Legislature(2009 - 2010)

04/17/2010 05:22 PM FIN

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 284(FIN)                                                                                               
     "An  Act  relating  to state  election  campaigns,  the                                                                    
     duties  of the  Alaska Public  Offices Commission,  the                                                                    
     reporting   and   disclosure    of   expenditures   and                                                                    
     independent  expenditures, the  filing of  reports, and                                                                    
     the identification  of certain communications  in state                                                                    
     election   campaigns;   prohibiting  expenditures   and                                                                    
     contributions by foreign  nationals in state elections;                                                                    
     and providing for an effective date."                                                                                      
8:00:56 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hawker  MOVED  to ADOPT  HCS  CSSB  284(FIN)  (26-                                                                    
LS1448\W,  Kurtz/Bullard,  4/17/10)  as a  working  document                                                                    
before the committee.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for discussion.                                                                                       
BEN MULLIGAN,  STAFF, CO-CHAIR  BILL STOLTZE,  explained the                                                                    
difference   between   the   previous   version   (Judiciary                                                                    
Committee, Version T) and the  proposed CS. On page 8, lines                                                                    
5  and 6,  "and in  a communication  that includes  an audio                                                                    
component" is  eliminated in the  proposed CS.  In addition,                                                                    
the   word   "solely"   is    inserted   after   the   words                                                                    
"communication transmitted."                                                                                                    
Mr. Mulligan  detailed that the  intention of the  change is                                                                    
to make  sure that  only the visual  report is  required for                                                                    
television advertisements, not the audio.                                                                                       
Representative Gara  clarified that the intention  of the CS                                                                    
is  that the  viewer would  not hear  the names  of the  top                                                                    
contributors in  a television ad. Mr.  Mulligan replied that                                                                    
the names would just be on the screen visually.                                                                                 
Representative Gara queried the  word "solely." Mr. Mulligan                                                                    
replied  that  the  language was  suggested  by  the  bill's                                                                    
drafter and would  clarify that it applied to  just radio or                                                                    
other audio media.                                                                                                              
Co-Chair  Stoltze WITHDREW  his  OBJECTION.  There being  NO                                                                    
further OBJECTION, the work draft was ADOPTED.                                                                                  
8:04:12 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HOLLIS FRENCH,  SPONSOR, discussed  a U.S.  Supreme                                                                    
Court decision earlier  in the year that for  the first time                                                                    
in  Alaskan history  allows  unlimited  corporate and  union                                                                    
expenditures to be made for  or against candidates or ballot                                                                    
propositions. He  emphasized that Alaska has  never had such                                                                    
a  law and  both Legislative  Legal Services  and the  state                                                                    
attorney  general  believed  state  statutes  needed  to  be                                                                    
updated because of the decision.                                                                                                
Senator French continued  that the bill is  broken down into                                                                    
two major  sections: disclosure and disclaimer.  He detailed                                                                    
that  by  "disclosure"  he meant  reporting  to  the  Alaska                                                                    
Public  Offices  Commission  (APOC) the  money  raised  from                                                                    
contributors in  order to make independent  expenditures for                                                                    
and   against  candidates   and   ballot  initiatives.   The                                                                    
disclaimer provisions  are intended  to tell  Alaskan voters                                                                    
who is speaking to them  in advertising. The sponsors wanted                                                                    
to  have as  protective and  firm a  measure as  possible to                                                                    
protect  Alaskan voters  from new  entities such  as unions,                                                                    
corporations, and other groups.                                                                                                 
Senator  French   directed  attention   to  Section   1  and                                                                    
deletions  that collapse  lengthy definitions,  such as  for                                                                    
"persons" (which in Alaskan statutes means everyone).                                                                           
Senator French  noted that the first  significant section is                                                                    
Section 4, which relates to  disclosure requirements for the                                                                    
reports that entities  make to APOC. He  emphasized that the                                                                    
section  referred to  independent  expenditures by  advocacy                                                                    
groups, not  candidates, as  clarified on  page 3,  line 10.                                                                    
Every expenditure would  have to be recorded  so that voters                                                                    
would  know  who was  spending  money  either supporting  or                                                                    
opposing  an issue.  The measure  sets  a limit  at $50  for                                                                    
reporting  the address,  principal occupation,  and employer                                                                    
of the contributor, the same limit set for candidates.                                                                          
Senator French  relayed that the next  significant provision                                                                    
was in  Section 8 on page  4, which would set  up a separate                                                                    
"political  activities"  account  so that  APOC  can  better                                                                    
monitor the  funds spent. Section  10 directs who  can speak                                                                    
to  voters; the  bill says  the state  would adopt  the same                                                                    
ideas as in federal law.  For example, a foreign corporation                                                                    
or  individual  cannot speak  to  Alaskan  voters without  a                                                                    
local  subsidiary.   He  noted   the  section   was  debated                                                                    
extensively in the House Judiciary Committee.                                                                                   
8:09:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  French anticipated  that the  disclaimer provisions                                                                    
in Sections  13 and  14 would  cause debate.  The disclaimer                                                                    
