Anchorage, AK - The Alaska Public Offices Commission today dismissed a complaint from the Alaska Wildlife Alliance against the State of Alaska. The Alaska Wildlife Alliance and others requested the action because the State has spent public funds to distribute materials designed to influence the outcome of the vote on Ballot Measure #2 The Commission relied on the fact that the State never expressly said "Vote No on 2" to conclude the materials were "educational" and thus not covered under the prohibition on spending public funds.
"This really guts the law that prohibits the State from using public money on ballot measures," said Joel Bennet, former Board of Game member and sponsor of the ballot measure, "We're disappointed that the Commission didn't rule in a way that would make campaigns a more level playing field."
John Toppenberg, who filed the complaint as Director of the Alaska Wildlife, said "This decision is going to make it hard to challenge any decision the State to issue bias information, as long as it avoids stating vote yes or vote no."
The State has been waging a war on the ballot initiative since Governor Palin took office. One of the Administration's first efforts after taking office was to seek legal advice about removing it from the ballot. When that failed, the Governor's office asked the Legislature to pass a bill that would have removed the initiative from the ballot. That effort also failed.
"The State's representatives admitted they timed their press and leaflets to sway the voters" said Valerie Brown, who represented the Complainants, "but that wasn't enough to overcome the very narrow interpretation of the law made by the Commission."
Other complainants included Lowell Thomas, Alaska Center for the Environment Alaska Wildland Adventures and the National Parks and Conservation Association.