Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/02/2010 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved SB 284 Out of Committee
Moved CSHJR 16(L&C) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  SB 284-CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES                                                                              
9:26:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD announced the next  order of business to come before                                                               
the committee would be SB 284.                                                                                                  
SENATOR FRENCH,  sponsor of  SB 284,  read the  following sponsor                                                               
     In the  wake of the  recent U.S. Supreme  Court ruling,                                                                    
     Citizens  United v.  Federal  Election Commission,  the                                                                    
     Senate Judiciary Committee has  worked to determine the                                                                    
     changes  to  Alaska's  elections   laws  that  will  be                                                                    
     needed.    Corporations   have    been   banned    from                                                                    
     participating  in  Alaska's  elections  prior  to  this                                                                    
     ruling.  This means  many  of  Alaska's laws  regarding                                                                    
     disclosure  and  disclaimers  simply do  not  apply  to                                                                    
     corporations   making   independent   expenditures   to                                                                    
     support or oppose specific candidates in elections.                                                                        
     Testimony  from  Legislative Legal  Services  attorneys                                                                    
     and from  the Alaska  Department of Law  indicated that                                                                    
     changes would be needed to  Alaska's campaign laws, and                                                                    
     this  bill  was  subsequently drafted  to  address  the                                                                    
     concerns  raised  by  the attorneys  and  by  committee                                                                    
     Senate Bill  284 amends state election  laws to clarify                                                                    
     that  corporations   are  covered  by   all  applicable                                                                    
     reporting   requirements.   It  expands   communication                                                                    
     identification   requirements    to   ensure   accurate                                                                    
     reporting of top contributors,  to require the approval                                                                    
     of  the  content  by  the   principal  officer  of  the                                                                    
     corporation,   and  to   require  statements   in  each                                                                    
     communication that  its content  has not  authorized or                                                                    
     approved  by the  candidate. It  also speeds  reporting                                                                    
     requirements  for  communications expenditures  in  the                                                                    
     last  nine days  of the  election so  that expenditures                                                                    
     over $250 must be reported within 24 hours.                                                                                
     Recent  opinion  surveys   show  broad  disapproval  by                                                                    
     Americans across  party lines for the  decision reached                                                                    
     by  the   U.S.  Supreme  Court.  In   order  to  retain                                                                    
     Alaskan's  trust  in  our  system   it  is  vital  that                                                                    
     legislation  be   passed  this  year  to   ensure  that                                                                    
     corporations spending money  to influence elections are                                                                    
     at least required  to disclose it in  a timely fashion.                                                                    
     I urge you to support Senate Bill 284.                                                                                     
SENATOR MEYER  said the  U.S. Supreme  Court ruling  pertained to                                                               
corporations  and  unions.  He  asked  why  Senator  French  only                                                               
addressed corporations in his sponsor statement.                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH replied  that was inadvertent. SB  284 defaults to                                                               
a  definition  of 'person'  which  under  Alaska law  encompasses                                                               
individuals,    candidates,     groups,    non-group    entities,                                                               
corporations  and unions.  The  intent is  to  bring all  players                                                               
under the same set of laws and rules.                                                                                           
9:30:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD asked  how other  states are  reacting to  the U.S.                                                               
Supreme Court ruling.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  FRENCH replied  that states  are hurrying  to adopt  new                                                               
disclosure  and  disclaimer  laws prior  to  upcoming  elections.                                                               
Alaska's  Attorney  General  (AG)  has  issued  an  opinion  that                                                               
largely endorses many  requirements that SB 284  puts into place.                                                               
SB  284   has  two  main   points:  disclosure   and  disclaimer.                                                               
Disclosure  means   reporting  to   the  Alaska   Public  Offices                                                               
Commission (APOC) what one is  taking in and spending. Disclaimer                                                               
means putting  a message on  the communication itself  saying who                                                               
paid for it.  Under SB 284, the top five  contributors to a group                                                               
that  paid  for   a  communication  would  have   to  list  their                                                               
9:32:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER asked  if SB  284 would  affect all  corporations,                                                               
regardless of size.                                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH replied yes.                                                                                                     
SENATOR MEYER asked what the  disclosure requirements are for the                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH  replied  that  on page  3,  lines  7-12  require                                                               
disclosure  of  the   candidate  or  the  title   of  the  ballot                                                               
proposition being supported  or opposed and the  name and address                                                               
of  each  officer  or  director,  when  applicable.  On  page  3,                                                               
paragraph 5,  beginning on  line 14,  requires the  name, address                                                               
and   principal  occupation   and  employer   of  an   individual                                                               