provisions would let Alaskans  know who funds communications                                                                    
about  issues.  Section  13  says  that  the  three  largest                                                                    
contributors have to be identified.  Section 14 lays out the                                                                    
mechanics  of   each  medium,   whether  print,   radio,  or                                                                    
television.  He noted  that there  had been  questions about                                                                    
what to  do when there  are ten contributors who  have given                                                                    
the same amount  (page 8, lines 11 through  16); the section                                                                    
leaves it up to the entity making the ad.                                                                                       
Senator  French  turned  to Section  18,  which  would  keep                                                                    
current law in place related to campaign misconduct.                                                                            
Representative   Gara   queried  independent   expenditures.                                                                    
Senator   French   responded   that  when   candidates   run                                                                    
campaigns,  they collect  contributions from  individuals or                                                                    
political action committees (PACs) at  a maximum of $500 per                                                                    
calendar  year.  The  money is  collected  into  a  campaign                                                                    
account   out   of   which  expenditures   are   paid.   The                                                                    
contributions   in  the   bill  are   separate,  independent                                                                    
contributions. Because they are  independent of a candidate,                                                                    
there  is no  limit  on  the amount  of  money  that can  be                                                                    
Senator French underlined the lack  of a limit; an entity or                                                                    
person could  contribute $1 million or  $10 million, whereas                                                                    
the average House  race might cost a  candidate $100,000 and                                                                    
the average  Senate race might  cost $200,000. With  the new                                                                    
legislation, much more money could be spent on candidates.                                                                      
8:14:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara  emphasized that the U.S.  Supreme Court                                                                    
has determined that there is  no longer a cap on independent                                                                    
expenditures. He asked whether  the legislation was intended                                                                    
to regulate  outside corporations and  environmental groups.                                                                    
Senator French responded in the  affirmative. Because of the                                                                    
newness of the landscape, no  one knew who would contribute;                                                                    
it  could be  ExxonMobile,  Greenpeace, or  Bill Gates,  for                                                                    
Representative  Gara questioned  what the  legislation would                                                                    
do in  a case such as  an initiative related to  aerial wolf                                                                    
hunting. Senator  French replied that due  to the disclaimer                                                                    
provisions,  a television  ad  against  aerial wolf  hunting                                                                    
would list  the top  three contributors to  the organization                                                                    
running the campaign.                                                                                                           
Representative  Gara queried  the  difference  the CS  would                                                                    
make  in  the example.  Senator  French  replied that  in  a                                                                    
television  advertisement, under  the CS  there would  be no                                                                    
spoken disclaimer whatsoever; it would be written only.                                                                         
Vice-Chair  Thomas asked  whether the  legislation addressed                                                                    
"truth  in  advertising."   Senator  French  indicated  that                                                                    
language had  been put in  mirroring current law on  page 8,                                                                    
lines 17  through 26. He  noted that the difficulty  is that                                                                    
in elections, the  U.S. Supreme Court long ago  ruled that a                                                                    
person can  say and do  almost anything. He pointed  to line                                                                    
23,  "A   person  who  makes   a  communication   under  the                                                                    
subsection  may  not  with  actual  malice  include…a  false                                                                    
statement  of  material  fact." Someone  would  have  to  be                                                                    
extreme to break the rule.                                                                                                      
8:17:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Thomas  asked  whether,  related  to  the  wolf-                                                                    
hunting example,  an entity could  buy an image of  a hunter                                                                    
skinning  a wolf  that  they did  not  film. Senator  Hollis                                                                    
believed that could be allowed.                                                                                                 
Representative Fairclough  referred to  page 7, line  19 and                                                                    
20,  disclosure  related to  influencing  the  outcome of  a                                                                    
ballot.  She  wondered  whether  the  legislation  spoke  to                                                                    
ballot measures.  Senator French  explained that the section                                                                    
was   a  remnant   of  an   old  provision   allowing  small                                                                    
expenditures (less than $500)  made independent of any other                                                                    
person and  made only to  influence the outcome of  a ballot                                                                    
proposition (page 3,  lines 7) and is made  for a billboard,                                                                    
sign, or  printed material only.   He directed  attention to                                                                    
page 3, lines  10 through 13; every report  must contain the                                                                    
name of the candidate, the  title of the ballot proposition,                                                                    
or requests  in support or  opposition, all of which  had to                                                                    
be  reported to  APOC (if  over the  limit of  $250 or  $500                                                                    
total expenditures).                                                                                                            
8:19:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Foster   asked   whether  the   top   three                                                                    
contributors had  to be listed  on a television  ad. Senator                                                                    
French replied that both the CS  and the version of the bill                                                                    
that   had  entered   the  committee   stipulate  that   the                                                                    
information must  be listed  in print at  the bottom  of the                                                                    
ad. The CS further stipulates  that the information does not                                                                    
have to be audibly read out.                                                                                                    
