Alaska’s campaign finance laws need their teeth

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Through Beverly Churchill and Veri di Suvero

Updated: 2 hours ago Posted: 3 hours ago

What do Alaskan voters think of the recent advisory opinion issued by Thomas R. Lucas, Campaign Disclosure Coordinator for the Alaska Public Offices Commission? This advisory opinion was issued in response to a request to APOC for advice regarding the limits, if any, that still exist on a person’s ability to make campaign donations in Alaska. The uncertainty surrounding this issue was created by the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in Thompson v. Hebdon, where a two-judge majority from a three-judge panel struck down three unconstitutional provisions in Alaska laws that capped donations. to the campaigns of candidates for political office. The Alaska Attorney General has chosen not to protest the removal of all individual spending limits.

These caps on campaign donations are strongly supported by Alaskans. These limits were enacted by a direct popular vote, as part of a 2006 initiative. Seventy-three percent of voters voted for the initiative. The Alaska Public Research Group, or AKPIRG, contributed to the success of this voting initiative. Since then, polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Alaskans continue to support hard limits.

And it’s not hard to see why these limits are so important. Without campaign spending limits, the “one person, one voice” ideal is no longer truly true – instead, whoever has the most money has the most influence. This increases the power imbalance, discouraging decision-making in the best interests of all Alaskans in exchange for hyper “internal baseball” cronyism that only benefits the wealthy. We should not create other incentives for corruption.

Unsurprisingly, some entrenched politicians have worked to weaken these campaign donation limits. The 2006 initiative was only necessary because the Alaska legislature voted to ease the caps on donations in 2003. It was a stunning display of political and organizational determination that enabled the people to restore the stricter ceilings existing in just three years after the legislature had weakened them. Politicians who rely on large donations from a small number of donors are often likely to undermine the public’s desire for hard limits.

So now, in his advisory opinion, APOC’s Campaign Disclosure Coordinator seeks to reinstate the much lower campaign contribution limits that were passed by the Alaska Legislature in 2003, and which were massively rejected by the people of Alaska. On the one hand, it is important that APOC establishes a spending limit. However, we do not believe these proposed limits are the ones that will best serve Alaska. This advisory opinion is not a formal decision of APOC acting as a committee, and these matters will need to be resolved by the committee and the Alaska Legislature.

We write on behalf of organizations that support clean and fair elections. We believe that the will of the people of Alaska regarding campaign donation limits should be restored whenever possible, and that this can be done by simply taking the campaign limits that were in the 2006 initiative, then by indexing these limits to the rate of inflation. Using the Alaska Urban Consumer Price Index, for example, a contribution limit that was $ 500 in 2006 would be a limit of $ 619 as of the first half of 2021. Although no one can be 100% certain of this what the courts will do in the future, we believe this approach would do the most to preserve the boundaries that were set by the voters of Alaska, while having an excellent chance of surviving constitutional scrutiny.

APOC committee members will hold their next regular meeting on January 26, 2022, although committee chair Anne Helzer has said the committee will likely hold a special meeting before that date to decide whether or not to approve the new proposal. . The Alaska Legislature will meet in its next regular session starting Jan. 18. Both bodies will have the opportunity to address these issues and try to restore the protections of the 2006 initiative to the extent possible.

Alaskans have the opportunity to contact both organizations and support the reestablishment of our strong campaign donation limits. If they don’t act, it will be up to us to use the initiative process again to reestablish fair and reasonable limits on campaign donations in Alaska.

Veri di Suvero is the executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, or AKPIRG. AKPIRG is a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan organization that researches, educates and advocates for consumer and public interests. Beverly churchill is a fourth generation Alaskan who has worked in Alaskan social services for over 30 years and is a founding member of Alaska Move to Amend.

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