Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106
03/12/2013 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 8-AMEND U.S. CONST. RE CAMPAIGN MONEY 9:29:08 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the final order of business was SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 8, Urging the United States Congress and the President of the United States to work to amend the Constitution of the United States to prohibit corporations, unions, and other organizations from making unlimited independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates for public office. 9:29:26 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for SSHJR 8, Version 28-LS0424/C, Bullard, 3/11/13, as a work draft. There being no objection, Version C was before the committee. 9:30:05 AM CHAIR LYNN reviewed the changes incorporated in Version C. The first change was to replace the word "large" with "unlimited" when preceding the word "contributions". The next change was to delete language from the sponsor substitute, on page 2, lines 1- 5. The last change was to add two "whereas" clauses, which are found on page 2, lines 1-6. 9:31:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA, Alaska State Legislature, as sponsor, presented HJR 8. He explained that the proposed legislation is a response to Citizens United, a [U.S.] Supreme Court decision a couple years ago, which allowed environmental groups, corporations, unions, and "all sorts of special interest groups" to make unlimited [campaign] contributions. He said the groups have to list whether the money they contribute is in support of or in opposition to a candidate, and 80 percent of the contributions are listed as being made in opposition to a candidate. Representative Gara said the statements made in opposition to candidates are negative and often untrue. He said these large groups, including foreign groups, are influencing elections. He related that in 2008, before Citizens United, independent expenditures on the national level totaled $150 million; for the most recent Presidential Election in 2012, independent expenditures totaled over one billion dollars - a seven-fold increase. He said the airways have been flooded with negative advertisements. CHAIR LYNN remarked that what is negative for one candidate can be positive for another. REPRESENTATIVE GARA indicated that he would not like certain negative statements made about his opponent, even if those statements benefitted his own campaign. REPRESENTATIVE GARA said the question is: Do we want money to flood out the best ideas? He said [false] negative advertising aired or printed just days before an election gives no time for the candidate being attacked to respond, and "all of a sudden the election gets dictated and the issues get dictated by outside groups, not by the candidates who are running against each other. 9:34:11 AM CHAIR LYNN said the House Judiciary Standing Committee in a previous legislative session debated at length the requirements for disclosure, and he offered his understanding that there is a requirement for the top three contributors to be announced not only in writing at the bottom of the television screen, but also audibly announced so that someone listening to the television but not watching it can hear who the contributor is. REPRESENTATIVE GARA indicated that Alaska and some other states adopted that requirement, and the subject has been debated by Congress. He said "they" have found a loophole regarding that requirement; therefore, it is not working well. In response to Chair Lynn, he explained that top donors are filtering their money through local groups. He said that is something that could be fixed in law, but stated that that is not really the focus of the proposed joint resolution. 9:36:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA, in response to Representative Keller, indicated that the previous statement he made regarding the percentage of money focused on negative advertising can be found among the information he provided in the committee packet; it has been documented. REPRESENTATIVE GARA stated that the goal of CSSS HJR 8 is to obtain a federal Constitutional amendment when three-quarters of the states ratify the Constitutional amendment put out by Congress. He said roughly 11 states thus far have told Congress they want a Constitutional amendment, while 20 other states are considering resolutions like CSSS HJR 8. He said he anticipates more states will follow suit. 9:37:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA responded to a request from the chair to summarize the purpose of each "whereas" clause in the proposed joint resolution. He said the first whereas clause talks about the ability of groups to put unlimited amounts of money into campaign expenditures; the second whereas clause says Citizens United was highly contested, but is the law of the land, and independent expenditures cannot be stopped as long as Citizens United exists; and the third whereas clause states that unlimited expenditures skew the political system in favor of those who have money. He opined that states should have the right to limit independent expenditures, and he suggested perhaps there should be limits, such as there are for political action committees (PACs). CHAIR LYNN offered his understanding that for campaigns run in Alaska, individual campaign contributions were limited to $1,000 and are now limited to $500, while PACs were limited to $2,000 and are now limited to $1,000. REPRESENTATIVE GARA ventured a person could predict what someone who gives $25 to a campaign would say when asked whether that $25 gives him/her the same voice in politics as a group that donates a million dollars. 9:39:15 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA noted that the fourth whereas clause was added by the committee. 9:39:30 AM CHAIR LYNN addressed the fourth whereas clause, on page 2, lines 1-3, which read as follows: WHEREAS the boards of directors and management of corporations, unions, and other organizations permitted to make unlimited independent expenditures may include individuals who are not citizens of the United States; and CHAIR LYNN offered his understanding that the decision to put forth campaign expenditures rests with the board of directors of a corporation, and members of many boards are not U.S. citizens. He opined that only U.S. citizens should be able to contribute for or against a candidate or proposition, which is why he proposed this whereas clause. He offered his understanding that legislative candidates cannot accept campaign contributions from individuals who are not citizens of the U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GARA confirmed that is correct. He said a Swiss corporation, Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, donated money for an election in the U.S. He remarked, "You can imagine as we have the pipeline debate that maybe a Chinese company or a Japanese company or some other company would get involved, and at some point it's meddling in Alaska politics ... by foreign entities." 