Disclosing huge campaign contributions is not enough
December 1, 2021 | View PDF
After the 2020 election in Alaska the hidden backstory came out: GCI donated $100,000 to the national Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which gave $380,000 to the Alaska Council on Good Government, which launched late-in-the-campaign attack ads against Alaskan Independent and Democratic legislative candidates, and ads supporting five Republican candidates in Anchorage and Fairbanks. At the same time, another group, Defend Alaska, collected $150,000 from the Sixteen Thirty Fund based in Washington D.C. and spent it in support of progressive candidates in Alaska. Nobody knows who funds the Sixteen Thirty Fund: Politico reports it is funded by “massive anonymous donations, including one gift totaling $51.7 million.” This type of donation is known as “dark money”.
Alaska voters want to know who is trying to manipulate our vote, in real time. So last November we passed Ballot Measure 2 to shine a light on dark money, requiring disclosure of the true sources of campaign contributions larger than $2,000. (The RLSC, GCI and two GCI executives also gave $245,000 to oppose Ballot Measure 2.)
This step toward fair and open elections is important, but not enough. We, the Alaska voters, also want to limit individual, corporate and Outside contributions to campaigns, to ensure that the candidates are courting and representing us, the multitude of voters, and not just the donor class.
We had a law that regulated the amount that individuals could donate, but that law has been gutted by the courts. The legislature could pass a new law that would pass court scrutiny, but will they? Voters can certainly urge their representatives to address this in the next legislature and hope it will somehow get past the gridlock in Juneau.
Ultimately, to reassert our state’s right to pass campaign finance laws -- including a new law that would regulate campaign contributions on ballot measures, which currently have no limits — we will need to demand that our legislature push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow Alaska to pass such laws.
Ballot Measure 2 also called for such an amendment. In doing so, we joined 21 other states calling for the 28th Amendment. The next step is to hold our state legislators and congressional delegation accountable to answer the call for a resolution. If Congress fails to act in a timely fashion, we can call for a Convention of the States to write the amendment, without the help of Congress, which some consider a “nuclear option” and that has never been used before but may have merit.
Beverly Churchill is a member of Alaska Move to Amend, whose mission includes educating Alaskans on constitutional issues regarding personhood and money as a form of free speech. This article is part of a series on campaign finance reform.