Legislature(2023 - 2024)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

04/27/2023 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                 SB  17-CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS                                                                              
4:09:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL NO. 17                                                               
"An Act  relating to political  contributions; and  providing for                                                               
an effective date."                                                                                                             
4:10:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MATT  LONGABAUGH, Staff,  Senator  Scott  Kawasaki, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,  introduced SB  17 by  paraphrasing                                                               
the sponsor statement.                                                                                                          
     Alaska  has long  regulated campaign  contributions and                                                                    
     limited  the amount  that can  be donated  to political                                                                    
     campaigns.  Following the  VECO  scandal  in 2006,  the                                                                    
     people  of Alaska  approved  a  ballot initiative  that                                                                    
     established  strict contribution  limits.  Part of  the                                                                    
     argument behind  that initiative was that  limiting the                                                                    
     amount  of money  candidates can  raise would  curb the                                                                    
     type of corruption seen during VECO.                                                                                       
     In  2019 the  9th Circuit  Court of  Appeals overturned                                                                    
     some of  Alaska's political contribution limits  in the                                                                    
     case Thompson  v. Hebdon. The Thompson  decision struck                                                                    
     down the limits, including  the limits on contributions                                                                    
     from   individuals,  nongroup   entities,  nonpolitical                                                                    
     party entities,  and joint  campaigns for  Governor and                                                                    
     Lieutenant Governor.                                                                                                       
     This bill establishes  new campaign contribution limits                                                                    
     compliant  with  the  Thompson decision.  It  increases                                                                    
     these limits such that they  are nearly indexed for the                                                                    
     rate  of inflation  between 2006  and 2023.  The limits                                                                    
     are rounded  to the nearest  hundred. Here are  the new                                                                    
        • Individual contribution limits from $500 to $700                                                                      
        • Nonpolitical party group limits from $1,000 to                                                                        
        • Nongroup entity limits from $1,000 to $1,400                                                                          
        • Individual limits to a joint candidacy for                                                                            
          Governor and Lieutenant Gov. from $1,000 to                                                                           
        • Group limits to a joint candidacy for Governor                                                                        
          and Lieutenant Gov. from $2,000 to $2,800                                                                             
     The    Thompson   decision    also   stipulated    that                                                                    
     contribution limits  must be indexed for  inflation. SB
     17  requires  APOC  to index  contribution  limits  for                                                                    
     inflation  by regulation  starting  in  2024 and  after                                                                    
     subsequent terms of four years.                                                                                            
4:11:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LONGABAUGH presented the sectional analysis for SB 17.                                                                      
     Section 1. AS 15.13.070(b)                                                                                               
     This amends  the statute  by increasing  the individual                                                                    
     contribution limit  from $500 to $700.  This applies to                                                                    
     individuals donating to  nongroup entities, candidates,                                                                    
     write-in candidates, or nonpolitical party groups.                                                                         
     Section 2. AS 15.13.070(c)                                                                                               
     Amends  the  statute  by  increasing  the  contribution                                                                    
     limit for  groups that are  not political  parties from                                                                    
     $1,000 to  $1,400. This  applies to  nonpolitical party                                                                    
     groups donating  to a candidate, a  write-in candidate,                                                                    
     another  group,  a  non-group entity,  or  a  political                                                                    
     Section 3. AS 15.13.070(f)                                                                                               
     This  section  amends  the statute  by  increasing  the                                                                    
     amount  nongroup entities  can  donate  from $1,000  to                                                                    
     $1,400. This  applies to nongroup entities  donating to                                                                    
     another  nongroup entity,  to  candidates, to  write-in                                                                    
     candidates, to groups, or to political parties.                                                                            
     Section 4. AS 15.13.070(g)                                                                                               
     This  amends  the  statute  by  increasing  the  amount                                                                    
     individuals   and   groups    can   donate   to   joint                                                                    
     Gubernatorial  and Lieutenant  Gubernatorial campaigns.                                                                    
     It  increases the  amount individuals  can donate  from                                                                    
     $1,000 to $1,400, and groups from $2,000 to $2,800.                                                                        
     Section 5. AS 15.13.070(h)                                                                                               
     This section  adds a new subsection  that indexes these                                                                    
     campaign  limits to  inflation. Starting  in 2024,  and                                                                    
     every  term of  four years  thereafter, the  commission                                                                    
     shall  by regulation  adjust these  contribution limits                                                                    
     to account for inflation.                                                                                                  
     Section  6.  Provides  this   bill  with  an  immediate                                                                  
     effective date.                                                                                                            
