JUNEAU (AP) -- The Senate approved a bill Friday that would place new campaign finance limits on groups such as the Alaska Conservation Voters.
House Bill 177 is a response to a 1999 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that loosened some campaign finance restrictions for nonprofit organizations.
In a ruling on whether the state's campaign finance law violated free-speech rights, the court found that groups that do not participate in business activities and are independent from the influence of corporations should be treated differently from those with business interests.
''The court said we don't pose the same danger because we have no influence from business,'' said Sue Schrader of Alaska Conservation Voters.
As a result of that ruling, the group was able to raise money from Outside foundations and individuals and then transfer that money from its general account to campaign accounts during general election campaigns last year without disclosing the contributors.
That raised the ire of Republican candidates whose opponents were supported by Alaska Conservation Voters but were not bound by the same disclosure rules.
''They're probably the biggest users of loopholes,'' said Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, earlier this week.
HB 177 would create a new category in the campaign finance laws, ''a non-group entity,'' into which ACV would fall. That would limit the group to contributions of $500 a year to any one candidate instead of its current $1,000 limit.
The measure would also would put a 10 percent limit on its contributions from nonresidents. And the bill would require full disclosure of all contributions.
Therriault said he believes the bill protects the public's right to know who is contributing to campaigns without running afoul of the court decision.
''It does not abridge, in my opinion, non-groups' right to express themselves,'' Therriault said.
The Senate approved the measure 14-6 Friday, with no debate. The measure has already passed the House and will now go to Gov. Tony Knowles. Spokesman Bob King said the governor usually does not indicate ahead of time whether he will sign or veto bills.
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