Alaska campaign regulators open the doors to unlimited contributions

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The Alaska Public Offices Commission has rejected the admittedly tenuous approach to reviving the state’s campaign contribution limits after they were struck down last year.

The APOC staff had recommended falling back on the 2003 campaign contribution limits and applying an inflation factor, which would have generally satisfied the issues raised by the judge’s ruling and kept some kind of limits on the books until the Legislature finally got around to the issue. This revival doctrine has never been tested in Alaska courts or approved by the Legislature, so it was unclear whether adopting the guidelines would’ve stood up to a potential legal challenge.

The commission met earlier this week to discuss the order, voting 3-2 to revive the campaign contribution limits without an inflation factor but it apparently takes four votes. The votes in favor came from commissioners Lawrence, LaSota and Hancock.

What that means is until and unless the Legislature approves campaign finance limits—of which there are several proposals on the table—it’s going to be the wild west.

“Until the Alaska State Legislature takes action on this issue, there are no longer any individual-to-candidate; individual-to-non-political party; non-political party group-to-candidate; and non-political party group-to-non-political party contributions limits for Alaska’s state and local elections,” explained an alert from APOC.

There are several such proposals before the Alaska Legislature, but none have yet to clear either chamber. Two are currently sitting in the House Rules Committee, the final step before the House floor. The Senate State Affairs Committee, which is home to two such proposals, has yet to hold a single hearing on them. None of the bills are sponsored or co-sponsored by Republican legislators.

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News earlier this year, Senate State Affairs Committee chair Sen. Mike Shower said his committee had other priorities. Notably, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s election “reform” bills (which is one of the bills on Shower’s priority list) contain anything related to campaign contribution limits.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the Anchorage Democrat who sponsored one of those proposals stuck in the Senate State Affairs Committee, took to Twitter following the announcement of today’s order to call for action.

“Wealthy individuals can now give unlimited amounts to candidates,” he said on Twitter. “There are multiple bills to fix this, and the Legislature needs to make this a priority. Elections should not be dominated by those with the most money.”

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