Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/22/2001 03:37 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 103-ELECTION CAMPAIGNS AND LEGISLATIVE ETHICS                                                                   
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT advised  committee members  that a fiscal  note                                                            
from  Alaska Public  Offices  Commission  (APOC)  and informational                                                             
letters from Brooke  Miles of APOC and Mike Frank  were in committee                                                            
He said he  has looked at vetoed legislation  dealing with  election                                                            
campaigns and legislative  ethics and tried to remove the parts that                                                            
were objected to for this legislation.                                                                                          
JOE BALASH, staff  to Senate State Affairs Committee,  called SB 103                                                            
a clean  up bill that  "addresses  some of the  gray areas and  puts                                                            
into  statute common  practices  that occur  within  that gray  area                                                            
based on formal  and informal decisions and opinions  from both APOC                                                            
and the ethics committee."                                                                                                      
Section 1 allows  candidates to register multiple  groups that would                                                            
be  treated as  a single  group  for purposes  of  the contribution                                                             
limits for that candidate.                                                                                                      
Section 2 includes  thank you advertisements as an  allowable use of                                                            
campaign  funds.  According   to APOC,   this  is currently   common                                                            
practice so  putting it into statute  would make it clear  that this                                                            
is the intention of the legislature.                                                                                            
Section  3 increases  the total value  of personal  property  that a                                                            
candidate  may  keep  from $2,500  to  $5,000.  It  also  enumerates                                                            
additional  items that  may be  retained after  the campaign.  These                                                            
items  include photographs,  seasonal  greeting  cards and  campaign                                                            
Section 4  allows the interest  accrued on  a public office  expense                                                            
term (POET)  reserve account  to be transferred  to a POET  account.                                                            
This makes it  clear that principle and interest can  be transferred                                                            
from the reserve account.                                                                                                       
Section 5 provides  that money held  by public entities may  be used                                                            
to influence the  outcome of a ballot proposition  or question under                                                            
limited circumstances.                                                                                                          
Section 6  excludes certain  items from the  definition of  campaign                                                            
contributions.  Professional  services  provided  by  volunteers  to                                                            
political parties,  mass mailings provided by parties  for each race                                                            
around the state and certain  poll results limited to issues and not                                                            
designed by the candidate or designed to benefit the candidate.                                                                 
Number 359                                                                                                                      
Section   7  adds  new   exceptions  and   clarifies  some   of  the                                                            
prohibitions  on  the  use of  public  assets  such  as legislative                                                             
offices, phones, and computers.  Legislative ethics are brought into                                                            
play for  some of the  non-legislative purposes.  It also  clarifies                                                            
the prohibition and use  of public assets for certain political uses                                                            
including  support or opposition  of initiatives  or constitutional                                                             
amendments that will appear on the ballot.                                                                                      
Section 8 gives  the effective date  for the legislation  as January                                                            
1, 2002, which would follow the next election cycle.                                                                            
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  called for questions and received  no response.                                                            
He asked Brooke  Miles if she had anything to add  to the discussion                                                            
that she hadn't covered in her letter to the committee.                                                                         
BROOKE MILES,  assistant director Alaska Public Offices  Commission,                                                            
said that,  as stated in her letter,  the commission hasn't  had the                                                            
opportunity  to review the  bill. However,  she was concerned  about                                                            
certain provisions  in Section  6. There  is concern about  removing                                                            
polls from  the definition  of a  contribution.  This will not  only                                                            
require  the commission  to evaluate  the content  and intention  of                                                            
polls  to determine  whether  the  poll  is intended  to  benefit  a                                                            
candidate,  it may also create a loophole  through which  prohibited                                                            
entities  could  contribute  significantly  to campaigns.  It  could                                                            
allow  lobbyists  to purchase  issue  polls and  then  give them  to                                                            
certain   candidates   even  though   lobbyists   are  specifically                                                             
