A Libertarian group backing a controversial ballot measure said Thursday it is suspending its campaign for Measure 1, and is accusing Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell of crafting a ballot title biased against the measure.
It's not clear how much of a campaign the lightly funded initiative sponsors would have been able to mount, however.
"There's probably hardly any money," said Robert Clift, one of the three initiative sponsors, all Anchorage libertarians.
Both those for and against the measure are battling to shape the debate using language. The ballot title is "The Alaska Anti-Corruption Act," which may favor the sponsors, who are calling themselves the "Clean Team."
Opposing the measure is the "Stop the Gag Law" coalition, a group supported by the Alaska Municipal League and the Alaska AFL-CIO.
The coalition was continuing its efforts despite the claim by its opponents of a suspended campaign.
"Given the potential impacts for Alaskans and their families, and the fact that this initiative will still appear before voters on the primary ballot on August 24, we're going to keep informing the public about the negative consequences contained in this rambling, poorly worded initiative," said Josh Applebee, Stop the Gag Law campaign manager, in statement issued Thursday.
The changes to the ballot language imposed by the lieutenant governor, who oversees elections in Alaska, add detail about what the measure would do, such as including the fact that it would also bar family members of those with government contracts from making political contributions.
Those changes, though, will help the Stop the Gag Law campaign against their initiative, said Jason Cline, spokesman for the Clean Team Alaska.
"The new ballot summary is tailored around their message," he said.
Cline said his group declined an offer from the Alaska Department of Law to help draft new ballot language.
"It was a clear message to us," he said. "As we're trying to stop backroom deals, they're offering us a backroom deal.
Cline said that while the campaign for the measure currently has no money, they'd been planning to do both radio and television commercials.
"We were ready to do a full campaign, with media buys," he said.
Whether those commercials ever aired would have depended on whether they could have found donors to pay for them, he said.
"The new ballot title will make it difficult to attract donations," he said.
Cline complained that the Clean Team's opponent, the Alaska Municipal League, is using public funds from cities to fight the measure.
The Stop the Gag Law campaign said the new ballot language made it clear that relatives of those with public contracts - including nieces, nephews, in-laws, parents and grandparents - could face the measure's restrictions and penalties, and supported the action of the lieutenant governor.
"Alaskans had the right to know exactly what they were voting on," Applebee said.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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