House panel balks at campaign finance rollback bill

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A House committee is not going along with a plan to increase the amount of money people can contribute to election campaigns.

The State Affairs Committee on Monday rejected many of the changes in campaign finance reporting laws that had been proposed by the Murkowski administration.

The committee opted to stay with the status quo of a $500 limit on the amount an individual can contribute to a political campaign.

The panel also decided to stick with the current ban on lobbyists making contributions outside their home districts. And it opted to keep other existing contribution limits, including a $1,000 cap on donations from political action committees.

Times are changing, but I don't think the contribution amounts or reporting amounts need to change,'' said Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage. We all got here under the limits we have now.''

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, agreed, saying raising the contribution limits would benefit incumbents, who already have an advantage in elections.

The Murkowski administration earlier this year proposed doing away with the Alaska Public Office Commission, but last month came up with an alternative proposal. It would keep the commission alive but increase campaign contribution limits, remove some restrictions on lobbyist contributions and impose deadlines for the commission to respond to campaign finance complaints.

The Public Offices Commission gave its support for that proposal, and the Senate State Affairs Committee adopted it in April. But the House State Affairs Committee responded differently.

Members proposed 24 amendments to the bill and by midday Monday had rolled back most of the provisions loosening campaign finance laws.

The committee kept provisions in the Murkowski administration version of the bill requiring APOC to respond to election complaints more quickly. The panel also kept a provision letting APOC require electronic reporting of campaign finance reports.

The committee agreed to raise the threshold for when an elected official must report sources of income, but not by as much as the administration bill had proposed.

Now legislators must disclose sources of income over $1,000. The State Affairs Committee agreed to raise the level at which they must make a disclosure to $2,500 for most sources of income and to $5,000 for loans.

That's lower than the $10,000 originally proposed in the bill.

The committee had not finished its work on the bill by Monday afternoon.

Once the measure passes the State Affairs Committee, it will go to the Judiciary and Finance Committees, which could overturn any of the State Affairs changes.

The Senate version of the bill is awaiting a hearing in Senate Finance.

The measures are House Bill 157 and Senate Bill 119.



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