A voter proposition to put limits on lobbying and campaign donations went down to defeat Tuesday. With more than half the votes counted, more than 60 percent were against Ballot Measure 1.
Fighting the measure was a disparate coalition of unions, local governments, nonprofits and business groups that said it would have stifled the political voice of many Alaskans. The vote "no" side, organized as Stop the Gag Law, raised more than $1 million.
Supporters, led by former Fairbanks legislator Dick Randolph, say they were targeting sweetheart deals and wanted to put an end to "pay to play" politics. But they abandoned their campaign in June just as the Alaska Public Offices Commission was pushing its main donor to disclose where it was getting its money.
Once voters understood the initiative, they didn't like it, opponents said.
"I think they knew that it was a smokescreen, that it was something thrown up there by a big Outside special interest," said Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. "They realized it was an attack on families, on communities. They pretty much figured it out as they looked into the details of what was in the ballot measure."
According to a state attorney general analysis, government contract holders and their extended family members wouldn't have been able to make campaign contributions. No government money could have been spent on lobbying, or on political campaigns. Legislators and their aides would have been prevented from working for government contractors for two years. Violating the measure would have amounted to a crime.
Opponents said a village mayor couldn't use public money to go to Juneau to seek help with flooding in the community. A government snow plow contractor couldn't give campaign donations, and neither could the individual's extended family.
Backers, organized as Clean Team Alaska, disputed that Measure 1 would have such far-reaching effects. Ken Jacobus, an Anchorage lawyer who represents Clean Team's main financial donor, said that the other side spent hundreds of thousands dollars spreading bad information.
Supporters of the measure aren't giving up and will probably bring it back at another election, Jacobus said.
The donor group, Alaskans for Open Government, eventually filed reports showing that its money came from entities led by Howie Rich, who made a fortune in Manhattan real estate and has pushed for similar limits on government in other states.
Still pending: APOC's proposed penalties of $339,650 against Alaskans for Open Government for filing various disclosures long after they were due, often months or even a year or more late.
Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER