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Most Alaska candidates back downsizing donations


August 07, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A public-policy watchdog group has asked would-be governors to take sides on a question voters will decide Aug. 22 - should Alaska tighten campaign finance and lobbying rules?

Ballot Measure 1 would chop in half the amount of money a person or group can donate to a candidate. It would also require people who lobby 10 or more hours within a 30-day period to register with the state.




The Alaska Public Interest Research Group began surveying candidates for governor in June, asking for their take on the proposal. Most said it's a good idea.

Former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin - who faces Gov. Frank Murkowski and former state Sen. John Binkley in the Republican primary - wrote that the measure isn't perfect, but she will vote for it. "Hopefully this measure helps build the public's trust in our government."

Murkowski wrote that the Supreme Court considers political donations to be "free speech" but didn't directly say whether he supported the measure.

Asked for clarification on his stance Thursday, Murkowski's campaign manager, Mike Scott, said the governor believes the measure is flawed but will vote for it. Murkowski also wants to see campaign donations reported electronically to the state, on a weekly basis, as soon as campaigns begin, Scott said.

Binkley, who had raised the most money of any candidate as of July 21, did not reply to the survey. He wrote in an e-mail Thursday that he would not vote for the changes.

Binkley said that he wants to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests but that the ballot measure will "brand Alaskans who wish to participate in their government as lobbyists, creating a disincentive."

He said the changes would also limit the ability of lesser-known candidates to raise enough money to compete in statewide races.

His spokesman, Russ Kelly, said the campaign didn't respond to the survey because it missed the deadline. "Some things just inevitably fall through the cracks."

Andrew Halcro, running as an independent, wrote he strongly supports the measure. "As a former Republican legislator, I fought against attempts to weaken campaign finance reforms on a constant basis."

Democratic candidate Eric Croft, an Anchorage lawmaker, was one of the sponsors of the initiative. "I worked hard with AkPIRG to ensure the ballot measure would be before the people of Alaska. As governor, I will veto any legislation which would weaken our campaign finance laws," he wrote.

Croft's opponent in the Aug. 22 primary, former two-term Gov. Tony Knowles, supports the measure too. He wrote, "Elections give Alaskans a voice with which they can speak to government, and that should not be monopolized by wealthy special interests."

Republican candidates Gerald Heikes and Merica Hlatcu, Libertarian William Toien, Alaskan Independence Party candidates Eddie Burke, Daniel DeNardo and Don Wright, and David M. Massie - who registered as a Green Party candidate - did not respond to the survey, according to AkPIRG.

Democratic candidate Bruce Lemke responded, but his answer talked about the fishing industry rather than campaign finance.

AkPIRG director Steve Cleary described the ballot measure as an attempt to make politicians more accountable by gathering their campaign money from a variety of people rather than a few wealthy donors.

"Instead of enabling legislators who are seeking election or re-election to be able to talk to 50 people and get $1,000 from each of those donors, we want to see politicians talking to 1,000 (people) and getting donations in the range of $50."


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Ketchikan, Alaska