4:14:13 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LONGABAUGH continued the introduction of SB 17 with a                                                                       
PowerPoint, starting on slides 4-5.                                                                                             
                        A Brief History                                                                                       
        • In 1995, citizens filed an initiative that                                                                            
          included lowering the limits on individual                                                                            
          campaign contributions from $1000 to $500.                                                                            
          • The legislature heard the call of the people                                                                        
             and enacted  a new  law  before the  initiative                                                                    
             came to fruition. The stated purpose of the new                                                                    
             law was "to restore  the public's trust  in the                                                                    
             electoral   process   and   to    foster   good                                                                    
        • Years later, the legislature raised the limit                                                                         
          back to $1,000.                                                                                                       
        • In 2006, the people once again filed an                                                                               
          initiative, and this time it came to be, lowering                                                                     
          the limits again to $500  with 73% support.                                                                           
        • In 2021, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals                                                                      
          ruled the limit unconstitutional.                                                                                     
          • The Court argued that because $500 was                                                                              
             unusually low, applied to all  state races, and                                                                    
             was not  indexed with  inflation  to grow  over                                                                    
             time, that it  infringed on donors'  freedom of                                                                    
             speech  and   gave  an   unfair  advantage   to                                                                    
          • In the aftermath of the decision, Alaska's                                                                          
             Public Office Commission set the individual-to-                                                                    
             candidate limit at $1,500.                                                                                         
     SB  17's ceilings  would  roughly  track inflation  for                                                                    
     what  Alaskans  approved  in 2006,  though  are  a  bit                                                                    
4:16:16 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LONGABAUGH advanced to slide 6.                                                                                             
              How it Could Survive Legal Challenge                                                                            
     To review,  The Ninth Circuit Court  argued that, since                                                                    
     $500  was unusually  low, applied  to all  state races,                                                                    
     and was not  indexed with inflation to  grow over time,                                                                    
     it infringed on  donors' freedom of speech  and gave an                                                                    
     unfair advantage to incumbents.                                                                                            
     SB 17's  limits are not  unusually low and  are indexed                                                                    
     with  inflation to  grow over  time.  Thus, it  follows                                                                    
     from that  ruling that these would  survive a challenge                                                                    
     made on the same grounds as the last one.                                                                                  
     In the 40  states that do have  limits on contributions                                                                    
     to legislative  candidates, the  average is  $2,848 per                                                                    
     election, ranging  from $180 in Montana  to $13,704 [in                                                                    
     Ohio].  Ours   would  be   slightly  higher   or  lower                                                                    
     depending  on   the  source  of   the  contributionnot                                                                     
     4:17:36 PM                                                                                                               
     MR. LONGABAUGH continued to slide 7.                                                                                       
                    Reviewing the Increases                                                                                   
     Section 1:                                                                                                             
     • Individuals: $500 >> $700 per year                                                                                       
     Section 2:                                                                                                             
     •  A non-political  party group:  $1000  >> $1,400  per                                                                    
     Section 3:                                                                                                             
     •  Nongroup entity (such as XXX) :  $1000 >> $1,400 per                                                                    
     Section   4  concerning   Governor  and   Lt.  Governor                                                                
     •  Individuals  $1,000  >>  $1,400;  groups  $2,000  >>                                                                    
        $2,800 per year                                                                                                         
MR. LONGABAUGH advanced to slide 8.                                                                                             
          You may be familiar with some related cases                                                                         
     In  McCutcheon v.  Federal Election  Commission (2014),                                                                    
     the  court  held that  states  cannot  place limits  on                                                                    
     aggregate    contributions    (the   total    of    all                                                                    
     contributions  to  all  candidates) by  individuals  or                                                                    
     groups. Existing limits  on per-candidate contributions                                                                    
     were not addressed and thus not changed. (NCSL)                                                                            
     In  Citizens  United  v.  Federal  Election  Commission                                                                    
     (2010), independent  expenditures were  at hand.  SB 17                                                                    
     would not limit those.                                                                                                     
4:19:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR CLAMAN asked why the  individual contribution limits from                                                               
$500-$700 weren't higher.                                                                                                       
MR.  LONGABAUGH replied  that the  increase  tracks the  consumer                                                               
price index  (CPI) and is the  limit that was approved  by ballot                                                               
SENATOR CLAMAN  summarized that  the $500  limit is  adjusted for                                                               
