Federal judge rejects suit challenging Alaska limits on campaign donations

A federal judge Monday upheld Alaska's strict limits on several types of state-level campaign contributions, ruling that they don't violate the free speech or equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

A group of Republicans brought the suit in November, and a weeklong trial ended in May.

The decision, from U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, an appointee of George W. Bush, came a day before high-stakes legislative elections that may change control of the state House or Senate.

[Read the decision from Judge Timothy Burgess]

Burgess, in his decision issued late Monday, wrote that he was initially skeptical that the state would be able to defend the campaign donation limits as written, including a $500-per-person annual limit on contributions to candidates and restrictions on out-of-state contributions.

But, he said, the state ended up providing enough evidence to justify the limits.

"Accordingly, the challenged provisions of Alaska's campaign finance laws are upheld as constitutional," Burgess wrote.


The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 2010 Citizens United case, struck down most limits on contributions — but only to those groups that operate independently of campaigns, not to candidates themselves.

Reached Monday evening, the attorney for the Republicans who filed the lawsuit, Kevin Clarkson, said he hadn't seen Burgess' ruling and couldn't yet say whether his clients wanted to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com