Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alaska Clean Elections Act: Anchorage Daily News Says "Thumbs Up", House District 22 Candidate Mark Fish Says "Thumbs Down"


The VECO scandals, as well as misgivings about Ted Stevens and Don Young, have uncovered a strain of political vigilantiism within Alaska. Even an innocent, albeit earthy phone conversation between Assemblymen Dan Coffey and Bill Starr brought out the lynch mobs. As a result, the word "clean" sure has become a major political buzzword in Alaska. Many Alaskans have become swept up in the "clean" cult. I guess we believe if we automatically attach the word "clean" to something, it immediately becomes canonized as inerrant scripture. Pictured above left, Alaska House District 22 Republican candidate Mark Fish.

We already have two versions of the so-called "Alaska Clean Water Initiative". But there's also an "Alaska Clean Elections Act". Its ostensible purpose is to reduce the incentive for candidates and incumbents alike to pander to special interests. A candidate who wanted to be presented to the public as "clean" would agree to sharply reduce campaign contributions accepted from the general public and accept a rather draconian series of upgraded campaign reporting requirements, but in exchange, would get public money to spend on a campaign. So the secondary objective is to reduce the amount of money spent on campaigning.

And the Anchorage Daily News has jumped aboard the "clean" train. In an editorial published on March 15th, 2008, they enthusiastically endorse the Alaska Clean Elections Act. They cite the VECO scandal as an example of the deficiencies of our present campaign financing system. They believe individuals like Bill Allen with large checkbooks wield too much influence, and that the current system invites lawmakers to respond preferentially to those who contribute the most money.

ADN even likens the current situation to "putting a married man alone in a room full of skimpily-clothed young women who take turns sitting in his lap and stroking his hair -- and then expecting him to remain faithful to his wife".

According to ADN, the Alaska Clean Elections plan is a voluntary system that offers candidates modest sums of public money to run for office. In return, they agree to abide by spending limits and use only Clean Elections money to run their race. But if opponents run a conventional campaign funded by special interests, Clean Elections candidates don't have to fight with one hand tied behind their back. In those races, the Clean Elections candidate gets more money to compensate. To ensure that only serious candidates participate, candidates have to get signatures and $5 qualifying contributions from a significant number of supporters to qualify for Clean Election money. ADN estimates that if all legislative candidates would agree to become "clean" candidates, it would cost $6,000,000 in public money, but they claim it would be worth it.

Click HERE to visit the AlaskansForCleanElections website to become familiar with their thinking.

But will the benefit justify the remedy, or is the cure worse than the disease? Republican Mark Fish, who is running for the House District 22 seat (Midtown Anchorage) currently occupied by multi-term career Democrat Sharon Cissna, has some serious misgivings about the initiative. He believes it is primarily a feelgood initiative loaded with complexity and bureaucracy; as a matter of fact, he characterizes it as the "Politicians' Welfare Act". On his official campaign website, Fish posts ten objections to the Clean Elections Act:

(1). The act adds or amends twenty-five pages state law. No candidate who supports limited government should endorse it.

(2). The act duplicates reporting requirements. The Division of Elections and two commissions (APOC and CEC) would be tracking candidate finances. This would create an undue burden for small campaigns with limited staff.

(3). Once established, the act empowers CEC to adopt even more regulations adding to state bureaucracy.

(4). The CEC will have subpoena powers which should be reserved to our elected officials and the legal system, not issued to appointed bureaucrats.

(5). Fund is created within the general fund and is subject to politicized allocations or non-funding.

(6). When in conflict, the act overrides existing statutes power that should be reserved to the legislature or initiative process.

(7). The act increases volume of early fund raising [and] gives an advantage to well-known candidates such and Union members and employees of large corporations, churches and interest groups whose members reside within a district.

(8). The CEC administrator certifies candidates as “Clean” giving too much authority to a non-elected official hired by political appointees.

(9). Rules for use of debit card create a different procedure for different election districts based on the commissions discretion. This may lead to charges of bias and reduce the commission's credibility.

(10).Any candidate who decides not to receive public funds and conform to the CEC regulations by definitions will be unfairly labeled as a candidate who is not participating in clean elections.


Click HERE to view the entire 24-page Alaska Clean Elections Act in PDF Format.

Special Note: Because Mark Fish is running in a partisan political race, I will, for the sake of balance, post links to information regarding his opponent, Sharon Cissna, to include her official campaign website, her official State House page, and her AKDemocrats page. You can also visit her dedicated page on VoteSmart.org, where you can find out about her Issue Positions, her Voting Record, and her Special Interest Group Ratings.

While I did not accomplish as comprehensive a review of this initiative as Mark Fish did, I saw enough of it to accept his point of view. This initiative reeks of bureaucracy, complexity, duplicity, and redundancy. In addition, this initiative is clearly not the product of thoughtful, intelligent, and measured discourse, but was conceived in a hysterical climate of emotional finger-pointing, witch-hunting frenzy. On August 26th, 2008, voters need to consign this piece of garbage to the political dustbin straightaway.

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