Measure 1 message comes in loud and clear

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006

There’s no better indicator that voters are tired, really tired, of politics as usual than the results of Tuesday’s Ballot Measure 1. The measure sets campaign contribution limits, places limits on lobbying and requires legislators to disclose outside income sources greater than $1,000.

There’s no mistaking the message voters sent on the initiative. They passed it by an overwhelming 73.8 percent margin.

While opponents of the measure claimed it diminished citizen rights and increased incumbent power, supporters gave the more powerful arguments about why the measure should pass: “Measure 1 ensures that you know who is paying your legislator and who is lobbying them. It limits the amount of special interest influence in legislative campaigns and closes the soft money loophole.”

The measure is not a cure-all for what ails politics today, but it is a good start. Among other things, it decreases the amount a person may give a candidate or group from $1,000 to $500 and the amount a person may give a political party from $10,000 to $5,000. It also decreases the amount a group may give to a candidate from $2,000 to $1,000 and the amount a group may give to a political party from $4,000 to $1,000. It also requires groups to disclose the name, address, occupation, employer, date and amount given by each donor for contributions of more than $100 during a year.

The measure also reduces the number of hours from 40 to 10 that a person who is not a professional lobbyist may lobby in any 30-day period before having to register as a lobbyist.

And the measure requires legislators, public members of the select committee on legislative ethics and legislative directors to disclose outside income sources greater than $1,000.

None of those are cumbersome requirements. All of them help put government where it should be: out of the hands of special interest groups and into the hands of the people.

Does passage of the measure mean all politicians are in the pockets of wealthy corporations and other, well-heeled interest groups? Of course not. But the measure helps ease the perception that it is money that determines the outcome of elections and legislation.

Passage of Ballot Measure 1 by such an overwhelming majority also should give leaders of Alaska’s major political parties plenty to ponder. Because, while the measure aims to limit outside influences, reading into the measure can be seen a desire to limit partisan politics.

In the final analysis, what Alaskans are looking for in government is an end to party power and gamesmanship. They want decisions based on what’s good for the state and its residents, not what makes a particular party look good. They want decisions based on a view toward the future. They want legislators and the governor’s office working together, so that their work can be accomplished in a regular 120-day session.

That’s really not too much to ask. Ballot Measure 1 moves Alaska a step in that direction.

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