Representative Foster  stated concerns about the  ability of                                                                    
elders to  read the  information because  it was  too small.                                                                    
Senator  French  referred  to  page  7,  lines  28  and  29,                                                                    
stipulating  that   the  information   has  to   be  "easily                                                                    
discernable." He  spoke to  the issue  of elders,  or people                                                                    
who might listen to the  television rather than watch it, or                                                                    
people who cannot see or read English well.                                                                                     
Representative Gara noted a  previous concern about printing                                                                    
zip  codes  and area  codes.  Senator  French explained  the                                                                    
compromise  found on  the top  of page  8: A  print ad  must                                                                    
include the name  as well as city and state  of residence or                                                                    
principal place  of business of the  top three contributors;                                                                    
an audio disclaimer only needs the names.                                                                                       
8:22:28 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Hawker opened and closed public testimony.                                                                             
Representative  Doogan MOVED  to ADOPT  Conceptual Amendment                                                                    
     DELETE: at page 8, line 5: after "communication                                                                            
     transmitted" delete "solely"                                                                                               
     INSERT: at page 8 line 5, after "or other audio                                                                            
     media," insert: "and in a communication that includes                                                                      
     an audio component,"                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED.                                                                                                      
Representative  Doogan explained  that  the amendment  would                                                                    
reinstate  language  requiring  audio   as  well  as  visual                                                                    
disclaimer information  on television  ads. He  used himself                                                                    
as an  example of someone  who does  not see small  print on                                                                    
television well.  He believed that information  about who is                                                                    
trying to  influence his vote  was important.  The amendment                                                                    
would address  people who  do not read  words on  the screen                                                                    
because  they   are  distracted  by  other   activities.  He                                                                    
stressed  that viewers  depend on  audio as  well as  visual                                                                    
cues. He  believed the  intent of  the legislation  was full                                                                    
disclosure that included both.                                                                                                  
Co-Chair  Stoltze  queried  the  sponsor's  opinion  of  the                                                                    
8:27:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Fairclough    discussed   vocalization   in                                                                    
television    campaigns.    Senator   French    acknowledged                                                                    
discussion about the issue.                                                                                                     
Representative  Fairclough asked  Representative Doogan  for                                                                    
more   clarification   about   the  amendment   related   to                                                                    
disclosure.   Representative   Doogan  believed   that   the                                                                    
advertiser would  lose the piece  of time used to  state who                                                                    
paid for the  ad. The point was letting people  know who was                                                                    
trying to influence them.                                                                                                       
Representative   Fairclough   spoke    in   favor   of   the                                                                    
vocalization  but  wanted  to  discern  the  advantages  and                                                                    
disadvantages to both  the persons making the  ads and those                                                                    
hearing them. She asked whether  addresses would be required                                                                    
as well as  the names. Senator French replied  that only the                                                                    
names would be  required. She thought 15 seconds  was a long                                                                    
time for audio.                                                                                                                 
8:31:13 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara  directed attention  to page 8.  He read                                                                    
examples of disclosures to demonstrate  that the time needed                                                                    
was short. He stressed the  importance of disclosing the top                                                                    
three  contributors   especially  in   ads  that   attack  a                                                                    
candidate or  an issue.  He argued that  the core  issue was                                                                    
truth in  disclosure and  that the public  has the  right to                                                                    
know exactly  who is paying  for the  ad, not a  "fake" name                                                                    
such  as "People  for  Jobs."  He spoke  in  support of  the                                                                    
compromise version of the bill.                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stoltze  acknowledged his lack of  experience using                                                                    
ads, particularly for television.  He maintained that he was                                                                    
in favor of full disclosure. He  was opposed to an aspect of                                                                    
the  bill that  he feared  would make  it too  expensive for                                                                    
some individuals or entities to buy ads.                                                                                        
8:37:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Doogan  thought  the issue  was  a  judgment                                                                    
call.  He  stated  his  intent to  get  the  information  to                                                                    
citizens about who is trying to influence them.                                                                                 
Representative Gara pointed out  that no one could determine                                                                    
how much  money went  into campaigns  and issues  because of                                                                    
the U.S.  Supreme Court ruling; however,  hidden advertisers                                                                    
could be prevented  from hiding. He argued  that without the                                                                    
amendment,  the   information  would   only  flash   on  the                                                                    
television screen,  which would  aid those who  were hiding.                                                                    
He listed the people who  would not catch the disclaimer. He                                                                    
stressed the importance of full disclosure.                                                                                     
Representative  Gara reviewed  that  adopting  the CS  would                                                                    
result in  the names being  printed on the  screen; adopting                                                                    
the amendment would result in hearing who paid for the ads.                                                                     
