Opinion: Election transparency is right for Alaska

alaskans In the News

A message from some North Dakota grandmas.

By Ellen Chaffee, Kathleen Tweeten and Dina Butcher

Hello Alaskans! We’re the “Bad Ass Grandmas” from North Dakota. This fall, we’re encouraging you to vote Yes on Ballot Measure 2, for greater transparency and less corruption in Alaskan elections.

As three retired grandmas who’ve fought political corruption in our own state, not too far away from Alaska, we’ve seen how wealthy special interests can use unlimited, secret spending to rig the system in their favor. But when citizens come together and say: “Enough!” big things can happen, and they can happen in Alaska.

Alaskans, you have a right to know who’s spending big money to influence your vote and your government. By voting “Yes on 2,” you can stop runaway political deception and restore transparency.

We became involved in the fight for transparency and clean government after seeing firsthand what corrupt and secret money was doing in our state’s politics. When North Dakota lawmakers became beholden to wealthy special interests, lawmakers stopped listening to their constituents, and North Dakotans couldn’t see who was trying to set the agenda on issues that mattered to us.

One of us is a Democrat, another an Independent and the other a Republican, and we saw that politicians wining and dining with big donors is a bipartisan business. Without transparency — and without the public being in on what’s going on — unlimited, secret spending creates an environment for corruption that knows no party boundaries.

We were tired of it in North Dakota, so we got together with our fellow citizens to see what could be done. Ultimately, we crafted a ballot initiative, which included a measure to strengthen the transparency of spending to influence elections and government action.

We quickly blew past our goal of 27,000 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot in North Dakota, earning the nickname “Bad Ass Grandmas.” Our success brought national attention, and now we recruit other women (grandchildren not required) to join the movement and leave a legacy of strong democracy for future generations.

In November 2018, North Dakota voters beat back the forces of power and money and approved the ballot measure. North Dakota joined 46 other states in creating an ethics commission, and we enacted some of the most powerful laws in the country to reveal and restrict the influence of money in politics.

Now, Alaska, it’s your turn.

Ballot Measure 2, which you can vote for this fall, is about protecting the electoral process’s integrity and fairness by shining a light on dark money spending in political campaigns. Ballot Measure 2 would require disclosure of the true source of any campaign contribution greater than $2,000 to a candidate or an Independent Expenditure group supporting that candidate within 24 hours. Any group receiving more than 50 percent of its funding from outside Alaska must provide a disclaimer with that information on all public communications.

Right now, there’s a lot of money being spent on Alaskan elections. Between 2014 and 2018, spending on Alaska campaigns increased from $3,858,202 to $14,108,010. With so much money flowing into politics—and the fact that we don’t know where all of it is coming from—new disclosure rules will help ensure Alaskans can follow the money and will help ensure government officials are held accountable.

Ballot Measure 2 also includes two other commonsense reforms, open primaries and ranked-choice voting, that will help increase participation in the democratic process, give voters more choices and ultimately foster better government and bipartisan cooperation.

So Alaskans, vote yes on Ballot Measure 2 this fall, for more transparency and more accountability. You need to know who is spending money to influence your votes.

Ellen Chaffee, Kathleen Tweeten, and Dina Butcher are North Dakota activists in favor of overhauling government ethics oversight.