prohibited  from contributing  to legislative  campaigns other  than                                                            
those  in   the  district  where   they  are  registered   to  vote.                                                            
Corporations  could  do  the  same  and  since  this  would  not  be                                                            
considered  a contribution,  the public would  have no knowledge  of                                                            
Excluding  mass   mailings  creates  difficulties   as  well.  After                                                            
contributing the  maximum allowed by law, parties  could conceivably                                                            
become involved in multiple  mass mailings for their slate or become                                                            
involved in municipal elections.                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked how parties assign value  to a particular                                                            
candidate for party slate  and absentee mailings where congressional                                                            
and district candidates are mentioned on the same mailing.                                                                      
MS. MILES said  the party reports  to APOC, the cost of the  mailing                                                            
divided  by the  number  of  candidates mentioned.  She  noted  that                                                            
congressional oversight is not part of APOC's purview.                                                                          
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked for confirmation  that the congressional                                                             
candidates were included in the formula.                                                                                        
MS.  MILES said  yes, that  the congressional  portion  wouldn't  be                                                            
reported to APOC but it would be subtracted from the total.                                                                     
SENATOR  PHILLIPS noted  that Ms. Miles'  memo had  an error  in the                                                            
effective date.                                                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  said there  was  confusion about  whether  all                                                            
excess money could be transferred  from the POET reserve to the POET                                                            
account or just  the principle. He couldn't understand  the need for                                                            
the reserve account and asked her to comment.                                                                                   
MS. MILES said that the  suggestion for the two accounts didn't come                                                            
from the  commission.  Reasoning behind  the two  accounts was  that                                                            
there might  be a tax  liability in  keeping the  funds in just  one                                                            
account.  She went on to  say that there  was significant  confusion                                                            
about the double  accounts and there  seems to be no reason  for the                                                            
requirement. The  basics wouldn't change with just  one account. For                                                            
instance, "  a senator could hold  up to $20,000 and a house  member                                                            
up to $10,000  or $5,000 for each  year of the term and spend  up to                                                            
$5,000 to  augment their  expenses, which is  reported on an  annual                                                            
Number 904                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked whether  there would be a restriction  to                                                            
spend no more  than $5,000 from the  POET account if he had  carried                                                            
$7,000 forward.                                                                                                                 
MS. MILES said that was  correct and that this amount was determined                                                            
as  campaign  finance  reform  progressed  through  the legislative                                                             
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  asked  for questions,   then called  on  Susie                                                            
SUSIE  BARNETT, Executive  Director  Legislative  Ethics  Committee,                                                            
said that the  committee hadn't reviewed the legislation  so she was                                                            
not commenting on behalf of the committee.                                                                                      
She did  have a comment  on page  9 lines 19  and 20, subsection  G,                                                            
dealing with  "reasonable use of the  Internet by a legislator  or a                                                            
legislative  employee except  if the  use is  for election  campaign                                                            
purposes;".  Although this  doesn't  appear to  be unreasonable,  it                                                            
conflicts  with page  8, line  25,  a subsection  that specifically                                                             
addresses using  government assets  or resources for the  purpose of                                                            
political  fund raising  or campaigning.  She  questioned  including                                                            
subsection (G) in the legislation.                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  asked  whether she  meant  that  it should  be                                                            
placed elsewhere or worded more clearly.                                                                                        
MS. BARNETT said  that on lines 10 and 11 and at the  bottom of page                                                            
8, there are general office  items mentioned and the intent is clear                                                            
that  there  can be  common  sense  use of  the  Internet.  However,                                                            
meshing   this   with  subsection   (G)   may   cause  interpretive                                                             
difficulties  for  the committee  if  they  received a  request  for                                                            
advice or had a complaint filed.                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  thanked  Ms.  Barnett and  asked  for  further                                                            
testimony. There was none.                                                                                                      
He announced that SB 103 would be held in committee.                                                                            

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