Reasons campaigns are so expensive

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

Kathleen Monahan would like to know who has "forced" candidates to spend large sums of money to get elected to local office. I think I can answer her question.

Five years ago, an incumbent assemblyperson was challenged by a newcomer, Jim Powell. The incumbent ran what was considered at that time a very aggressive campaign, and ended up spending a little over $20,000. Mr. Powell broke all records for local election campaigns and spent about $27,000. Mr. Powell won.

Three years later, Mr. Powell was up for re-election and was in turn challenged for his seat. The challenger looked at what Mr. Powell spent on his successful first campaign and budgeted accordingly. She ended up spending about $25,000. She also went door-to-door for three weeks, attended all free forums and used every opportunity to meet voters and spread the word about her campaign. Despite her efforts, she was defeated by Mr. Powell, who spent an unprecedented (and obscene?) $45,000 to get re-elected.

As it turns out, the voters of Juneau were not aware the incumbent was spending so much money. After a complaint was filed with APOC, Mr. Powell was eventually found in violation of APOC campaign disclosure regulations and fined $1,500. His wife, state Rep. Beth Kertulla, served as his campaign treasurer.

Instead of asking this year's candidates why they feel it necessary to spend $20,000 to $25,000, perhaps Ms. Monahan should ask Mr. Powell and Ms. Kertulla why they felt it was necessary to spend $45,000 on a re-election campaign for local office. She can also ask them why they felt it necessary to use Anchorage firms for media ads and polling. Maybe then she can come to a better understanding of how election campaigns now work in Juneau as compared to five years ago.

Betsy Fischer


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