Alaska Editorial: Tighten disclosure law, not campaign contributions

Posted: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This editorial appeared in Friday's Voice of the (Anchorage) Times:

The folks who for some reason believe Alaska's campaign finance law should be more stringent than those governing federal elections are at it again.

Because of a petition-gathering effort, voters in 2006, or the Legislature possibly sooner, will get a chance to roll back state campaign finance law passed in 2003 by Alaska lawmakers.

Who is sponsoring the effort? Democratic legislators Harry Crawford, Eric Croft of Anchorage and David Guttenberg of Fairbanks. They brought you the Trust the People ballot effort to fill U.S. Senate vacancies by special election.

Their latest ballot question would tighten the rules for lobbyists, cut the amount individuals can give political candidates to $500 from $1,000, and halve the amount that can be given to political parties, to $5,000 per year, from $10,000.

In general, at the federal level, an individual can give $2,000 to a candidate per election and $25,000 to any national party committee per year. A person can give $10,000 to any political action committee, or state or local party or political committee per year, up from $5,000.

Why the continued push here for ever-stricter regulations? Some would have you believe the effort is aimed at getting big money, whatever that is, out of state politics. They lament that current state contribution limits give incumbents the advantage in elections, pointing out that not a single incumbent lawmaker was beaten by a challenger in the recent elections.

Of course incumbents - of either party - have advantages, but we suspect the real reason behind the drive to reduce the contribution limit is that Democrats, with a political philosophy at odds with most Alaskans, remain in a legislative minority because they may have a difficult time raising money and running successfully against Republican incumbents.

If those on the left can reduce the amount of money the opposition can raise - they euphemistically refer to it as leveling the playing field - it would greatly benefit them.

Tinkering with ever-stricter contribution limits in an effort to change the political landscape is an affront to your First Amendment right of political free speech that will do little to keep "big money" out of politics. What it will do is serve to stifle your voice while giving more power to the media during elections.

Alaska would be better off with the less restrictive and more practical federal rules that recognize the increased costs of spreading a political message, and concentrating on a system of immediate and complete disclosure of contributions that would not be an abuse of the Constitution.

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