laska Supreme Court Issues Mixed Ruling on Campaign Finance Lawsuit

April 16, 1999 12:00 am

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Friday, April 16, 1999

ANCHORAGE–The Alaska Supreme Court today declared certain provisions of the state’s campaign finance law unconstitutional but upheld others in a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Civil Liberties Union.

In a 92-page decision, the Court agreed with the ACLU that restricting campaign contributions during certain time periods before elections was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

But the Court upheld other provisions of the law that the ACLU had challenged, including limits on the amount of money that can be contributed by individuals and political parties; an outright ban on contributions by corporations and labor unions; and restrictions on contributions by lobbyists and out-of-state individuals and groups.

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union gave the Court mixed reviews on its decision.

“We are delighted that the Alaska Supreme Court has struck down the temporal restrictions on campaign contributions,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union. “However, we are disappointed that the Court has allowed the government to dictate how much of people’s hard-earned money they may contribute to support candidates for public office.”

For example, Rudinger said, Alaskans will not be able to donate their permanent fund dividend to a candidate of their choice.

“This is core political speech, which is deserving of the highest level of protection under the First Amendment,” she said. “The ACLU supports campaign finance reform, but not at the expense of the First Amendment.”

“Rather,” she added, “we support meaningful reform that allows all qualified candidates to get their message to the voters. This can best be done through public financing of campaigns, which would give every candidate a chance to be heard without restricting voters from supporting the candidates of their choice.”

The ACLU first successfully challenged the state’s 1996 campaign finance law in Superior Court three weeks before the 1998 primary elections. But in a surprising turn of events, the Alaska Supreme Court reinstated the law four days later, ordering a stay on the lower court decision until the Supreme Court could review the case. That decision was issued today.

The Board of Directors of the AkCLU will meet early next week to decide whether to appeal today’s ruling to the United States Supreme Court.

The case is Alaska Civil Liberties Union v. State of Alaska. Attorney John Rubini represented the Alaska Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU’s previous release on the case is at /news/n081098c.html.

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