FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Democrats Work to End Unlimited Campaign Spending
Legislation would make Alaska a leader in national effort to rein in big-money politics
(JUNEAU) – Today, 13 House and Senate Democrats introduced legislation aimed at scaling back rules allowing corporations, wealthy donors, and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money, sometimes in the millions, to get candidates elected. Companion resolutions (HJR 33 and SJR 13) introduced today in the Alaska House and Senate call for a federal constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United case that opened the corporate and union campaign spending floodgates. A separate House bill would return Alaska’s right to limit corporate contributions by making corporations not considered “persons” for purposes of Alaska election law.
“The more states that call on Congress for a Constitutional Amendment, the more likely we’ll be to take big money out of politics. Until then, the money of the few, and the money from Super PACs will drown out the voices of 99% of the electorate,” said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), the prime sponsor of HJR 33.
“Unlimited spending from Super PACs and billionaires is threatening democracy in America,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski, prime sponsor of SJR 13. “We cannot continue to allow giant corporations and the super-rich to dwarf average Americans in the political arena.”
“The corporate mission is to make money for itself, and that mission will often conflict with the voters’ desire for good schools, plowed roads and a safe community. There is a reason why corporations can’t vote, and they shouldn’t be allowed to buy elections either,” said Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage) who joined Sen. Wielechowski and Rep. Gara at a press conference this morning to discuss the issue.
In 2006, Alaskans overwhelmingly passed a voter initiative that capped union and corporate political action committee (PAC) contributions at $1000 per candidate. Until the 2010 Citizens United decision, that law stood and was widely successful in ensuring individual Alaskan voices were not drowned out by big money influence. Representative Scott Kawasaki’s legislation (HB 244) would make Alaska a leader in the national effort to protect individual voices by challenging the Citizens United ruling.
“Alaskans said time and again that they want to keep big money out of Alaska politics,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “And when it comes to government for the people, by the people, corporations should not be allowed to drown out the public.”
The resolutions are aimed at stopping the influence of so-called “Super PACs”, which are often funded by wealthy individuals and corporations.
The Citizens United decision reversed decades of Supreme Court rulings allowing states to limit corporate money in politics, and authorized corporations and unions to make unlimited contributions. HJR 33 and SJR 13 also call on Congress to limit spending by wealthy individuals – something allowed by an older Supreme Court ruling, Buckley v. Vallejo.
Both resolutions, and the Citizens United ruling, target what the law calls “independent expenditures,” which is campaign money aimed at electing or defeating a candidate with advertising that is not controlled by a candidate. From 2006 to 2010, national corporate independent expenditures rose from $37 million to over $210 million according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Representatives Les Gara, Berta Gardner, David Guttenberg, Lindsey Holmes, Beth Kerttula, Chris Tuck, Scott Kawasaki, and Bob Miller are joining with Senators Bill Wielechowski, Johnny Ellis, Hollis French, Joe Paskvan and Dennis Egan to introduce the House and Senate resolutions.
Representatives Chris Tuck, Berta Gardner and Les Gara are co-prime sponsors of HB 244 with Rep. Kawasaki, and Representatives Bob Miller, Beth Kerttula and Pete Petersen are co-sponsors.