MR. LONGABAUGH replied that it's at least tracked to inflation.                                                                 
SENATOR  CLAMAN  questioned  the  reason  that  the  presentation                                                               
didn't include the full explanation  of the $1,500 individual-to-                                                               
candidate limit that  APOC set and then  withdrew under pressure.                                                               
It was noteworthy  because that left basically  no finance limits                                                               
in the last election.                                                                                                           
MR.   LONGABAUGH  acknowledged   that   was   omitted  from   the                                                               
SENATOR  CLAMAN  pressed the  point  asking  how the  $1,500  was                                                               
relevant when APOC  added it and then realized it  was a bad idea                                                               
and withdrew it.                                                                                                                
4:21:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KAWASAKI  asked Mr. Lucas  to discuss how APOC  happened to                                                               
set the $1,500 limit, temporary though it was.                                                                                  
4:21:40 PM                                                                                                                    
TOM  LUCAS,   Campaign  Disclosure  Coordinator,   Alaska  Public                                                               
Offices Commission (APOC), Anchorage,  Alaska, explained that the                                                               
$1,500  limit  was  APOC  staff's   attempt  to  accommodate  the                                                               
Thompson  decision.  The  commission withdrew  the  $1,500  limit                                                               
after it  ultimately decided  that any  caps on  the contribution                                                               
limits should be set by the legislature.                                                                                        
SENATOR  CLAMAN   recounted  that   the  court   criticized  that                                                               
incumbents  were   advantaged  by   the  structure   of  Alaska's                                                               
contribution  limits. The  limit was  set as  an annual  limit as                                                               
opposed to a  per campaign limit which  favors incumbents because                                                               
they  oftentimes start  running the  year before  and challengers                                                               
often don't get  involved until later so  they're not fundraising                                                               
the first year. He asked the  reason for not shifting to campaign                                                               
MR.  LONGABAUGH   responded  that   incumbents  always   have  an                                                               
advantage  and  it doesn't  seem  to  be  tied to  annual  versus                                                               
campaign  limits,  but  he  would  follow  up  after  doing  some                                                               
research on that point.                                                                                                         
SENATOR CLAMAN  observed that Alaska  was told that  its campaign                                                               
finance  limits were  unconstitutional  and  his perspective  was                                                               
that  the  Ninth  Circuit  wasn't  likely  to  find  SB  17  very                                                               
different  because   it  simply   adjusts  the  limit   to  match                                                               
CHAIR KAWASAKI reviewed the variety  of what other states do with                                                               
campaign  limits and  posited that  the legislature  could decide                                                               
what  policy  to adopt.  His  perspective  was that  the  general                                                               
opinion was that there is too much money in politics.                                                                           
4:27:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   WIELECHOWSKI    commented   that   the    voters   have                                                               
overwhelmingly said  they want  campaign contribution  limits and                                                               
the  court has  said  the  limits are  too  low.  He offered  his                                                               
perspective  that the  limits should  be as  low as  possible and                                                               
then inflation proofed. He said he appreciated the discussion.                                                                  
4:29:18 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BJORKMAN  asked  if  SB  17 would  limit  the  amount  a                                                               
candidate could contribute to their own campaign.                                                                               
CHAIR  KAWASAKI  responded  that the  bill  doesn't  specifically                                                               
address that and he didn't  believe the law currently limited the                                                               
amount a  candidate could  contribute to  their own  campaign. He                                                               
asked Mr. Lucas to comment.                                                                                                     
4:30:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LUCAS  responded that the  one exception is that  a candidate                                                               
can only  contribute an additional  $5,000 to their  own campaign                                                               
during the last 30 days before an election.                                                                                     
SENATOR CLAMAN  asked what the laws  are on how much  a candidate                                                               
can loan to their campaign.                                                                                                     
MR.  LUCAS  responded  that  a  candidate's  loan  to  their  own                                                               
campaign  is  considered  a contribution  unless  and  until  the                                                               
candidate  files  a  report  indicating they  would  like  to  be                                                               
reimbursed from  the surplus  funds at the  end of  the campaign.                                                               
The amount  that can  be reimbursed is  limited depending  on the                                                               
office  the person  is  seeking.  He offered  to  follow up  with                                                               
information about the specific statute.                                                                                         
SENATOR CLAMAN said he didn't need the information.                                                                             
4:33:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KAWASAKI set  an  amendment  deadline and  held  SB 17  in                                                               
committee for future consideration.                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 17 Fiscal note.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB17.Sponsor.Statement.04.26.24.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB17.Sectional.Analysis.04.24.23.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 Fiscal note.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB0017A.PDF SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB0138A.PDF SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 138
a. SB138.Omnibus Elections sponsor statement 04-26-23.pdf SFIN 5/9/2023 1:30:00 PM
SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 138
SB 138 Sectional Analysis.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 138
SB 138 draft powerpoint.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 138
SB 17 Presentation.1.pdf SSTA 4/27/2023 3:30:00 PM
SB 17