Senate approves 'issue ad' bill

Posted: Thursday, May 09, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously endorsed a bill aimed at tightening laws that cover how campaign advertisements can be financed.

The measure was pushed by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, who as chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee worked over the last couple of years on issues of campaign finance law.

Therriault said in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee that Senate Bill 363 is designed to address ''issue ads'' used to influence a race for state office.

Courts have allowed few limitations on straight issue ads, Therriault said, such as those describing the benefits of more state education funding or the impact of a state income tax. But ads urging the election or defeat of a certain candidate are subject under the law to state campaign finance restrictions.

''What we're trying to do, and what the McCain-Feingold (federal campaign reform law) dealt with, is everything in between, which is a big gray area,'' Therriault said. ''When an issue ad is structured and placed so it becomes advocacy.''

The bill would put state campaign finance restrictions on issue ads that identify a specific candidate, attribute a position to that candidate, and appear within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.

Such an ad would be subject to laws requiring disclosure of who paid for it, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Also, a group putting out such an ad would be limited to $500 contributions from individuals, and 90 percent of the contributions would have to come from Alaska residents.

Senators approved the bill 19-0 with no debate. It will go to the House for consideration with less than a week remaining in the regular legislative session.

Alaska Public Offices Commission head Brooke Miles told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner she supports the changes.

''I'm enthusiastic about this bill, actually,'' she said.

The measure would give her office clear direction on how to deal with such advertisements, Miles said, instead of having to attempt to figure out whether previous court cases apply.

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