An often overlooked provision in Alaska statute allows cities to exempt themselves from campaign financial disclosure requirements, and several Alaskan boroughs have made the move to include the exemptions on the upcoming October ballots.
On Tuesday night, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly introduced an ordinance that would place the question of exemption on the ballot, allowing the Borough to create its own financial disclosure requirements and making it one of many Alaskan municipalities to do so.
“Mat-Su is looking at putting its own financial disclosure law to a vote of the people,” Assemblywoman Cindy Bettine, who sponsored the ordinance, said via email. “It would be something that is more fitting for citizen legislators and volunteer planning commissions.”
Bettine said the Assembly has not yet taken action on the resolution, and will revisit it at its next scheduled meeting August 12.
A report on the opt-out process by the Alaska Public Offices Commission states that if the issue is put on the ballot and approved by the voters, the city or borough would be allowed to conduct elections with no financial disclosure whatsoever.
“If your municipality votes to opt out of the reporting requirements, the information is no longer required by the state,” the report states. “If your municipality votes to opt out of the Public Official Financial Disclosure law and substitute a simplified version of financial disclosure reporting requirements, there will be no further requirement for you to provide the information to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.”
The Ketchikan Assembly has already approved the ballot question, and voters will now be able to decide whether to exempt Borough political candidates from financial disclosure requirements.
Assemblyman Mike Painter said the Ketchikan voters had already moved to exempt the Borough several years ago, but the revised rules so closely resembled APOC regulations the Borough subsequently reverted back to the original requirements to avoid confusion.
Painter said many municipal candidates were frustrated by the extensive reporting mandates, which were intended to increase transparency in the elections process. Now, voters would have the option to banish financial disclosure requirements altogether.
“In my opinion, as a business person, it’s very tough to get a business owner to run for local office because of the onerous requirements of APOC disclosure,” Painter said.
Municipal elections are scheduled for October 5.
By Kirsten Adams