and spokesman for the nascent Anchorage Tea Party, said his group asked Tea Party Express — which he termed “powerful” — to return to Alaska to help defeat Murkowski. He said it did this because the state and country are worth fighting for.