Boost for campaign funds eliminated by the House Judiciary Committee

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Lawmakers tried to push a bill through the Legislature that would have loosened the state's campaign finance reform laws by doubling the size of anonymous donations candidates could accept.

But that change was eliminated by the House Judiciary Committee late Wednesday.

The measure, considered for the first time earlier this week, would have increased from $100 to $200 the amount of money a person could give a political candidate without revealing the contributor's name, address, occupation and employer.

The measure, which received its first hearing Tuesday night, was passed out of the House State Affairs Committee and went to the Judiciary Committee. It could reach the House floor within a day.

The proposal, made before the Judiciary Committee took up the bill, drew a sharp response from advocates for campaign finance reform.

''We should have more accountably, not less,'' said Jim Sykes, executive director of the Alaska Public Interest Research Group.

Alaska's 1996 campaign finance law lowered the maximum individual contribution to a candidate from $1,000 to $500 per calendar year. Any contribution of more than $100 must be reported by both contributor and candidate.

Other changes in the bill were accepted by the Judiciary Committee:

Someone who contributes more than $500 to a candidate would no longer be required to file a report with the APOC. Since the contribution limit is $500, the change would eliminate the reporting requirement altogether for donors. Candidates receiving contributions over $200 would still have to report the contributions.

Telephone calls from political groups would need to continue naming the candidate or group paying for the call, but they would no longer be required to specifically say that the call was ''paid for by'' a candidate.

Cowdery said the changes he had proposed were long overdue. The undisclosed-contribution limits were set in the 1970s, he said, and they ''haven't stayed up with inflation.''

Campaign finance laws are important, he said, but they shouldn't be excessive.

He also said that a contributor shouldn't be burdened with filling out forms and filing reports for giving money to a candidate, especially when the candidate already must report the money, he said.

''It's just more paperwork,'' he said.

Cowdery is running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Sean Parnell.

Brooke Miles, an administrator with the public offices commission, said revealing all contributions of more than $100 provides important information to voters and candidates alike. Doubling the limit will cloud disclosure laws, she said.

''The public has a right to know who's giving that money,'' Miles said.

Sykes said disclosure was designed to let citizen know who is trying to influence government.

''This looks like the first attempt to take away some of the campaign finance reform that Alaskan's fought so hard for'' in 1996,'' Sykes added. ''It's a much better idea to leave things just they way they are.''

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