Alaska votes Tuesday on measure to limit mining discharge

Anchorage Daily NewsAugust 22, 2008 

With the election four days away, the vote no side in the contentious and expensive battle over Ballot Measure 4 still has plenty of money left to spend.

Measure 4 would ban large metal mines from discharging harmful amounts of toxic chemicals into salmon streams or drinking water supplies.

Gov. Sarah Palin said this week she plans to vote no. That drew a backlash from the vote yes side, which filed a legal complaint Wednesday accusing her and state regulators of improperly weighing in against Measure 4.

Late Thursday night, they prevailed in their complaint against state regulators. After listening to hours of testimony, the Alaska Public Offices Commission ordered the state to take down its Web site that tries to explain the initiative. A more detailed ruling is expected today.

State regulators claimed that their statements on Measure 4 -- published Tuesday on the state Web site -- were authorized by the Legislature and were intended to be neutral.

As for Palin, she made it clear that she was speaking personally, not as the governor, when she said she'd vote no, said Ruth Hamilton-Heese, an assistant attorney general in the Alaska Department of Law, defending the state.

But Measure 4 proponents argued the state's "neutral" statements were actually all negative about the proposed law and improperly echoed the mining industry's concerns.

State officials say their regulations already bar mines from dumping toxic chemicals into streams and drinking water. The proponents of the measure disagree. They say the state isn't doing enough to protect salmon streams.

So far, the vote yes and vote no campaigns have raised nearly $10 million to capture Alaskans' votes, according to recent disclosure reports.

Here's a breakdown of their recent efforts:

-- The Council of Alaska Producers, a group of metal mining companies, is sitting on as much as $9 million that hasn't been spent yet, according to its filing this week with state regulators.

-- On the yes side of Measure 4, a secretive soft-money group based in Alexandria, Va., Americans for Job Security, bumped up its support of the proposed law to $1.6 million this month.

-- Anchorage millionaire Bob Gillam chipped in $250,000 this month; so far, he's disclosed spending more than a half million dollars for the yes campaign

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