Backers of Ballot Measure 1, which would ban campaign contributions from government contractors and prohibit public agencies from using public money for lobbying, have bailed out. They say that a revised ballot summary approved by Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell biases the issue in favor of initiative opponents, which include local governments, unions, school districts, lawmakers and the state Chamber of Commerce.
But the new summary merely adds details to the old one, accurately reflects the full text of the initiative and provides voters more information. If the initiative is good for Alaska, a more informative summary should please the sponsors.
Instead, the sponsors further say there's no point taking their case to court, as the law provides, because the court system is just as corrupt as the political system they're trying to change.
So they've taken their ball and gone home.
Yes, the lieutenant governor adopted the new summary provided by the state Department of Law at the behest of Measure 1 foes, who said the original summary adopted in 2008 by then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell didn't give voters the full scope of the initiative.
For example, the prohibition against government contractors contributing to political campaigns extends to family members, including aunts, uncles, grandparents and in-laws. The original summary didn't include that fact. And the new summary spells out that the public-money lobbying ban includes school districts and local governments, so that school superintendent Carol Comeau, for example, might not be able to visit Juneau at public expense to seek state money for Anchorage schools -- unless invited to do so by lawmakers. Nor could Mayor Dan Sullivan lobby the Legislature on the city's dime to argue for revenue sharing or fund a city project -- unless invited.
But Lt. Gov. Campbell argues that he invited the Measure 1 backers, as well as foes, to submit their recommendations. Jason Cline of Clean Team Alaska said initiative sponsors wanted no part of a "backroom" deal.
Backroom? Initiative foes had a reasonable complaint about the summary. The lieutenant governor responded, backed by an opinion from the Department of Law that said he could revisit the summary language, and did so openly.
As long as it's fair and accurate, more ballot information is good. A reasonable reading of the new summary will find no tilt, just more detail.
Measure 1 backers want to break what they see as a self-serving system of growing government that uses public spending to encourage more public spending for the benefit of government contractors, public employees and lobbyists at the taxpayers' expense.
They've raised legitimate questions about public spending, government contracts and political contributions. Their initiative is too broad in imposing limits of free speech and political activity, but their campaign and a $1 million opposition promised a lively debate about public spending in Alaska.
Now they've quit the field, said there's no justice in the courts and claimed corruption is so embedded in Alaska's public life that all they can do is retreat and wait for another day.
Now they're not bucking any system. They're just making it harder to take them seriously.
BOTTOM LINE: If a more informative summary hurts the initiative's chances, sponsors should take another look at the initiative.