The Yes on 2 for Better Elections campaign hosted a webinar, “Shining A Light On Dark Money” this week on one of the most important reforms contained in Ballot Measure 2—strengthening campaign finance disclosure requirements to end the corrupting influence of Dark Money spending.
The term “Dark Money” describes the large sums of Outside political dollars that flow into Alaska each election year with little or no real information about the original source of the funds. Secret political spending in campaigns is a growing concern among citizens of the state as many fear it’s drowning out the voices of ordinary Alaskans. Ballot Measure 2 will require full and immediate disclosure of who is backing a candidate in order to protect the integrity of our elections.
“Out of all the improvements Ballot Measure 2 will bring to Alaska’s elections, ending Dark Money is the one almost everyone from every party agrees on,” says Shea Siegert, Campaign Manager for Yes on 2. “You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks large sums of money given to political candidates from secret sources is a good thing. Alaska is the crown jewel of America so we can understand why people from Outside might have opinions about our state’s future. But they shouldn’t be able to hide in the dark while they try to influence our elections. Ballot Measure 2 will add transparency to our elections. If someone wants to support a candidate, that’s their right, but they can do it in the light of day.”
Paula DeLaiarro, local expert in Alaska campaign finance
Jeff Clements, President of American Promise
Jay Costa, Pennsylvania State Senator (D)
Catie Kelley, Senior Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at
Campaign Legal Center
“Seventy percent of Dark Money goes to pay for negative attack ads,” said Jay Costa, Executive Director of Voters’ Right to Know. “When you allow sources to hide behind a mask, they are much more willing to go negative. This drives a divisiveness that I think a lot of us can agree that we are sick of.”
Secret political spending in campaigns is a major concern for our democracy as many fear that special interests unfairly influence our elections and drown out the voices of voters. In order to protect the integrity of our elections and elected representatives, Ballot Measure 2 will require a full and immediate true source disclosure of donations to candidates over $2,000. Voters have a right to know who is trying to influence their votes—Yes on 2 makes sure that right is upheld.
Ballot Measure 2 is designed to force big secret donors into the light while not interfering with regular Alaskans who want to support a candidate. It requires donors who give $2,000 or more to a candidate to reveal their name. Paula DeLaiarro, an expert in Alaska campaign finance law and the treasurer of the Yes on 2 campaign, says stricter disclosure requirements will either provide voters with more information about who a candidate is beholden to or it will reduce the amount of money in politics.
“One possibility is that it will be a dealbreaker to some campaigns, they will refuse to disclose donors and they’ll take the ball and go play on someone else’s field. The other option would be that groups will see it as basically the price of admission to participate in elections in Alaska and will comply and disclose who those donors are. Either way it is a win-win for Alaska,” DeLaiarro said. “Once we know who the people are who are contributing, I think Alaska voters will be better informed as to what the political agenda may be from outside sources.”
Leading by example, the Yes on 2 for Better Elections campaign is modeling the financial disclosure policies that Ballot Measure 2 will make standard practice in Alaska. “We fully comply with all current regulations and statutes, we timely report our contributions, expenditures, and debt, and we calculate and update our paid for by disclaimer in real time,” DeLaiarro said.
“I applaud Alaskans for Better Elections for taking that step and showing that it’s not a big deal to disclose the true sources of your money,” Costa said. “If you have nothing to hide and are truly supporting something that is in the public interest, then being transparent about it should not be a big deal.”
National campaign finance experts agree that eliminating Dark Money will improve the transparency and integrity of Alaska’s electoral process. Catie Kelley, Senior Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at the Campaign Legal Center said, “The way the law is now protects those really wealthy contributors. That’s where we see the strength of Ballot Measure 2. You’re going to break through all of those layers so that we know who is actually spending the money.”
Touching on the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission in 2010, Jeff Clements, President of American Promise explained, “Alaska used to have limits on super PACs, legal limits on outside, non-resident money, and a Corrupt Practice Act saying that corporate money and union money should not be dominating elections. All of those are gone—blown up by the new constitutional theory of the Supreme Court. So Alaska, like everywhere else, can’t protect its own interests and people from outside money.”
Optimistic for change, Clements encouraged Alaskans to vote Yes on 2. He said, “I’m so excited about Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska because this is one of the best things states could be doing to change the system and make it more responsive for everyday voters.”
Ballot Measure 2 would not limit what people can spend—it would simply require their contributions to be made transparent by ensuring that the true source is disclosed to the public. Ending Dark Money and giving voters the information needed to know who is paying to influence political candidates is a much needed change that nearly everyone agrees on. It truly is a win-win for Alaska.
In addition to eliminating secret spending on campaigns, Ballot Measure 2 would improve Alaska’s elections by creating a single unified primary ballot open to all voters and instituting ranked choice voting in general elections. Together, these common-sense updates to Alaska’s electoral process will give voters more voice, more choice, more power, and better representation from our elected officials.