Alaska's Measure 4 opponents face penalties for campaign law violations

Both sides in last year's ballot box ruckus over mining — the most expensive election battle waged in Alaska history — may have to pay state regulators major penalties for campaign law violations.

After months of investigation, state regulators are wrapping up their cases against the groups and individuals involved in the $12.5 million fight over Ballot Measure 4, which sought new limits on water pollution from large mines.

The proposed law — rejected by voters in August 2008 — was an attempt to block development of the massive Pebble copper and gold prospect, but its opponents said that the law would harm other Alaska mines, too. Their disagreement over the law's implications for the future of Alaska's mining industry fueled an ad war that choked the state's airwaves and stuffed mailboxes for months.

Months after the election, it became clear that the spending on the Measure 4 fight had eclipsed the most expensive race in state history: the 2004 U.S. Senate race in which Lisa Murkowski beat Tony Knowles. In that race, the two candidates spent a combined $11.2 million.

But was the money for the mining-initiative fight raised legally? The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) has been investigating both sides on allegations of serious campaign violations. This summer, its staff suggested that some groups in favor of Measure 4 may have even committed misdemeanor crimes by hiding the source of their contributions.

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