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Join the debate at Bear Tooth tonight: Are Alaska's campaign contribution limits too strict?

  • Author: Jill Burke
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published March 24, 2016

In November, a group of Alaskans filed suit against the Alaska Public Offices Commission in an effort to overturn Alaska's limits on campaign contributions, raising questions about the constitutionality of limits.

Those questions will be the subject of a debate Monday at Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Anchorage, hosted by Arguing Alaska, a collaborative effort between the Seawolf Debate Program and Alaska Dispatch News. The debate series brings experts together to debate important policy issues, and the debates themselves are meant to enlighten, provoke thought and promote conversation.

Arguing in support of striking down campaign contribution limits will be Joe Miller, an Alaska attorney and former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and University of Alaska Anchorage Economics Professor Kyle Hampton. On the other side, arguing to maintain limits, will be Eric Croft, a candidate for the Anchorage Assembly and former Alaska legislator who once ran as a Democratic candidate for governor, and state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

The debate starts at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at Bear Tooth. The event is a fundraiser for the Seawolf Debate Team. More information here.

A Nov. 20 ADN article offers a good summary of why the lawsuit was filed and the specific limits the plaintiffs feel are problematic.

"The suit, filed by an Anchorage Republican district and three supporters of Republican candidates, challenges the state's $500 annual cap on individuals' donations to candidates, as well as three other contribution limits," the story said, adding the lawsuit argues "Alaska's limits are so strict they unconstitutionally limit free speech."

In a presidential election year, and given recent historic court rulings, voters are more aware than ever of money's influence in politics. Is the contribution of money merely an extension of the right to free speech? Or are campaign limits a necessary framework to thwart undue influence? The issue is important, complex and timely. This debate will explore the line between money, speech and politics in Alaska.

More on the Arguing Alaska debate series: