Campaign finance requirements for Alaska ballot measures

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Campaign finance requirements for Alaska ballot measures are promulgated by the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) and the Alaska Department of Administration. Alaska refers to political groups that spend money to influence the passage or defeat of ballot measures as "ballot groups."

If someone feels a person or committee violated Alaska campaign finance laws, the first step is to file a complaint with Public Offices Commission[1]. All complaints must be filed within five years of when the alleged incident happened[1]. The Commission has 90 days after the complaint is filed to take any action unless the person or committee named in the complaint wants an expedited hearing[2][3]. All expedited complaints must be heard by the Commission within 2 days of granting such consideration[4].

For all other complaints, a hearing must be held no later than 45 days after the written response is due from the person receiving the complaint[5]. If someone is found guilty of a law violation, the Commission can levy civil penalties including monetary fines[5][6]. Any complaint that involves the constitutionality of Alaska law or is not in the jurisdiction of the commission is referred to the Attorney General[7].

General requirements

Ballot group

Under the Alaska Campaign Disclosure law, a “group” is two or more individuals who act jointly to influence the outcome of a vote on a ballot measure. (AS 15.13.400(5)(B))

A ballot group may be formed to:

  • Sponsor an initiative, rferendum, or recall.
  • Support or oppose an initiative, referendum, recall or constitutional amendment.
  • Campaign to determine whether a constitutional convention shall be called, a debt shall be contracted, an advisory question shall be approved or whether a municipality shall be incorporated. (AS 15.13.065 and AS 15.60.010)

Alaska's Campaign Disclosure Law

Alaska's Campaign Disclosure Law requires ballot groups to:

  • register with the Alaska Public Offices Commission;
  • file periodic Campaign Disclosure Reports; and
  • identify all political communications with a “paid for by” statement.

Registration requirements

Initiative stage

When a ballot group has formed to sponsor an initiative, referendum or recall, the group must register with the Commission “30 days after its first filing with the Lieutenant Governor…”. The day of a group's "first filing" is the date the group files the proposed language for an initiative and the required signatures of 100 supporters with the Lieutenant Governor or Division of Elections, . (AS 15.13.110(e))

If question is already on the ballot

A group that forms to support or oppose an issue on a state or municipal ballot must register with the Commission “before making an expenditure in support of or in opposition to a ballot proposition or question.” This includes making expenditures to order checks or bank charges. Thus, it is best to register as early as possible. (AS 15.13.050(a))

Finance reporting requirements

Reporting deadlines

Initiative Stage

Ballot groups in the initiative stage need to file quarterly reports. The quarterly reports shall be filed within 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter. The group is required to file quarterly Campaign Disclosure Statements until:

(1) the group ceases its petition drive, or (2) the 30 Day Pre-election report is due (if the group is successful in getting the initiative certified as a ballot issue). (AS 15.13.110(e))

If the question is on the ballot

Ballot groups formed to support or oppose a question on the ballot must file Pre and Post Election Reports. The required reports must be filed according to the following schedule:

  • 30 Day Pre-election report: Due 30 days prior to the election.
  • 7 Day Pre-election report: Due 7 days prior to the election.
  • 24 Hour Report: Within 9 days prior to the election, all contributions over $250 must be disclosed within 24 hours.
  • Year End Report: Discloses all activity through February 1 and is due February 15 of the following year. (AS 15.13.110)

Required disclosure in reporting

A ballot group in the initiative stage that accepts donations and makes expenditures solely to gather signatures may file a “zero report” to satisfy the quarterly reporting due under AS 15.13.110(e). A group filing “zero reports” should be careful to confine its financial activity solely to gathering signatures. “Zero reports” are appropriate until the group disbands or until the group’s petition is certified as a ballot measure. Once the petition is certified as a ballot issue, the group’s activities are considered to be campaign efforts intended to influence the outcome of an election. The group must then make full reports of its contributions and expenditures in accordance with AS 15.13.040(b) and (c), and AS 15.13.110.

“Zero Reports” are also appropriate when a group has had no activity. If a group has bank interest or bank charges, a zero report is not appropriate.

Penalties for late filing

Commission staff will assess a civil penalty based on the number of days a report is late and how close it is to the election. Fines range from $10 to $50 per day. A filer has 30 days to pay or to appeal the penalty.

Campaign contribution limits

Ballot groups may accept contributions from individuals or persons without limitation. This includes corporations, unions, organizations, as well as individuals and organizations from outside Alaska.

Surplus funds

Once the petition is certified, the group’s activities are considered to be campaign efforts intended to influence the outcome of an election. The group must then report all contributions and expenditures.

If the group intends to use the surplus funds gathered during the signature stage to campaign for passage of the measure, the group must disclose all activity which led to that surplus; including the names of previous contributors. Because bookkeeping can be difficult, staff recommends that ballot groups in the initiative stage monitor funds so that no surplus is carried forward.

Campaign advertising laws

“Paid for by” identifier requirement

All political communications must contain a “paid for by” identifier which includes the words “paid for by” followed by the name and address of the ballot group paying for the advertising.

Penalty for inadequate or missing identifiers

Yes. A group that fails to place a complete “paid for by” identifier on its campaign communications is subject to a civil penalty of up to $50 per day.

Terminating a group

The disbursement of a campaign account must be reported to the Commission within 10 days after final disposition of the balance. Ballot groups may disburse the balance in the following manner:

  • give the money to charity (501(c)(3));
  • repay the contributors;
  • pay for a victory or thank you party;
  • leave the money in the account for future election (the group must register every year and report as long as there is a balance in the account); or contribute the money to a group supporting a ballot proposition or question. (2 AAC 50.384)

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