9:41:21 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA directed attention to the fifth whereas clause, which states that few candidates are able to stand up to big money, and campaigns are defined by the big donations and not by what the candidates have to say. In response to Chair Lynn, he said in close races, if an entity spends millions of dollars against a candidate in the final days of a political race, that candidate will probably lose. REPRESENTATIVE GARA said the seventh whereas clause, on page 2, lines 7-9, says the only way to [reverse the Citizens United decision] is through a constitutional amendment. He said he is not a fan of resolutions; however, he said he thinks that if 36 other states back this resolution and send the message to Congress that "enough is enough," there will be support for this change in Congress. He noted that U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has spoken against "the evils of this kind of money." He said people want to run their own campaigns and don't mind running against other candidates who run their own campaign, but he said he thinks "we all mind when outside groups get involved, especially with this concept of unlimited expenditures ...." He said the "Be It Resolved" language urges the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States to work across party lines to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. REPRESENTATIVE GARA relayed that 95 percent of candidates who receive the most money get elected. He said, "This issue has sort of put that problem on steroids." He said in Ohio, people got so turned off by the election they started ignoring the television advertisements. He opined, "When you have people ignoring the political debate, the country is harmed. There should be positive ads where people actually talk about what they're going to do." 9:45:33 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA said CSSS HJR 8 will level the playing field, and he mentioned getting rid of misleading advertisements. CHAIR LYNN said he does not think the proposed joint resolution would eliminate misleading advertisements. REPRESENTATIVE GARA said that is true, but the amount of money being spent on misleading advertising at this point is out of control, and when a shadow group puts out a misleading advertising, no one directly is blamed. 9:46:33 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER mentioned the Alias Addition Acts, which he said disallowed criticism of U.S. Congress or the President. He said the resulting resolutions of 1798 defied the federal government, much like addressing the federal overreach of the U.S. Supreme Court, which Representative Keller commended Representative Gara for doing. He stated that the issue then and now is the First Amendment; the question being asked now is whether there should be any limits. He said, "I appreciate your ... saying ... and pointing out that we as individuals have limits on what we and get, and I would look at that personally as a bigger wrong than what the [U.S.] Supreme Court did." He told the bill sponsor that this is an interesting issue, but that he will have "a long ways to go" before he can vote for it. 9:48:39 AM MIKE FRANK testified in support of HJR 8. He related that he is an attorney who, in the '90s, drafted an initiative to reform the state's campaign finance laws via a group called, "Campaign Finance Reform Now." He relayed that 600-700 signature gatherers collected over 30,000 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot; when the legislature at the time passed legislation with a similar purpose, Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer took the initiative off the ballot. The law that was passed was subsequently upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court and by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The law that existed at the state level until the Citizens United case had a provision that forbid corporations, unions, and "the shadowy groups that Representative Gara mentioned" from making independent expenditures in candidate elections; they were still allowed to make independent expenditures in the context of ballot propositions, as was consistent with the jurisprudences surrounding the First Amendment at the time. Mr. Frank opined that the law worked well until the Citizens United case, which, in effect, held that corporations, unions, and other groups should be allowed to make independent expenditures in candidate elections. He stated, "Since then, we've seen an explosion of largely negative, misleading, sometimes false, and generally uninformative advertising that doesn't help voters make wise decisions with respect to which candidate to oppose or support." CHAIR LYNN asked, "Would that fall under freedom of speech?" MR. FRANK answered that it does according to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, which he said "in effect equates money with freedom of speech." He said that decision dates back to the Buckley v. Valeo case in 1976; however, after that, in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that because corporations and unions could aggregate such immense wealth, they could constitutionally be prohibited from making independent expenditures. However, that all changed with the Citizens United case, and he opined it will not get better without a constitutional amendment to forbid corporations, unions, and other organizations from making independent expenditures in the context of elections. He urged the committee to support HJR 8. He said it is really up to each state to decide how to best regulate its state and federal elections of candidates. 9:53:48 AM KATHARINE VEH testified in support of HJR 8. She recollected the second commandment in the Holy Bible, regarding graven images. She related, "So, I'm saying, knowing all about the separation of church and state, that this guides me." She posited that currently the U.S. Government is violating the second commandment, because "an enormous part of being a respected leader is to tap into the spiritual side of yourself" and "spend some time in prayer with God," then speak with the people and make legislative decisions based on that. She stated, "Money doesn't have anything to do with it." She clarified that decisions need to be made about money, but money should not be a primary focus -a graven image - in the political sphere. MS. VEH further stated that it is immoral to buy and sell candidates. She said, "Slavery was already outlawed over a hundred years ago in the Thirteenth Amendment." She said it is corrupt to give money to candidates "for favor." She stated, "Candidates are lined up on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder, and this is extremely scary." She expressed her desire for people to like their political leaders again, and she related that her grandfather served his community and was respected. She concluded, "This kind of integrity will happen once a measure of honesty is built into the system through a constitutional amendment." 9:57:23 AM CHAIR LYNN said money is an important part of politics; it facilitates communication of the issues. He stated his support of CSSS HJR 8, and he asked what the will of the committee was regarding the proposed joint resolution. 9:58:20 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON said he favors CSSS HJR 8. He said he is interested in hearing more from Representative Keller regarding the First Amendment. He expressed appreciation for the comments of Mr. Franks regarding Alaska's past legislation in 1996 to level the playing field. He said he does not think CSSS HJR 8 would harm freedom of speech, but would make voices equal by not allowing unlimited contributions. Notwithstanding that, he said it sounds like more discussion is needed. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER ventured that there would be people to testify on both sides of this issue, and he said he would not mind looking for [testifiers who might round out the opinions heard]. He asked that the committee hold CSSS HJR 8. REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS said she would like the bill to be held "for the same reasons." REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES said she agrees. She opined that the states should be making the decision rather than a federal court. She said she would find it helpful to hear more testimony from "groups that have worked on this issue." 10:00:12 AM CHAIR LYNN reiterated his strong support, and he announced that CSSS HJR 8 was held over.