Suit aims to block rule on donations

Lawyer challenges new rule requiring disclosure of soft-money donors

Posted: Monday, January 06, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A new state rule requiring Alaska's political parties to disclose their sources and uses of so-called soft campaign money is being challenged in court.

Ken Jacobus, a lawyer with ties to the Republican Party, is asking the state Superior Court to grant an injunction against the new regulation. The rule was adopted by the Alaska Public Offices Commission in November after a record outpouring of unregulated soft-money ads in the state's gubernatorial election season.

Oral arguments in the case were heard Thursday before Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner, with a decision expected this month.

Jacobus argued APOC doesn't have legal authority to require soft-money reporting. He also raised constitutional free-speech arguments that have been used to shield soft-money contributions in the past.

"This is something for the Legislature to decide," Jacobus said.

Jacobus is the Republican Party's attorney but said he filed this case on behalf of the Libertarians and himself. He said he does not want to have to list his contributions to various parties.

The state attorney general's office defended the new regulation, saying it was consistent with the Legislature's efforts to prevent organized special interests from exerting undue influence over election campaigns and elected officials.

Both Democrats and Republicans ran soft-money ads attacking opposing candidates in last fall's election. The Alaska Democratic Party supported the new regulation, however, saying the public should know who is funding political activity. Republicans opposed the rule.

"I personally think the regulation is totally inappropriate," state Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich said Friday. But he said the party intends to work on the problem through the Legislature and opted out of a legal challenge.

Federal court rulings in 2001 said the state cannot limit soft-money donations to parties and independent groups when the money does not directly support or oppose candidates.

That ruling opened the gates in Alaska elections. Millions of dollars were subsequently spent on such soft money ads by the state's two major political parties and groups in Alaska and as far away as Virginia. The sources of the donations to pay for those ads were not revealed.

APOC voted 10 days after the election to require parties to disclose who contributes money and how the money gets spent. Independent groups would not be regulated. The new rule went into effect Dec. 20.

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