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Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Author: Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News
Published: October 18, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Anchorage Daily News 
Contact: [email protected] 
Website: http://www.adn.com/ 

Official: Lieutenant governor's chief of staff wrote text for pamphlet.

A statement written by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman's office opposing the ballot effort to legalize marijuana was used almost verbatim in the state's Official Election Pamphlet, sent to more than 300,000 Alaska households.

While Dr. Charles M. Herndon revised the 300-word statement slightly before signing his name at the bottom, the text was largely written by Leman's chief of staff, Annette Kreitzer.

Proponents of Ballot Measure 2, as well as some who oppose it, reacted angrily to the discovery, saying the lieutenant governor is supposed to remain neutral in election issues. 

"It's outrageous conduct," initiative backer David Finkelstein said.

Former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea, who had offered to write the statement but was rejected, said it could provide ammunition for marijuana advocates in a court case if they lose. 

"I'm just totally disgusted," he said.

But Kreitzer defended the effort, saying it was aimed not at tipping the election but at satisfying a mandate in state law to present both sides of every ballot measure in the election pamphlet. She put together some notes on the issue that could be used or not, as the author of the statement chose, she said. The notes were ultimately sent to Herndon.

"In this case, Dr. Herndon had all the control," Kreitzer said. "He's the one who wanted to put his name on the line. I did a little research for him."

The wording similarity came to light last Thursday when the Anchorage Press published a copy of a "proposed draft statement" opposing the measure that Leman's office had e-mailed to Herndon last August.

When compared with the final statement that appears in the election pamphlet, they're nearly identical.

Kreitzer said she got involved in the marijuana statement to help out the Elections Division. The staff seemed stretched and overwhelmed this summer as it prepared to publish the Official Election Pamphlet, she said. 

"I tried to help out wherever I could," she said.

The pamphlet is a huge job, according to elections director Laura Glaiser. Hundreds of pages long and published in four volumes to cover the entire state, it contains the photos and profiles of every candidate who chooses to advertise in it, plus judges, agency information and political party ads.

By law, it also must contain a summary of every ballot initiative, including a neutral statement plus "statements submitted" that advocate its approval or rejection.

Normally, opponents are easy to find, Glaiser said. But this summer, with the deadline looming to send the pamphlet to the printer in Salem, Ore., no one had submitted a statement opposing Ballot Measure 2.

The lieutenant governor's office wanted someone with a medical background to write it, Kreitzer said. It had rejected Shea, who had written or co-written statements opposing medical marijuana and legalization in several previous elections.

"I didn't think that would be a good idea" to give him the job, Kreitzer said, because he was a U.S. Senate candidate in the Republican primary. It would have been unfair to the other Senate candidates to let him oppose marijuana, almost like free advertising, she said.

But Shea disputed Kreitzer's account, saying he volunteered to write the statement shortly after the ballot measure was approved for the ballot last January. He didn't enter the Senate race until June. He also suggested others who could write the statement, he said.

Even as Shea was rejected for being a candidate, others were not. U.S. Rep. Don Young signed the bear baiting statement, while Alaska Rep. Bill Stoltze wrote the statements opposing Ballot Measure 1. Both are running for re-election.

But as the printing deadline grew closer and no one had been identified to write the marijuana statement, Kreitzer said, "I took it on myself" to begin work. Kreitzer said she borrowed information from an FBI Web site, added facts about Alaska court decisions and initiative votes on marijuana, then submitted it to Leman for approval.

"I write a lot of speeches," Kreitzer said. "For me it was nothing more than a draft" of a speech. She considered the compilation a set of notes for whomever would finally write the statement "so they didn't have to create something from scratch." Her attitude was, "If you want it, use it. If not, trash it," she said.

By mid-August, Herndon had agreed to write the statement, and on Aug. 15, Leman sent him Kreitzer's draft. 

"Thank you for considering my request for you to sign this statement, revise it, or write a statement of your own," Leman wrote.

Because of time constraints, Leman asked Herndon to return the finished statement quickly, "today if possible."

Herndon, the medical director at Providence Breakthrough, a drug and alcohol disorder treatment center, said he initially didn't want to get involved but agreed to write the statement as a private citizen who opposes the measure.

He added one line to Kreitzer's draft, noting that marijuana "is frequently combined with other illicit drugs or alcohol, which further impairs the user's abilities and judgment." He also struck a reference to the American Medical Association, deleted a short editorial clause and changed "legally prescribed substances" to "legally prescribed medication."

Last week Herndon said he regrets having signed a statement he hardly wrote.

"If I had to do it all over again, I'd start from scratch and write it totally over," Herndon said. "I wouldn't change my position," he added. "My error in judgment was letting someone else do the writing of it."

Kreitzer said she would do it again. Statutes require that an opposition statement be included in the pamphlet, she said. If that means the lieutenant governor's office has to write the statement, the agency should comply, she said.

But previous elections officials have left out ballot statements. As recently as 1996, the pages explaining Ballot Measure 1 list only the neutral statement and one in support. "A statement in opposition to Ballot Measure No. 1 was not received," the pamphlet reads.

That's not the way she interprets the statutes, Kreitzer said.

Leman's office has been challenged several times on his treatment of ballot initiatives, including the marijuana measure. In 2003, he disputed the validity of signatures gathered to put legalization on the 2004 ballot but was overruled by a Superior Court judge.

More recently, the state had to reprint about 500,000 ballots after another judge found the language Leman used to describe Ballot Measure 4 unfair, biased and incorrect.

Finkelstein, a former legislator and participant in several ballot initiatives, said he doesn't know whether the lieutenant governor's office overstepped its legal authority in helping write the opposition statement to Ballot Measure 2. 

"It's more a matter of ethics," he said.

After working with three previous administrations, he added, "I never saw any lieutenant governor pull the kind of political tricks Leman is doing."

Kreitzer argued that the lieutenant governor's office simply wanted to give voters a balanced look at the issue and that it wasn't an ethical lapse for the chief of staff to help out the elections division staff. 

"I've tried to help where I thought I could help without affecting the ballot," she said.

She also suggested that a legislative review of election pamphlet laws might eliminate some confusion. 

"This is certainly one area that has proven to me that elections laws need to be clarified," she said.

Related Articles & Web Site:

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