Wealthy Pebble project opponent Brian Kraft lost his bid to have the Alaska Public Offices Commission punish Gov. Sarah Palin for her public declaration opposing an anti-mining, clean water ballot initiative six days before it was soundly rejected by Alaskan voters.
Kroft, a hedge fund manager, and owner-operator of the Alaska Sportsmen's Lodge, has funded several campaigns in opposition to Anglo American and Northern Dynasty's proposed Pebble Mine, which would be situated near Bristol Bay, a popular sports fishery.
In a complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission last August, Kraft said a statement the governor in response to a question during a press conference allegedly violated a state statue, which restricts the use of state money to influence the outcome of a ballot proposition referendum, unless funds have been specifically earmarked for that purpose.
Oral argument on the case took place before the commission on April 23, 2009. On April 25, 2009, Kraft filed a motion regarding the ballot measure's opponents' use of the official photograph that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News.
In their opinion issued Friday, the commission noted that, other than money spent for a special posting on Ballot Measure 4 on the Department of Natural Resources website, no state funds were spent to influence the outcome of the vote. We do not find Kraft's argument persuasive because the Governor's statement did not require the state to spend any money, the commission said.
The commission also determined Palin did not authorize the use of her photo in the ad opposing the ballot initiative.
The Commission is also concerned with the free speech implications of a ruling that attempts to regulate what the Governor can say, the opinion said.
The Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum porphyry project consists of two contiguous deposits. Pebble West is a near surface resource of approximately 4.1 billion metric tons that, if developed, would likely be mined by conventional open-pit mining techniques. Pebble East is significantly deeper than Pebble West and contains generally higher grade ore. Its size is currently estimated at 3.4 billion metric tons.
Ballot Initiative 4 was resoundingly defeated by Alaska votes in December after the mining industry and its supporters said passage of the clean water amendment could cripple gold mine expansions and any future gold mining projects in the state.