House Judiciary OKs corporate campaigning bill

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

JUNEAU - A bill on disclosures and disclaimers of corporate political campaigning cleared the House Judiciary Committee without incident Monday.

It now heads to the House Finance Committee.

The measure's uneventful passage follows scrutiny of the committee chairman, Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, who last month unexpectedly blocked another corporate campaigning bill, by fellow Republican Rep. Bob Lynn.

On Sunday, Ramras abruptly closed his committee's meeting on Sen. Hollis French's bill, which he favored over Lynn's, after losing a fight to soften disclaimer requirements.

Ramras' main concerns throughout the bill's discussion was that new requirements could stifle political participation by small organizations. He said requirements for disclaimers to be read aloud in ads - particularly on television - eat up valuable chunks of 30- and 60-second ads and would create an "embedded bias" against smaller groups that can't afford to buy longer ads.

Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, said the need to clearly state the advertiser's identity outweighed Ramras' concerns.

The bill hasn't changed significantly since the Senate passed it 19-0 on April 1.

It addresses new political spending rights that corporations and unions were given through a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January. State law had prohibited corporations and unions from spending on third-party advertising advocating for or against political candidates, but the court protected those kinds of expenditures as free speech.

That left gaps in state law for disclosing political spending to the Alaska Public Offices Commission and disclaimer rules in political advertising.

Statewide primaries are Aug. 24.

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