Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106

03/12/2013 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
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           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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 SSHJR8.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
01a CS SSHJR8 Ver. C.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
02 SSHJR8 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
03 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Independent Spending report.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
03a HB127-DOA-PDA-03-08-13.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
04 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - NY Times and Washington Post articles.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
05 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Open Secrets article.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
06 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Sen. Murkowski comments.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
07 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Washington Post opinion poll.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
08 HJR8 3-6-13php.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
09 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Business Insider article.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
10 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Citizens United Fuels Negative Spending.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
11 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Huffington Post Citizens United article.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
12 SSHJR8 Supporting Documents - Open Secrets 2012.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
01 HB0127A.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
02 HB127 Letter to Rep. Lynn Ombudsman Act Amendments.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
03 HB127 Fiscal Note 3-05-13.php.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
04 HB 127 Sectional Analysis 030513.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
05 HB 127 FAQs 030513.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127
06 HB 127 Letter Alaska Bar Assn & Statutes Mar 2013.pdf HSTA 3/12/2013 8:00:00 AM
HB 127