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Initiative may reach ballot without disclosures

Group looking to restore Coastal Management says it is fully complying with all contribution rules

Posted: January 10, 2012 - 12:02am
Signature gatherer Will Race watches Marrisa Capito sign a citizens' ballot initiative to restore the Alaska Coastal Management program at Safeway on Monday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Signature gatherer Will Race watches Marrisa Capito sign a citizens' ballot initiative to restore the Alaska Coastal Management program at Safeway on Monday.

Despite new laws aimed at letting the public know who is providing the financial backing for ballot initiatives, the way the Alaska Sea Party is conducting its campaign means it will be able to evade that scrutiny.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, chairman of the group trying to restore the Coastal Management program to Alaska after the Legislature let it expire last year, says his group is complying with all the disclosure rules.

“We’re fully compliant with the law,” said Botelho, a former attorney general for the state of Alaska under two governors.

The Legislature two years ago strengthened disclosure rules, trying to let Alaskans know not just who was asking for their vote after a measure was on the ballot, but also who was asking for their signature to qualify for the ballot in the first place.

The new rules are aimed at requiring initiative campaigns to file contribution and expenditure information early in the process, but the Alaska Sea Party hopes to have collected the 26,000 signatures it needs to get on the ballot and filed them with the state Elections Division before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 17.

With signature gathering in full swing and thousands already collected, it’s possible enough signatures will be collected before there’s a formal public report on the sponsor’s finances.

The first disclosure report for the fourth quarter of 2011 should have already been filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission already, but won’t be processed and made public likely until Thursday, said Paul Dauphinais, the commission’s executive director.

Rep. Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, said that’s not what he had in mind when he was prime sponsor two years ago of the legislation requiring the public be given more information during the key period in which a measure is qualifying for the ballot.

“There’s not a lot we can do right now,” he said.

“If there are loopholes and ways of getting around it, I think those need to be addressed,” Johansen said.

Botelho said the Alaska Sea Party was not trying to withhold information about their contributors from the public, but that it was doing the best it could with a small, all-volunteer organization.

“From my perspective, we’ve been pretty forthright,” he said.

Last week Botelho declined to release fundraising information when requested by the Empire.

Monday, he said they’d be reporting contributions of about $67,000 to APOC today.

The initiative’s biggest contributors are the North Slope Borough at $25,000; the Aleutian Pribilof Community Development Association and the Alaska Conference of Mayors at $10,000 each; the city of Valdez, the Alaska Municipal League and the Western Alaska Community Development Association at $5,000 each; and the Bristol Bay Borough at $4,000, he said.

That information does not appear to be on the APOC website yet, said Dauphinais, though the site is not clear as to what is or isn’t there or what is required.

APOC’s website at first doesn’t appear to even list the Alaska Sea Party, which was registered with the state in October. It can be found under a different name, “AK Sea Party,” however.

“We should have spelled it out,” Dauphinais acknowledged.

APOC’s website, which the public should be able to use to determine public information about ballot measures, needs to be improved so that can happen, he said.

“It’s a disaster, and we know it,” he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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