Monday, August 21, 2006

Alaska 2006 Ballot Measure 1 Will Hurt Small Business Owners And Increase Bureaucracy

Alaska 2006 Ballot Measure 1, entitled "An Act Relating to Contribution Limits, Lobbyists, and Disclosures", will be one of two ballot measures to be decided in the August 22nd Alaska primary election (the other being the infamous Ballot Measure 2 designed to gouge the cruise industry). View both the official Statement of Support and the official Statement of Opposition on the Alaska Division of Elections website. The Alaska Star published an excellent article on this measure on August 17th.

Here are the key provisions of Ballot Measure 1:

1). Decreasing the amount individuals may give candidates or groups from $1,000 to $500.

2). Decreasing the amount individuals may give political parties for any purpose from $10,000 to $5,000.

3). Decreasing the amount groups may give candidates, groups or political parties from $2,000 to $1,000.

4). Requiring groups to disclose information on contributions of more than $100.

5). Reducing the hours a person could lobby in any 30-day period from 40 to 10 before having to register as a lobbyist.

6). Requiring legislators to disclose outside income sources greater than $1,000.

Limits on contributions were set by the Alaska Legislature in 1997. Those amounts were doubled in 2003 by lawmakers. Measure 1 would reduce the limits back to the 1997 levels.


Steve Cleary (pictured at left, courtesy AKPIRG), executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for various political and consumer causes, is probably the most vocal supporter of Ballot Measure 1. Legislative sponsors include gubernatorial candidate Rep. Eric Croft (D-Anchorage), Rep. Harry Crawford (D-Anchorage), and Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). The Alaska Star erroneously refers to a non-existent "Rep. David Fairbanks of Anchorage".

Cleary would prefer Alaska politicians get $50 contributions from 1,000 people, rather than $1,000 contributions from 50 people. "People keep dumping money into campaigns, but we are not getting democracy in return," said Cleary.

Opponents say the proposal would limit a challenger's ability to raise funds needed to oust an incumbent. "That means it's an Incumbent Protection Act, as far as I'm concerned," said Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska.

The initiative could also hurt small businesses that send their employees to Juneau on their behalf, as registering as a lobbyist demands filing 16 reports in a two-year period, according to Gloria Shriver, founder of Alaska Excellence in Public Service, a Republican women's government action group. "Instead of accepting this ridiculous new burden that discloses their client list to their competitors, most businesses will abandon citizen representation and hire a professional lobbyist," Shriver wrote in the ballot's opposition statement to the measure.

Initiative opponents also don't like the provision that would limit a lobbyist to making contributions only in his or her home district, once he or she registers as a lobbyist.

Five of six gubernatorial candidates who responded to a poll by AKPIRG said they would vote for the measure. Those candidates included Republican Sarah Palin; Democrats Eric Croft, Tony Knowles and Bruce Lemke; and Independent candidate Andrew Halcro. By the way, according to an Anchorage Daily News story, Halcro now has enough petition signatures to qualify for listing on the ballot; he's just rounding up a few more for insurance.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, who introduced the 2003 bill that doubled contribution limits and who is also seeking the Republican Party nomination this month, is opposed to the initiative. "We must be careful with proposals that limit free speech under the First Amendment," he wrote in his response to the poll.

In a statement, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Binkley said he opposes the measure because of the provisions for lobbyists.

Analysis: The proposal to require lawmakers to disclose outside income sources in excess of $1,000 is a good idea. Unfortunately, this ballot measure is cluttered up with a potpourri of feel-good, mean-nothing ideas. Why is it so urgent to reduce campaign contribution limits? With inflation, the same amount of money doesn't buy as much "influence" as it once did.

And reducing the hours one may lobby a lawmaker from 40 to 10 per month not only seems unnecessarily bureaucratic, but would place small business owners who lobby in person to avoid paying a professional consultant at a disadvantage. Another well-intentioned proposal that actually victimizes lower-income people. This ballot measure is not as complex and byzantine as Ballot Measure 2, but it's not good enough to deserve a Yes vote. Vote NO!

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3 comments:

  1. But what about unsecured small business loans? How will they be affected? This is a very interesting ballot.

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  3. The small businesses are getting ignored in these issues, especially when looking for small business loans or financing.
    The big corporations don’t seem to have an issue raising money by selling bonds, big bank loans. Small business loans aren’t getting approved that’s why so many are looking to business cash advances to leverage their credit card receipts.

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