A ballot initiative proposing to tighten campaign finance laws and regulation of lobbyists has been challenged in an Anchorage court by the Alaska Libertarian Party and an Anchorage attorney.
The plaintiffs argued Monday in Anchorage Superior Court that the so-called campaign finance reform initiative violates the state's single-subject rule, requiring proposed legislation to be confined to one topic. The initiative was certified in November by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and is scheduled to appear on the August 2006 primary ballot.
The initiative would lower the amount individuals can contribute to candidates from $1,000 to $500. It would reduce donations to political parties from $10,000 to $5,000 and political action committee contributions from $2,000 to $1,000.
The initiative also would lower from $4,000 to $1,000 the amount politicians and some other state employees can accept from any other outside source before being required to disclose the earnings to the state. Also, lobbyists would have to register with the state after spending more than 10 hours in one month lobbying lawmakers. The current law requires them to register after 40 hours in one month.
Ken Jacobus, an Anchorage attorney providing free legal counsel for the Libertarians, said the initiative includes three different subjects: campaign contributions; lobbyist regulations and finance disclosure statements.
"They're not sufficiently related to be a single subject," Jacobus said.
Jacobus said Superior Court Judge John Suddock announced Monday that he would have a decision on the case within 10 days.
Sarah Felix, a state assistant attorney general arguing the case, said all aspects of the initiative cover the single general subject "preventing undue influence by special interests on the work of elected state officials."
"The common public understanding is you have to regulate all aspects of ways legislators can be influenced if you want to have an effective regulatory framework in place," Felix said.
Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, one of three Democratic sponsors of the initiative, said case law in Alaska recognizes that the Legislature and initiative process can treat comprehensive problems in a comprehensive way.
"The same special interests are trying to get to the Legislature, whether it be by lobbyists, campaign contributions or a phony baloney (consulting) job during the summer," Croft said.
Croft said he expects the plaintiffs to appeal the decision if it is determined the initiative is legal.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.