Alaska ballot measure filed to reestablish campaign contribution limits

JUNEAU — A newly filed ballot measure would reestablish campaign contribution limits in Alaska, with the intention of restricting the influence of big-money donors in state politics.

A federal appeals court in 2021 struck down three of Alaska’s main contribution limits as a violation of donors’ First Amendment rights. Alaska’s previous $500-per-year cap on contributions to candidates had been among the lowest in the nation.

Without restrictions on donations, gubernatorial candidates received large checks in the lead-up to last year’s election, including several for $100,000 each. Large donations had previously gone to independent expenditure groups — Alaska’s version of super PACs — which are barred from coordinating with campaigns.

The proposed ballot measure, filed with the lieutenant governor’s office in May, would implement higher limits than the old law, including a $2,000 cap on donations from Alaskans to candidates for each election cycle. The new limits would then be increased with inflation every 10 years.

Donations from non-Alaska residents would also be restricted under the proposed ballot measure, and could not make up more than 25% of an Alaska candidate’s total contributions.

Candidates in state and local elections would be subject to the new law, but not in federal races, which are governed separately.

The initiative comes from Alaskans for Better Elections — the group behind the state’s ranked choice voting and open primary system. Former Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho is among the initiative’s chief supporters, along with attorney Scott Kendall, who wrote the proposed ballot measure and served as chief of staff to independent former Alaska. Gov. Bill Walker.


Botelho said new limits are needed because “people are concerned about the role that money plays in political campaigns.”

Opponents of low campaign limits in Alaska have said they curtail free speech and invariably encourage large donations to independent expenditure groups, which are less transparent than donations given to candidates.

Recent legislative efforts to restore contribution limits in Alaska have fallen short. Without a bill passing during the next regular legislative session, there would likely again be unlimited donations to candidates in the 2024 general election.

Supporters hope to get the new initiative on the 2024 ballot, but there are several steps before that can happen. Republican Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom will need to decide whether to certify the measure by July 4, based on provisions set out in state statute.

If the initiative is certified, supporters would then have one year to collect at least 26,705 signatures from registered voters in three-quarters of Alaska House districts — equating to 10% of the turnout from the 2022 general election.

Botelho said he felt optimistic that the required signatures would be collected in short order and that the initiative would be certified. The federal appeals court that struck down the state’s old contribution limits in 2021 suggested that higher caps, indexed to inflation, might pass legal muster.

Alaska’s now-obsolete campaign limits were imposed through a 2006 ballot measure that passed with the support of 73% of voters.

The only other ballot initiative filed so far for next year’s election would repeal the state’s ranked choice voting and open primary system. That initiative — supported by Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin and opposed by Alaskans for Better Elections — was certified for signature gathering by Dahlstrom in January.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at smaguire@adn.com.