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Will Citizens United result in Big Oil deciding who wins Alaska elections?

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Aaron Jansen illustration

In Alaska, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 is on course to influencing state elections with unlimited spending as 59 of 60 legislative seats are up for grabs in November.

The Associated Press reports that the Alaska Department of Law says that “Supreme Court case and other federal court decisions have cast doubt on the constitutionality of many state campaign finance laws.”

That would include unlimited spending by labor unions and corporations.

One group  -- Alaska Deserves Better -- has gotten confirmation from an opinion by the Alaska Public Offices Commission that it can raise and spend unlimited cash this election cycle, according to AP. Alaska Deserves Better "intends to promote responsible, ethical and transparent government in Alaska by providing the public with relevant information regarding candidates for state and local office," according to AP.

Now the question is whether other groups -- in particular, pro-oil tax or anti-oil tax organizations, which have been battling over how Alaska taxes oil production -- intend to ramp up spending for their favorite candidates.

Rebecca Logan, manager of the pro-oil Alaska Support Industry Alliance, said at Saturday's Alaska GOP convention that the APOC decision was a “gift” for her group and that the Alliance had “big plans” this election year.

Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, has been pushing for nearly $2 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry. He lost the fight during this spring’s legislative session, but doesn't intend to give up.

Some speculate anti-tax groups, such as the Make Alaska Competitive Coalition and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, will come out spending huge sums of money to ensure next year that the Alaska Legislature is made up of lawmakers who favor Parnell's tax breaks for the state’s lifeblood industry.

A massive redistricting in Alaska has resulted in elections this year for all but one of the state’s legislative seats. Expect millions of dollars to be spent on these races as groups with agendas target specific districts and candidates.