Outside dough spilled to screw up Alaska’s elections



Who knew there could be so much dough in trying to persuade Alaskans to screw up a fairly straight-forward election system?

Alaskans for Better Elections is pushing a 25-page ballot initiative that would, if it wins a spot on the ballot and voters eventually approve, make transformational changes to the state’s election machinery – none of them good.

It wants to institute ranked-choice voting, open or “jungle” primaries and limit campaign contributions. Additionally, candidates no longer would have to disclose a political affiliation when their names go onto the ballot.

The initiative would do all that – and destroy political parties – without the first hint of legislative input, review or debate. It is sponsored by former independent state Rep. Jason Grenn, Bonnie L. Jack, and former Gov. Tony Knowles’ attorney general, Bruce Botelho.

Well, make no mistake, trying to make those kinds of changes – changes aimed at getting more Democrats and centrists elected – costs money. Luckily for the initiative group, getting Outside money and help has not been a problem.

Its fourth-quarter Alaska Public Offices Commission campaign disclosure report, filed Tuesday, shows the effort has taken in at least $619,590, the vast majority of it from Outside groups – with $600,000 alone coming from Denver-based Unite America, formerly the Centrist Project. United America endorsed former Gov. Bill Walker’s failed re-election bid.

In a 10-day APOC report, filed Dec. 3, 2019, the group showed a debt of $315,000 to a Dallas-base political consulting firm, Advanced MicroTargeting, for signature-gathering.

Backers of the proposed ballot initiative Jan. 9 turned in more than 41,068 signatures in a bid to qualify the measure for this year’s ballot. It needed only about 28,000.

Alaska state law holds payment to signature-takers, or petition circulators, as they are called, to no more than $1 a signature, plus a small amount for meals and such when they travel more than 100 miles from home.

That means the circulators should be paid in the neighborhood of $41,068, leaving about $275,000 for Advanced MicroTargeting. That means every signature cost $7.67.

The late Washington Post political columnist, David Broder, was no champion of initiatives. He said they were a way for demagogues and charlatans to get around the legislative process to further their own ends; a way to have laws without government. One of the things he lamented in is book, “Democracy Derailed” was that grassroots campaigns too often are turned into a lucrative political industry – and anything but citizen-driven.

The money involved in the Alaskans for Better Elections initiative is a case in point. It is Outside money, from only a few sources, aimed at furthering an Outside group’s political interests.

How is any of that good for Alaska?

[Read The Anchorage Daily Planet at this link.]


  1. “It wants to institute ranked-choice voting, open or “jungle” primaries and limit campaign contributions. Additionally, candidates no longer would have to disclose a political affiliation when their names go onto the ballot.”

    I just read thru the 25 page document. There is a section which says that the candidate “may” have their party affiliation associated with their name on the ballot. Party affiliation is also included in the candidates application to run for office.

    Limiting campaign contributions is a time honored tradition in our State. The amendment in this initiative seeks to limit “dark” money, or money contributed from unknown sources, a $2,000 limit if I recall.

    The primary proposed moves the top (4) vote getters forward to the General Election. I see nothing that destroys political parties or a candidate’s affiliation with them. We have a fairly open primary system as it is: The Dems allow anyone to vote in theirs, and the R’s allow unaffiliated and undeclared to vote in theirs. Since there is only one primary ballot with this system, this would open things up even more. Since we have about 15% democrats and 25% registered republicans, I like this more open approach. If you don’t make the top 4, you have to run as a write-in.

    Ranked Choice Voting is the main reason I like this initiative. No more being forced to vote for the lesser of evils. And no more splitting the vote and allowing the opposite result to occur.

    Overall, I think this initiative was intended, not for the voters, but for the legislature to use and revise it’s election statutes. It’s too long and cumbersome for the voters to handle…

    • Andrew, while I’m not sure I agree with you and am still suspicious of ranked choice voting, I greatly appreciate your time in reading the entire document, and appreciate the thoughtful opinion. The manner in which the petitioners presented the information about the petition was deceptive, at least in my own experience and that of some friends, hence for me that raises a red flag.

  2. Botelho managed to put people in office to screw up the PFD. Now he and Young Master Jason Grenn have their sights set on elections here in Alaska. What could possible go wrong? Cheers –

  3. I want no part of an election change that is getting money from outside sources to survive. Nor one that makes it easier for the left do so as they wish at whatever cost. Alaska deserves better.

    • So how much outside money was used to help get Governor Dunleavy elected?
      How much outside money has been spent to fight the stand for salmon initiative?
      How much outside money will be spent to fight the recall campaign?
      You cannot live as a hypocrite and say that those on the “left” cannot accept outside money when everyone on the “right” gobbles up every opportunity they can.

      • Steve, Karaboo writes that she doesn’t like “an election change” funded by Outside money; not Outside money as a rule in politics. Over the last several years of elections, I’ve become so jaded that I’m holding all elections should be balloted at public polling booth, on a paper ballot, with a carbon given to the voter. Voters should then be, in some way, able to confirm the tally Of their vote as balloted.

  4. The whole state political system is going to crap and that is probably why there is a mass exodus of former Alaskans heading south. It’s just another Left coast takeover like they’ve done in so many other places.

    • Greg,
      It’s only a “left coast takeover” if conservatives let it be. Another very good reason for conservatives to vote and cease thinking “everything will be alright”. Those days are gone. It’s time for all Alaskans to step up to the voting booth and stop assuming someone else will do it for them. The liberal /socialist/dems are doing just that. If conservatives refuse to counter them, we’re done for. Why is that so hard to see for so many? The entire Alaskan political process is conservative’s for the voting. Let’s take it and stop screwing around. Then we can get on with being Alaskans, not left coast idiots. Make that ‘outside’ money a waste for them in Alaska. In case that doesn’t happen, I’m already shopping around for a place in the “redoubt”. I truly hope I never need it.

  5. 25 pages. The United States Constitution is only 15 pages. If liberals tried so hard at solving problems,(homeless crime etc) instead of gaining power, they could make a positive change in the world.

    • It seems there are two issues that should be separate – campaign funding and ranked choice voting. Are they putting the two together to bait voters? In the gathering of petitions the word ‘transparency’ was used very pointedly along with campaign reform and ‘dark money’. Nothing was said to me about ranked choice voting. This was really deceptive. I did not sign because I already knew about the petition but how many did not know about it and heard the ‘t’ word transparency and were reeled in?

  6. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Whatever happened to, ” One person… One vote”. So, 200+ years this Country has been doing it all wrong?

    • “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Whatever happened to, ” One person… One vote”. So, 200+ years this Country has been doing it all wrong?”

      “One person one vote” was a doctrine established by the Supreme Court that congressional districts within a state must have about the same number of people in each one. That’s it. It has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with ranked choice voting or anything else.

      Also, I would say that our current first-past-the-post system is very much broken and in need of fixing.

  7. Totally open Primaries negate the whole purpose of a Primary. The Democrats need to close their Primary also. Otherwise, the state is spending huge amounts of money for no purpose. We could just have one big general election and save lots of money. And ranked choice voting is a sneaky little deal that is pushed by people with a specific agenda. It sounds good so most people won’t even study it out.

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