House approves bill limiting nonprofit's campaign contributions

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The House Wednesday approved a bill limiting campaign contributions by certain nonprofit groups.

The measure was aimed squarely at the group Alaska Conservation Voters, which benefitted from a state Supreme Court ruling two years ago that loosened some campaign finance restrictions for nonprofits.

The bill, which passed on a 30-4 vote, requires the group and others like it to operate under the same rules as political action committees.

In 1999, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that groups that don't participate in business activities and are independent from the influence of corporations should be treated differently from those with business interests.

Following that ruling, the Alaska Public Offices Commission determined that the Alaska Conservation Voters was not a corporation but also not a political action committee. The commission found that it belonged to a category of nonprofit corporations or groups that do both educational and political work.

As a result of that ruling, Alaska Conservation Voters was able to raise money from Outside foundations and individuals and then transfer that money from its general account to campaign accounts during last year's general election campaigns without disclosing the contributors. That raised the ire of Republican candidates whose opponents were being supported by Alaska Conservation Voters but weren't bound by the same disclosure rules.

Alaska Conservation Voters was the only group to take advantage of the court ruling. But officials with the Alaska Public Offices Commission told House members Monday that other groups have expressed an interest in whether they could be considered in the same category for purposes of contributing to political campaigns.

Eagle River Republican Pete Kott, who sponsored the bill, says it's aimed at leveling the playing for all candidates and closing a loophole in the law.

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