Alaska Supreme Court confirms an end to 2 limits on cash in political campaigns

In a pair of written rulings on Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court confirmed that two state limits on spending during political campaigns are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

In one ruling, the high court’s justices agree that the state of Alaska cannot limit political contributions to third-party groups because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a case known as Citizens United.

The state has not enforced a limit since 2012, and a group of Alaskans had sued the state’s campaign finance regulator, hoping for a court order requiring the regulator to resume enforcement.

The other ruling confirms a summary order issued in August 2020 that overturned a $1 per-signature limit on payments to those who gather signatures for ballot measures.

That lawsuit was brought by the Resource Development Council for Alaska and other groups opposing Ballot Measure 1, which sought to raise oil taxes. Last year, a lower court ruled that backers of the measure had paid signature-gatherers more than allowed by law, but that the law itself was unconstitutional.

Both rulings arrive as the state awaits the results of a federal case with even broader implications. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month overturned most of Alaska’s limits on contributions directly to candidates and campaigns.

That ruling has been placed on hold while the court decides whether the case should be heard by the entire court rather than just a three-judge panel.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.