Alaska House votes to limit campaign cash donations, but restrictions still need to be approved by Senate and governor

JUNEAU — The Alaska House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to limit the amount of money individuals and groups can donate to candidates for public office.

The proposal must be approved by the Alaska Senate and Gov. Mike Dunleavy to become law, and without their action, there will be no restrictions on the amount of money that can be given to candidates running for office in Alaska. The previous state boundaries were ruled unconstitutional by a federal court last year.

“Are we going to drop everything in court? We can’t do that,” said Rep. Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage, who proposed new limits in legislation earlier this year.

The final vote went along caucus lines, with the House coalition’s 21 majority members in favor and 18 minority Republicans opposed. Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, was excused absent.

Schrage’s Bill 234, which is now being introduced in the Senate, would limit individuals to donations of $2,000 per candidate per election and groups (such as political parties and special interest organizations) to $4,000. $ per candidate and per election.

If signed into law, the bill would also limit the amount of money a candidate can receive from outsiders. No more than 25% of a candidate’s total donations may come from donors outside the state.

The limits would apply to state and municipal elections, but not to federal elections.

Proponents of the proposal have called for fighting corruption and reducing the influence of outside money.

“Right now, today, if we don’t pass this bill, a San Francisco latte-sipper billionaire could drop a hundred grand in a single house run, buying an entire house campaign. What would be the effect? said Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage.

Forty of the 50 states have some sort of limit, though the amounts vary and many are higher than the House-approved proposal.

Several House members made reference to the 2006 poll measure that installed the previous Alaska campaign contribution limits. This measure, which included an individual donation limit of $500 per candidate per year, was passed with the support of 73% of participating voters.

“No limit is limitless,” said Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage. “The Alaskans said, ‘We don’t want this. “”

Many Republicans opposed to the limit cited the 2010 US Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. The move allows individuals, businesses, unions and other groups to donate unlimited amounts to third-party groups, who can spend that money on campaigns.

“Campaign limits should be placed on these organizations, not individuals,” said Rep. Ron Gillham, R-Soldotna.

Changing Citizens United would require a new Supreme Court decision or a federal constitutional amendment; Alaska cannot unilaterally impose a limit, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled.

Because of this, it can be counterproductive to limit individual donors, said Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski.

“It hurts people’s ability to compete with that black money,” he said.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, said she believes the impact of unlimited donations is limited by public disclosure.

“If there’s a million-dollar latte-sipper buying a home run, the public will be able to see that, and this district will be able to determine whether they find that acceptable in that candidate,” he said. she declared.

The progress of the bill in the Senate is uncertain. Similar campaign finance bills have been introduced there but have yet to be heard in committee.

Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, is the chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, which is to review these bills, but he said this month that given other priorities, he didn’t know. not when they would receive an audience.

The governor’s support is also uncertain. Earlier this month, Dunleavy said his tendency “is to just let people do whatever they want in campaign finance law, as long as it’s disclosed and it’s accurate.”

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