Alaska editorial: Lawmakers should pass campaign finance laws

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

End-of-session politics shouldn't knock state campaign finance legislation off the table this year. Tough disclosure laws should be in effect as soon as possible to cover as much of the 2010 election season as possible.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on what corporations and unions could spend on a political campaign opened the way for those with the most money to buy the most effective - or least prevalent - freedom of speech.

Danger to our electoral system is obvious. One way to mitigate the power of wealth in politics is to keep it in the light.

So companion bills in the Alaska Senate and House aim to do just that by requiring strict disclosure for campaign spending: what organization is doing the spending, who controls it, who the major contributors are and where that organization lives. That way, voters know who the players backing a candidate or cause are, and can better judge where those candidates really stand, and what those causes truly serve.

Sen. Hollis French expects his Judiciary Committee to pass the bill to the Senate Finance Committee soon. Bills are backing up. On the House side, legislation remains in the State Affairs Committee.

Lawmakers shouldn't dawdle. Maximum disclosure should be the law in Alaska politics. No hiding behind front groups, no massive infusions of nameless money. The Alaska Public Offices Commission says it may not have time to implement the law by the August state primary. All the more reason to act now. Even if enforcement and monitoring tools are not in place by August, the law will be on the books.

Move the legislation now. Give APOC more time - and Alaska voters more information to take to the polls.

Campaign disclosure laws should be ready for governor's signature before session's end.

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