Campaign against Alaska constitutional convention gets major donations from D.C. groups

a protester opposing an Alaska constitutional convention
Former Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, holds a sign opposing a constitutional convention during an abortion-rights rally on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The largest group urging Alaskans to vote against a constitutional convention has received a major boost from a pair of Washington, D.C., groups.

No on 1: Defend Our Constitution received $1.4 million, mostly from the National Education Association and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, according to financial disclosures dated Monday. 

The contributions more than double the amount of money received by Defend Our Constitution to date. 

Before this week, the total collected by all groups on both sides of the constitutional amendment campaign was less than $1 million

That was an unusually small amount, given prior spending on high-stakes ballot measures. Two years ago, more than $25 million was spent by groups for and against a proposed oil tax increase.

ConventionYes, the lead group in favor of a convention, has yet to file a financial disclosure report.

As of Monday’s report, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a national progressive nonprofit, has now contributed almost $1.5 million of the $2.4 million raised by Defend Our Constitution. 

By email earlier this month, the fund said it has chosen to support the group “because an impressive, bipartisan campaign working to protect democracy and civil liberties reached out and made a compelling case about how important this effort was for all of their constituents in Alaska.”

Two years ago, Alaskans narrowly approved Ballot Measure 2, a sweeping election-reform proposal whose advertising claimed the measure would eliminate the anonymous third-party political contributions known as dark money.

That provision limits state-level candidates but does not touch federal races, state ballot measures, recall elections and questions like the constitutional convention issue.

Because the Sixteen Thirty Fund does not disclose the true source of its contributions, critics have labeled it a dark money group.

Monday’s disclosure report also showed $500,000 has come from the D.C.-based National Education Association, a union representing teachers and other school employees. The NEA’s Alaska chapter contributed $50,000 earlier this year.

Tom Klaameyer, president of the Alaska union, said its members are concerned that a constitutional convention could allow public money to be directed to private schools, something forbidden under the existing constitution.

Other major in-state contributors to the vote-no cause include Northrim Bank, which has given $25,000, and Citizens For Competition, a GCI-funded group that has given $1,000.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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