Push under way for public financing
A public interest advocacy group and several lawmakers have a plan for public financing of campaigns as a way to keep special interest money out of politics.
Steve Cleary of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and other sponsors filed the proposed citizen’s initiative the week of May 21 with Lt. Gov Sean Parnell. If approved, initiative backers would have to collect 23,800 signatures statewide to put the proposal on the 2008 ballot.
A similar proposal also is contained in House and Senate bills that were introduced with bipartisan backing in the last week of the legislative session.
The ballot initiative would not be necessary if lawmakers approve a measure that is substantially similar next session.
The concept is to give candidates the option of using public money to finance their campaigns if they agree to forego fundraising from private sources. The initiative proposes financing campaigns with a 3-cent tax per barrel of oil produced in Alaska.
The bills do not specify a funding mechanism, but lawmakers said those details would be worked out in committee. To qualify for public money, candidates would have to collect a certain number of signatures and $5 contributions from registered voters in their district.
For example, a gubernatorial candidate would be required to collect 3,000 signatures to be eligible for as much as $750,000. Republican Sarah Palin’s campaign spent about $940,000 in the 2006 campaign to defeat Democrat and former Gov. Tony Knowles whose campaign spent about $1.3 million.
The call for what are known as “clean election” campaigns comes in the wake of a political corruption scandal in Alaska in which a current and two former legislators were indicted on federal charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. All have pleaded not guilty
Two executives of VECO Corp. meanwhile have pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers during last session’s rewrite of oil taxes.
Seven state and two municipalities have adopted some form of clean election campaign laws, though the details vary.
—The Associated Press