State campaign restriction being questioned by both sides

A law restricting gubernatorial candidates from soliciting or accepting campaign donations from anybody who lives or happens to be in Juneau during the legislative session is being questioned by gubernatorial candidates from both sides of the aisle.

The law was written in 1996, along with a host of other laws that restricted campaign finances, including limiting donations from individuals from $1000 to $500 a year, limiting party donations, restricting lobbyists’ contributions, and banning union and businesses from directly contributing to a candidate.

Juneau-based lawyer Bruce Botelho, who is campaigning for Democratic candidate Byron Mallott, wrote to the Alaska Public Offices Commission that given the Alaska state Supreme Court’s ruling in another part of the law, the law as it pertained to Mallott appeared to be unconstitutional. Given that other ruling, he asked for an advisory opinion as to whether or not the law was going to be enforced.

Botelho was the Alaska state Attorney General under then Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles when the campaign finance laws were passed. Knowles supported the laws.

The Commission is expected to issue its opinion this week.

Since the legislative session began, it appears that about 15 Juneau residents have contributed to Mallot’s campaign, giving a total of about $3,000. The campaign said that all such donations were forwarded to Anchorage and that the campaign had not asked for donations in Juneau since the session.

Still, the Commission could rule that the donations have to be returned.

Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, had a gathering in Juneau earlier this session. He was not aware of the law. He said he received about three contributions during that gathering and that he would return those contributions.

Campaign restrictions already make it daunting for non-incumbents to build the kind of war chest they need to compete, and this law makes it all the more challenging, particularly for Mallott, who is from Juneau and presumably has a deep bench of support there.

The law also makes it tough for incumbents. In an electronic age with the regular use of Facebook and email solicitations, how do you keep track of who is contributing from Juneau?

In order to try and comply with the law, Jerry Gallagher, who is Gov. Sean Parnell’s campaign manager, posed this and other questions to APOC. In the meantime, Parnell’s campaign has included the following disclosure on its email solicitations:

Under recent advice from the Alaska Public Offices Commission, we are required to tell you that if you receive this email, and you are in the City and Borough of Juneau, you may not contribute in Juneau while the Legislature is in session.

Mallott’s campaign said that it will also include that disclosure in its campaign solicitations.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


7 thoughts on “State campaign restriction being questioned by both sides

  1. Geyser

    I hear a while back that APOC stff was in some sort of litigation or law suit with the Department of Administration which is there host department. Heard from a friend that they were taking depositions of former APOC employees that were rather revealing as to the chaos at the agency. Then, I heard it all got covered up. So much for transparency.

  2. J.Miller

    I think it is time that the legislature considers a reqrite of the state’s campaign finance laws. From this article, it sounds as if there may be some outdated laws that don’t take into account internet fundraising and also constitutional decisions that have impacted our state laws. Something as important as this should get immediate attention.

  3. Skeptical in Spenard

    Politicians seem to cry at any restriction that limits their ability to amass campaign cash.

  4. aol4910

    While I am no lawyer, I can’t imafine in my wildest dreams that this can be legal constitutionally. It runs smack face into all kinds of equal protection and freedom of speech issues. I feel as if apoc has lost sight of their mission which I think should be primarily focused on disclosure. Let’s hope this gets resolved. It is not apoc’s fault that the laws on the books are arcane and some even unconstitutional; however, they have errored in not bringing these matters to the legislature.

  5. Fuzzy D.

    Who knew? This law is simply unconstitutional. It unfairly limits and impacts freedom of speech of Juneau area residents. Nonetheless, I have little confidence in APOC to do anything given their track record and history of not doing anything post Citizens United.

  6. Political Legal Beagle

    APOC is a mess due to poor leadership, apathy and bad laws. Some of their regulations and interpretations are ridiculous. Their rulings are bias and unfair. The commission is aware of the mess they administer but have not made any proactive proposals to the legislature in years. The commission chair is a tyrant who seems more interested in settling bizzare scores and carrying out her personal agenda than anything. The executive director of the commission has run off about 3/4 of his staff. Some of them left suggesting that the commission itself were engaging in unethical behavior and conducting their affairs with a biased agenda. Governor Parnell needs to wake up and throiw these folks out and put together a new commission. This commission is a dangerous joke. They fined a legislator for being late with a report as he sat beside his dying wife. There are multiple stories that show how ridiculous this commission has become in large part because of its chair Elizabeth Hickerson. What should be an organization beyond repproach has become an organization of questionable motives and unequal justice. This story is good but doesn’t even reach the tip of APOC’s problems.

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