In his My Turn, "Clean Elections a bad idea," (July 30) Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics in Washington, D.C., was off the mark equal to the distance from the nation's capital to Alaska.
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Parnell misrepresents Alaskans for Clean Elections' efforts to bring Clean Elections to our state, distorts survey data and generally insults Alaska voters by inferring we are not smart enough to make informed decisions.
Recently, I had the honor of hosting a Clean Elections fundraiser in Anchorage that was truly historic. It was the first time Alaskans from all six recognized state political parties came together to speak to one common goal - clean elections for Alaska.
The speakers included former Alaskan Independent Gov. Walter Hickel, former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, former Republican candidate for U.S Senate David Cuddy, Republican Moderates head Ray Metcalfe, Libertarian Party leader Jason Dowell and Jim Sykes, longtime leader of the Green Party. Constitutional father Vic Fischer wrapped up the evening, reminding us that it was this same common yearning for better government that brought Alaskans together 50 years ago to draft our state constitution.
While Parnell claims we are "using the bribery scandal to rush Alaskans" into adopting Clean Elections, our initiative preceded the VECO Corp. scandal. Clean Elections is about creating a better system for electing our leaders, a system less likely to breed or tolerate corruption. After the numerous guilty pleas, indictments and investigations surrounding state and federal lawmakers in Alaska, isn't it time we put voters and ideas ahead of lobbyists and big campaign donors in our state's political process?
Clean Elections has been around for more than a decade and is working successfully in seven other states, including predominantly Republican Arizona. Contrary to what Parnell claims, Clean Elections is working in the Grand Canyon state. Arizona resident and Clean Elections expert Eric Ehst has the real data:
"1) Incumbent legislative re-election rates dropped significantly after Clean Elections; 2) the average number of candidates is definitely up since before Clean Elections (1998); 3) Clean Elections doesn't limit the amount a candidate can spend. It's a voluntary system. If you want to spend more than the limit, then don't participate."
In Maine, private contributions have been reduced by 77 percent and more diverse candidates are running for office. In Maine more than 84 percent of its legislators voluntarily chose to use the Clean Elections system. In a recent survey, nearly 90 percent of candidates in Maine say they are definitely or are very likely to use the system again.
It is as popular among voters as it is with candidates. Voter turnout in Arizona has increased substantially. More voters from diverse backgrounds are becoming engaged in a political process that limits contributions to a mere $5 maximum. Those who contribute $5 are on a level playing field, be they a janitor, a teacher or a highly paid corporate CEO.
Daily allegations of bribery, suspicious land deals and earmarks for donors have caused many Alaska voters to lose faith in their elected officials. Although Parnell claims the VECO bribery scandal "has nothing to do with campaign contributions or spending," he fails to mention that VECO's Bill Allen Sr. not only pled guilty to bribery in his plea agreement, but also admitted "the total amount of illegal benefits provided to elected public officials, their families and/or their campaigns by Allen and Smith totals an amount greater than $400,000."
Political corruption in Alaska won't suddenly stop if or when a half dozen legislators are convicted of bribery. Clean Elections gets to the root of what is causing the corruption - too much special interest money in Alaska politics. We need all Alaskans to help us in this effort. To learn more about it, visit www.alaskansforcleanelections.org or call 907-230-5617.
Tim June is the chairman of Alaskans for Clean Elections and lives in Haines.