My turn: Why Ballot Measure No. 1 is bad news for everyone

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When I first considered sending an opinion piece to the Juneau Empire several weeks ago, I had just participated in preparation of the "con" statement for the Division of Elections Voter Pamphlet and this issue was on the top of my mind.

Ballot Measure No. 1 has been billed as the "Anti-Corruption" Initiative by the proponents, but in reality is a dangerous threat to our Constitutional right to free speech as well a threat to our right to petition our government as citizens.

The stated goal of the initiative is to end publicly-funded lobbying, which on its face may resonate with many. But, it is instead a deceptive attempt to restrict political participation in the name of open government. These restrictions go too far, limiting individuals involved in government contracting, along with all of their "immediate family," which includes in-laws, step-relations, nieces and nephews, among many others.

Proponents say it will stop instances wherein holders of government contracts trade campaign contributions for more government contracts. Even if this were a problem, state procurement rules require that all contracts worth more than $5,000 be competitively bid. Local government rules are similar - most "no-bid" contracts are smaller contracts worth less than $5,000 for items such as catering a meeting.

Proponents acknowledge the initiative is flawed, but ask Alaska voters to let the courts work it out. It is difficult to understand the validity of this rationale which implies even more expense to Alaskans in a costly and unnecessary court challenge.

Communities would be prohibited from reimbursing the travel expenses of local officials who travel to Juneau or Washington to discuss local needs with lawmakers. It would negatively impact the working relationships between non-profit organizations that do much of the on the ground work on behalf of all Alaskans and state or local entities with who they partner financially - resulting in a far greater expense to the public.

Finally, I just have a huge aversion to instigators from outside of Alaska trying to manipulate the voters of our state, simply because they think they can. The real money behind this Initiative comes from a gentleman named Howie Rich who targets geographically larger states with smaller more dispersed populations where a statute or constitutional amendment can be passed through a ballot initiative. These thinly populated states have relatively low thresholds to qualify for the ballot - the fewer signatures necessary, the less it costs to pay for the signatures to be collected. The news media in those states also charge lower rates for advertising, reducing those costs for a campaign.

Examples of recent activity include Montana, Colorado and South Dakota. It failed in Montana and South Dakota ($1.2 million was spent to educate voters to defeat it) and it passed on Colorado and subsequently was found to be unconstitutional. So in a nutshell, this is the issue.

A more recent development is the national group identified above has pulled financial support from the election effort because of the APOC ruling that they must more specifically identify contributors. And this is the group that purports to be looking for more transparency in government! Their actions are disingenuous at best. However, it was too late to pull Ballot Measure No. 1 from the primary election ballot. Many diverse organizations and individuals across the state have formed a coalition to defeat this proposition. There is very little time between now and Aug. 24th. People really need to understand what is at stake - and vote No on No. 1!

• Hagevig is a former member of the City an Borough of Juneau Assembly. She currently lives in Douglas.

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