Cleanup on aisle one, please!

Scott Woodham


TO: Mr. Howie Rich
SUBJECT: Interference

Dear Mr. Rich,

We The Concerned were interested to learn a while ago that one of your political nonprofit organizations, Americans for Limited Government, decided to stop supplying the majority of funding for a campaign in support of Alaska's Proposition 1, known as "The Anti-Corruption Initiative."

Apparently, according to Alaska Public Offices Commission rules, once a voter initiative is finalized and reaches the ballot, its backers are required to report where they get their money. The two Alaska groups backing Prop 1 complied with APOC -- and one of them wasn't even required to do so! The lead person for that group told the Anchorage Press that his group over-reported to avoid any hassles and to appear open about their operation. Because that group's name is "Alaskans for Open Government," it makes total sense to The Concerned that openness would figure so prominently in its decisions.

But after APOC asked to see a list of your major donors, it looks as if you just stopped giving money to the effort on behalf of Prop 1 to avoid disclosure. That really confused us because we always thought if anyone should have nothing to hide it'd be an organization trying to limit the scope and power of government.

Don't worry. We're not writing to call you hypocrites or anything. We are, however, dying to know who your main donors are. We imagine if you're not going to tell APOC, we don't have a chance, but who's your main donor? It has to be one person because a campaign can't be very "grassroots" when a single donor bails and it sinks the whole effort. Is it Sen. Joe Lieberman? LeBron James? Eugene Mirman? Mel Gibson? Maybe Stephen Hawking? Wait! It's Oprah, isn't it?

Anyway, after we caught our breath from laughing (it only took a day or two) at how corrupt it looks when the ultimate financial backers of an anti-corruption initiative want to keep their money secret, we reconsidered our initial reaction.

We The Concerned realized that the whole affair just proves your point! APOC looks like just another government agency "out of control." In this latest episode, it was just forcing more intrusive bureaucracy into the way of, in your group's words, "grassroots" efforts to "put the people back in charge in states across the country." Man, what tyranny.

We suppose we can respect the kind of commitment to principle it takes to abandon financial support of principles when those same principles come under attack by their main target. But you have to admit it doesn't look good. Remember that neighborhood kid who would take his ball home if he couldn't be all-time quarterback? To The Concerned, it looks that bad.

We're trying to stay positive here, but make no mistake; we are very concerned about the whole thing.

For one, Americans for Limited Government's disappearing act makes those Alaska groups look like total chumps. Ordinarily, we wouldn't care so much about how they look, but it seems like they were sincerely trying to foster a debate about public corruption. Now they just look like stunned janitors trying to clean up a crime scene with a haggard mop and a bucket more gore than Mr. Clean. Well, one of them does, anyway. The most recent entry on Alaskans for Open Government's website is from 2008, so they don't seem to have much tidying to do.

Clean Team Alaska, the proposition's main public backer, however, doesn't look like it's cleaning up very fast. The group's websites supporting Prop 1 are still active despite the announcement that the group would no longer be working to support the initiative. Maybe Clean Team Alaska has been too upset to do much work lately, but as the saying goes, "You got time to lean, you got time to clean."

Mainly though, we're scared that your group's disappearance and the loss of funding won't matter much for Prop 1's chances. The Concerned think Alaska voters seem so docile this election season that there's still a good chance plenty of people will vote for Prop 1 anyway.

It probably won't pass, but heck, if Americans for Limited Government can get even a handful of votes for a ballot initiative that has had no public campaign for months before the election, it would have to feel like a win.

We imagine the worst part of all this from your organization's point of view is that Alaskans on both sides of every issue might come out of this debacle even more convinced that APOC's actually a good use of public money. Your work appears to have only just begun. So when can Alaskans count on you to back an initiative abolishing APOC? Can we put you down for 2012?

How 'bout it,
The Concerned