A Democratic senator from Anchorage is asking a campaign backing Republican governor candidate Mike Dunleavy to stop using his voice and picture in pro-Dunleavy ads.
In a press release Monday, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said the Dunleavy for Alaska independent expenditure group “never asked my permission to use my name or image in its ads. In fact, I’ve specifically told them they do not have my permission.”
“It’s deceptive. It’s against my wishes,” Wielechowski said when reached by phone.
The image and an audio clip remains on the front page of the group’s website, and in a press release, the group says it will not take it down.
In the Alaska Senate, Wielechowski has been the most ardent legislative defender of the state’s traditional formula for distributing the Permanent Fund Dividends. For years, he has unsuccessfully attempted to garner legislative support for a constitutional amendment preserving the dividend.
In 2016, he led a charge to overturn Gov. Bill Walker’s partial veto of the dividend, and after the Legislature declined to override that veto, he sued the state, arguing that the veto was unconstitutional.
The Alaska Supreme Court disagreed with the interpretation offered by Wielechowski and upheld Walker’s veto.
In the legislative session that followed, Dunleavy joined Wielechowski in support of constitutional protections for the dividend. Before the veto, Dunleavy had consistently voted in opposition.
“He came around to my view. For five years, he didn’t have my view,” Wielechowski said, adding that he came to appreciate Dunleavy’s support in the Senate.
In an interview earlier this year with KFQD-AM’s Dave Stieren, Wielechowski talked about that support and said they agreed on the Permanent Fund and “a few other issues.”
In the interview, which took place after Dunleavy’s resignation from the Senate, Wielechowski said he missed having Dunleavy in Juneau.
Clips from that interview are being used in pro-Dunleavy ads.
“I was specifically asked, is this an endorsement of Mike Dunleavy? I laughed at that,” Wielechowski said by phone. “I like Mike Dunleavy. I like him personally … but I don’t support him, and in my book, that’s the end of the story.”
Some ads incorporate a 2014 picture of Dunleavy, Wielechowski and Alaska political blogger Jeff Landfield. Until 4 p.m. Monday, the ad used on the group’s website had cropped Landfield to exclude him and move Dunleavy and Wielechowski closer together.
“For me, it’s funny,” Landfield said by phone.
In a press release following Wielechowski’s request, Dunleavy for Alaska manager Terre Gales called Wielechowski’s statements a “ridiculous media stunt” and said the group will continue to run its ads in accordance with the law.
“Dunleavy for Alaska legal consel will respond to Mr. Wielechowski, and any attempts on his part to interfere with DFA’s media contracts will be met with swift legal action,” the group’s statement read.
Gales did not respond to an email or a phone call seeking comment.
Matt Singer, an attorney representing Dunleavy for Alaska, said, “This is a publicity stunt. It’s not a serious legal issue.”
The nearest precedent may be the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign featuring Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan. In that race, the Begich campaign ran advertisements featuring the likeness of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and touted his bipartisan cooperation with Murkowski.
Murkowski responded by appearing in an ad promoting Sullivan, then held a press conference to denounce Begich’s ads.