contributor. If it  is a group, non-group  entity or corporation,                                                               
the name and address of the  contributor and the name and address                                                               
of each officer and director of the contributor is required.                                                                    
9:34:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER  asked about the  requirement for each  officer and                                                               
director on  Page 3, line  11.  He  provided an example  of Carrs                                                               
Safeway  contributing to  a  campaign to  pass  school bonds  and                                                               
asked  if Carrs  Safeway would  have  to list  all directors  and                                                               
officers nationwide or just in Alaska.                                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH replied that Carrs  Safeway would have to list the                                                               
officers and  directors of whatever  subdivision gave  the money.                                                               
He  provided another  example using  BP. Whichever  entity of  BP                                                               
"writes  the  check",  such  as  BP Alaska,  BP  National  or  BP                                                               
International, must list its directors and officers.                                                                            
SENATOR MEYER asked how SB 284 would apply to unions.                                                                           
SENATOR FRENCH replied  that the U.S. Supreme  Court decision and                                                               
SB 284  do not  effect contributions  to candidates.  The Supreme                                                               
Court  decision  opened  up   independent  expenditures  for  and                                                               
against  candidates  by  corporations  and  unions.  Corporations                                                               
still cannot give  any candidate money but can  support or oppose                                                               
candidates independently on TV, in print or radio.                                                                              
SENATOR MEYER asked if there is a dollar amount.                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH responded no.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER asked  what the  Teamsters, for  example, need  to                                                               
disclose if they want to support a candidate.                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH replied that the  Teamsters would have to disclose                                                               
the name and  address of each officer and director  of the entity                                                               
that wrote the check; for example, Teamsters Alaska Local 959.                                                                  
9:37:46 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER asked  Senator French to explain page  3, lines 13-                                                               
17, about the  aggregate amount not exceeding $100.  He asked why                                                               
all contributions,  regardless of  amount, aren't required  to be                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH replied  that the  report  of contributions  must                                                               
contain the  aggregate amount  of all  contributions made  to the                                                               
person. For all  contributions that exceed $100,  the report must                                                               
include the date  of the contribution and  the amount contributed                                                               
by each  contributor. An individual contributor's  name, address,                                                               
principal  occupation   and  employer   must  be  listed.   If  a                                                               
corporation  is  contributing,  the  name  and  address  of  each                                                               
officer and director is required.                                                                                               
SENATOR  MEYER   said  currently  candidates  can   disclose  all                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH   said  candidates  have  to   disclose  all  the                                                               
contributions and  the name. Some candidates  voluntarily add the                                                               
occupation  and employer  for all  contributions and  others wait                                                               
until the threshold is hit.                                                                                                     
SENATOR MEYER  asked if Senator  French thinks SB 284  tracks the                                                               
current process.                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH replied yes.                                                                                                     
SENATOR PASKVAN referred to page  3, paragraph 5, lines 13-17 and                                                               
asked  for   confirmation  that  a   legal  entity,  such   as  a                                                               
corporation, would  be required to divulge  whether the employees                                                               
of that  corporation are contributing  or if the  president alone                                                               
is utilizing its general funds.                                                                                                 
9:40:56 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  replied  that  Senator  Paskvan's  analysis  was                                                               
SENATOR MEYER  referred to Section 11  of SB 284 on  page 5, line                                                               
23 which  says "include  a statement  from the  principal officer                                                               
approving  the  communication".  He  asked  what  Senator  French                                                               
envisions as far as a statement from the principal officer.                                                                     
SENATOR  FRENCH  responded  that   people  are  familiar  with  a                                                               
statement following  a TV ad,  such as, "I am  Senator So-and-so,                                                               
and I  approve this ad."  He said the intention  of SB 284  is to                                                               
make certain that  voters hear from the principal  officer or the                                                               
person bringing the advertisement forth.                                                                                        
SENATOR MEYER  asked if a  corporation's local  presiding officer                                                               
in Alaska  would be at the  end of a  TV ad or, for  example, the                                                               
president of Conoco Phillips in Houston.                                                                                        
SENATOR FRENCH replied with an  example: If Exxon Alaska made the                                                               
ad, Marty Massey  would make the statement; if it's  Exxon USA or                                                               
Exxon  Global, whoever  rules that  particular domain  would make                                                               
the statement.  The same applies  for unions. It  helps establish                                                               
SENATOR MEYER said he does not  disagree but more than likely the                                                               
money came from Houston, London  or Ohio. Corporations are so big                                                               
that you can get lost in the maze.                                                                                              
9:43:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH  said Senator  Meyer is  anticipating some  of the                                                               
