Campaign Finance Reform — Debate Opens

By Dave Donaldson

House and Senate committees today opened debate on the state’s response to a U-S Supreme Court decision opening political campaigns to corporations and labor unions — as an extension of the Constitutional right of free speech. 

House State Affairs Chairman Bob Lynn said the decision has been a “political earthquake,”  felt throughout the nation’s political community.

How it effects candidates for various offices is not really as important as how it effects Mr and Mrs Alaska.   Very,   very serious situation.  Here we have corporations making independent expenditures.  Most of them have deep pockets and so on.   Again,  this is about how it effects the people because the folks they elect to public offices, the various initiatives that are passed effect all of us.

Both House and Senate bills focus on disclosure of who is making independent contributions in election issues and races.  And they require disclaimers be incorporated into advertisements from the primary decision-maker on the corporation’s point of view.  Those independent decisions cannot be coordinated — or have any direct contact — with a candidate in a race.  State attorney John Ptacin  says with the Supreme Court decision invalidating Alaska’s ban on corporate involvement in elections,   there is now a gap in state law.

But the real question, and what I think the legislators this session are trying to understand, is “how do we follow the money from person to person down into the actual act of speech. “ And I think that’s what these bills are trying to address.

Members of both committees recognized that the bills do not likely address remedies to all the campaign financing issues the state could face.  But Judiciary Chair Hollis French  says it is a good start.

I am certain this bill is not going to stay in its present form for more than a few years before we have to react to whatever is going to come to us this Fall.   But it’s my belief that we need to get something on the books — at least to put up a little bulwark.

The House State Affairs Committee held its version of the bill for possible amendments,  but the Senate version was approved unanimously and sent to the Judiciary Committee,  where a hearing is scheduled on Monday.


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