Campaign Finance Disclosure Clears the Senate

By Dave Donaldson

Voters will know who is paying for political advertising during this year’s elections – if a bill the Senate passed today becomes law.  The measure is the state’s response to a U-S Supreme Court decision last January that allows corporations and unions to use their own money to pay for political ads – as long as they are not done within the formal campaign structure of candidates. 

Judiciary chairman Hollis French said the Supreme Court made a fundamental change in the way states conduct elections.

When the Supreme Court passed its recent decision, it changed the landscape of our political spending rules.  And our state had a total ban on this type of spending. Our state therefore had no rules on the books about this topic.   And Leg Legal and the attorney general told us we have to do something,  we have to pass some bill to cover this now big, open gap in our laws.

The bill requires that those paying for advertising relating to candidates or issues identify themselves to the Alaska Public Offices Commission,  and identify themselves in the advertisement itself.

The bill passed with no opposition,  but North Pole Republican John Coghill had some reservations about the effect of the measure – particularly broadcast advertising where the sponsors must identify themselves … in person  … on the air

I’m afraid what’s going to happen is we’re not actually going to get good reporting,  but we’re going to have a lot of noise that actually loses the value of what we’re trying to do, and that is Who is This Really Talking.

The bill next goes to the House where it will be heard by the Judiciary Committee.   Chairman Jay Ramras  says no one in the legislature wants to stop the changes the bill makes – and that includes him.   However, he sees what he calls “prickly” issues that he has already started work on — particularly with the identification measures that Coghill addressed in floor debate.

Look forward to tinker with it and make sure that it represents the point of view that’s consistent with fair disclosure,  but not so cumbersome that the ability to convey a message in thirty seconds is also lost.

Ramras has already scheduled the bill for a hearing next Wednesday.


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