Co-Chair  Stoltze   asked  how   the  disclaimer   would  be                                                                    
displayed. Representative Gara  answered that the disclaimer                                                                    
would  include  the  group's  name  and  the  names  of  the                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  asked  whether  the  names  would  appear                                                                    
without  the amendment.  Representative  Gara answered  that                                                                    
the names would appear.                                                                                                         
8:42:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze MAINTAINED his OBJECTION.                                                                                      
A roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                                                                       
IN FAVOR: Salmon, Doogan, Foster, Gara, Joule                                                                                   
OPPOSED:  Thomas,  Austerman, Fairclough,  Stoltze,  Hawker,                                                                    
The MOTION to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1 FAILED (6/5).                                                                        
Representative Gara MOVED to ADOPT Conceptual Amendment 2:                                                                      
     DELETE: at page 8, line 5: after "communication                                                                            
     transmitted" delete "solely"                                                                                               
     INSERT: at page 8, line 5: after "or other audio                                                                           
     media," insert: "and in a communication that includes                                                                      
     an audio component,"                                                                                                       
     INSERT: at page 8, line 7: after "no contributors"                                                                         
     insert "or, for any of the three largest contributors                                                                      
     who have contributed less than $2,000:"                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED.                                                                                                      
Representative  Gara  explained  that the  amendment  was  a                                                                    
compromise; it  was the same  as Amendment 1 except  that it                                                                    
would only apply  when there are very  big contributors. The                                                                    
amendment would require audible reading  of the names of the                                                                    
three biggest  contributors to the  extent that any  of them                                                                    
donated more than $2,000.                                                                                                       
8:44:49 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Thomas   queried  the  amount.   Senator  French                                                                    
responded   that  the   contributions   are  not   candidate                                                                    
contributions but independent  expenditures, for which there                                                                    
is no limit.                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Thomas assumed only  corporations would be listed                                                                    
and  not  individuals.  Senator   French  responded  in  the                                                                    
Representative  Gara clarified  that the  corporation's name                                                                    
would  be read  if the  donor is  a corporation,  person, or                                                                    
group; the amendment would apply  to any entity that donated                                                                    
more than $2,000.                                                                                                               
Co-Chair    Stoltze     requested    further    information.                                                                    
Representative Gara directed attention to  page 8, line 6 of                                                                    
the  bill,  which says  that  the  second statement  is  not                                                                    
required if the person paying  for the communications has no                                                                    
contributors, or  for any of the  three largest contributors                                                                    
who have contributed less than  $2,000. The audio would have                                                                    
to  be included  if any  of the  three largest  contributors                                                                    
contributed more than $2,000.                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stoltze  reiterated earlier concerns  regarding the                                                                    
message. There was a discussion about an example.                                                                               
Co-Chair Stoltze MAINTAINED his OBJECTION.                                                                                      
A roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                                                                       
IN FAVOR: Salmon, Doogan, Foster, Gara, Joule                                                                                   
OPPOSED:  Thomas,  Austerman,   Fairclough,  Kelly,  Hawker,                                                                    
The MOTION to adopt Conceptual Amendment 2 FAILED (6/5).                                                                        
8:50:33 PM          AT EASE                                                                                                   
8:51:15 PM          RECONVENED                                                                                                
Co-Chair Hawker  referred to two fiscal  notes. The Division                                                                    
of  Elections anticipated  no  fiscal  consequences and  the                                                                    
Offices  Commission  expected   an  additional  position  to                                                                    
administrate   the   requirements   of   the   statute   and                                                                    
contractual  services costing  $131,000 the  first year  and                                                                    
$79,000 per year after that.                                                                                                    
Representative  Gara  maintained   that  the  provision  not                                                                    
adopted by the committee was  the most important part of the                                                                    
bill. He believed the rejected  provision was about truth in                                                                    
advertising  and that  the public  deserves to  know who  is                                                                    
trying to  buy an election.  He asserted that the  public is                                                                    
not going  to know  who contributed the  money for  the most                                                                    
effective  and negative  ads and  would be  misled by  group                                                                    
names designed to change voting behavior.                                                                                       
Co-Chair Stoltze thought there  were important provisions in                                                                    
the bill.                                                                                                                       
Vice-Chair Thomas  MOVED to report  SB 284 out  of Committee                                                                    
with individual recommendations  and the accompanying fiscal                                                                    
note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                              
HCS CSSB  284(FIN) was  REPORTED out  of Committee  with "no                                                                    
recommendation"  and  attached previously  published  fiscal                                                                    
notes: FN1 (GOV), FN2 (ADM).                                                                                                    
8:55:27 PM          AT EASE                                                                                                   
9:16:28 PM          RECONVENED                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects