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Alaska’s Limit on Contributions to Political Parties Ruled Unconstitutional

In a victory for the First Amendment, a federal judge recently ruled that Alaska’s $5,000 limit on soft money contributions to political parties is unconstitutional.

In overturning several key components of Alaska’s 1997 campaign reform law, U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton ruled that individuals are free to donate unlimited amounts of money to political parties or groups, to be used for such things as issue advocacy, voter registration and administrative costs. The judge found that the restriction on contributions to political parties not related to electing candidates, "significantly interferes with the protected rights of speech and association." The judge also invalidated the limits on services donated by a professional, such as a lawyer or accountant, to a political party.

Judge Singleton left intact the $5,000 limit on contributions made to political parties for the purpose of electing specific candidates, finding that the state has a legitimate concern about corruption and improper influence. He also ruled that limits on corporate contributions are permissible, as they have been upheld by both state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The State of Alaska has decided to appeal the judge’s decision. Meanwhile, a campaign finance reform bill was pulled from the Alaska House floor and assigned to the Rules committee to ensure consistency with the judge’s ruling.

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