Actor Panned in NRSC Alaska Ad

Posted September 10, 2004 at 5:13pm

The newest National Republican Senatorial Committee ad being aired in Alaska has the Democratic Senate nominee, former Gov. Tony Knowles, crying “cut.”

As soon as the anti-Knowles spot titled “No Way” began running after Labor Day, Democrats charged that the young man featured in it was an actor.

It turns out they were right.

Whether this has any political impact in a state that is suspicious of outsiders remains to be seen.

The NRSC admits the man is an actor but said that is not relevant.

“The message is the important thing in that ad,” said Dave Hansen, the independent consultant who is handling the NRSC’s Alaska media buys.

Under the new campaign finance law, the party committees must create separate entities to produce and buy political commercials on their behalf.

The ad centers on general Democratic opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a position that is anathema in the Last Frontier.

While Knowles is a strong oil exploration advocate, many Democratic Senators, including presidential nominee John Kerry (Mass.), oppose opening tracts of the vast refuge to drilling.

The actor blasts Knowles for not being able to bring national Democrats around to his position on ANWR.

“We need to tell Tony what they’re all telling us — ‘no way,’” the man says as the words “No Way” and “No to ANWR” flash on the screen.

“Tony Knowles is not going to be able to convince the people he’s going to be working with to vote for ANWR,” Hansen said.

Knowles’ campaign accuses the NRSC of perpetrating a fraud on behalf of his opponent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

“Senator Murkowski’s special interest friends are insulting the intelligence of Alaskans who know that Tony Knowles has always stood up to both parties to open” ANWR to oil drilling, said Knowles’ spokesman, Matt McKenna. “People up here won’t be fooled by some high-priced Hollywood actor telling them how to think.”

The ad was shot in Salt Lake City and produced by a Salt Lake City company called W Communications, which previously has done work for Republican lawmakers from Utah, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop.

In the ad, the star never claims to be an Alaskan, but the language he uses suggests that he is.

For instance, he refers to “our Senator” and uses the pronoun “we.” He never identifies himself.

Even though it is a state in which people are extremely proud about being born and bred Alaskans, and even though they refer to the rest of the country as “outside” and people from the Lower 48 as “Outsiders,” Hansen said he does not anticipate the revelation about the ad will produce a backlash against Murkowski.

Murkowski is a native Alaskan. Knowles was born and raised in Oklahoma but moved to Alaska as a young man in the late 1960s.

In 2002, then-Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa) suffered in his Senate race when news broke that NRSC-sponsored ads slamming Sen. Tom Harkin (D) featured actors and state legislative Republican staffers.

In that case, however, the people were pretending to be regular Iowans and nonpartisans.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the DSCC never uses actors in its ads.