difficulties of  the new landscape and  SB 284 will not  stay its                                                               
present  form  for  long  before more  changes  will  be  needed.                                                               
However, something needs to get on the books.                                                                                   
SENATOR MEYER said he feels full disclosure is always best.                                                                     
CHAIR MENARD said  she is concerned about the  requirement that a                                                               
board of  directors must report  all names and asked  if officers                                                               
and secretaries must be named.                                                                                                  
SENATOR FRENCH replied yes.                                                                                                     
CHAIR MENARD said doing so could  be cumbersome. She asked if the                                                               
recording  criteria   for  corporations   is  identical   to  the                                                               
statutory requirements for other non-corporate groups.                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH said the intention is to make them all equal.                                                                    
9:45:51 AM                                                                                                                    
MARILYN  RUSSELL,  President, League  of  Women  Voters -  Alaska                                                               
(LWV) said  LWV supports SB 284.  The goals of a  campaign system                                                               
should  be: to  ensure  the  public's right  to  know, to  combat                                                               
corruption and  undue influence, to enable  candidates to compete                                                               
more  equitably  and  to promote  citizen  participation  in  the                                                               
political process.  The LWV was  disappointed in the  recent U.S.                                                               
Supreme  Court  decision  and  polls   show  that  eight  in  ten                                                               
Americans  oppose  the  decision  to  allow  corporate  political                                                               
spending.  Alaska's campaign  laws  must be  amended, before  the                                                               
upcoming  primary   and  general   elections,  to   require  full                                                               
disclosure of  campaign contributions  by corporations  and labor                                                               
unions  which  are  currently not  covered  under  existing  laws                                                               
regarding disclosure and disclaimer.  Citizens should know who is                                                               
spending  money  supporting  or opposing  candidates  and  ballot                                                               
issues.  The information  should be  available with  the campaign                                                               
communication itself.                                                                                                           
9:48:06 AM                                                                                                                    
MATT   WALLACE,  Executive   Director,  Alaska   Public  Interest                                                               
Research Group  (AKPIRG) said getting  something on the  books to                                                               
mitigate undue  spending in upcoming  campaigns and  elections is                                                               
critical. AKPIRG is  encouraged to see that SB  284 would require                                                               
the same type  of disclosure for independent  corporate and union                                                               
spending that  is currently  required for  campaign contributions                                                               
to candidates.  AKPIRG wants citizens  to know who is  paying for                                                               
attack  ads.  AKPRIG supports  decreasing  the  influence of  big                                                               
money  in  politics,  leveling  the  playing  field,  and  giving                                                               
citizens a voice  in the political process.  AKPIRG  is in strong                                                               
support of SB 284.                                                                                                              
9:50:47 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN PTACIN,  Attorney, Department of  Law, said his  main client                                                               
is the  Alaska Public Offices  Commission (APOC). He  said Alaska                                                               
may   not  prohibit   independent   expenditures  attenuated   to                                                               
political  speech outright.  That  changes the  landscape of  the                                                               
law. Currently  some disclosure and  disclaimer laws do  apply to                                                               
corporations, labor  unions and  companies attempting to  make an                                                               
independent expenditure  in a candidate  election. Other  laws do                                                               
not apply  because when legislation  was passed,  the legislature                                                               
did  not   contemplate  corporations  and  labor   unions  making                                                               
independent   expenditures   in   candidate  elections.   An   AG                                                               
memorandum, issued  about 10 days  ago, determined that  the true                                                               
source of  funds is an  issue for corporations, labor  unions and                                                               
companies   making   independent    expenditures   in   candidate                                                               
9:53:26 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  asked  Mr.  Ptacin  if anything  in  SB  284  is                                                               
inconsistent with the opinion put out by the AG's office.                                                                       
MR.  PTACIN replied  that he  does not  find any  inconsistencies                                                               
between SB 284 and the AG's memo.                                                                                               
CHAIR MENARD closed public testimony.                                                                                           
SENATOR PASKVAN  said Senator French should  be commended because                                                               
the  change in  the legal  landscape following  the January  2010                                                               
U.S. Supreme  Court decision leaves  potential for  inequities in                                                               
the upcoming  election. A legal  entity such as a  corporation or                                                               
union should stay out of the  political debate if they don't want                                                               
to disclose  or disclaim. Citizens  have a  right to know  and SB
284 should be passed.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  MEYER said  he  agrees with  Senator  Paskvan. His  only                                                               
concern  is that  SB 284  needs some  cleanup so  that unions  or                                                               
corporations know  the rules if  they want to participate  in the                                                               
passage of school bonds, for example.                                                                                           
9:56:11 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER  moved  to  report  SB  284  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         

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