Alaska campaign finance commission erases all limits on donations to political candidates

The commission charged with enforcing Alaska’s campaign finance laws has lifted all limits on donations to candidates for governor, state legislative seats and municipal races — a decision that could allow a huge wave of cash to flow into Anchorage elections next month and state elections in August.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission, in an order released late Thursday, eliminated the caps in response to a federal court’s decision in a years-long lawsuit that pitted free speech rights against limits set by state lawmakers to curb the influence of money on Alaska politics.

The federal court had invalidated Alaska’s $500-a-year individual donation limit to candidates, saying it was too low. But it did not set new limits, leaving the question of replacement caps in the hands of the commission and the state Legislature.

The commission’s staff recommended that the limit be raised to $1,500. But such a decision requires at least four votes by the commission’s five members, and after a meeting Monday, only three agreed in their formal, three-page order issued Thursday, which was first reported by the Alaska Landmine.

That means that until and unless the Legislature takes action, there are no longer any individual-to-candidate contribution limits in effect, the commission said in its announcement.

This is a developing story and will be updated Friday.

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