Requested by: Joseph W. Geldhof, Attorney at Law
Prepared by: Christina L. Ellingson, Assistant Director
Date issued: August 14, 2001
Subject: Group to Group Contributions when one group is an out of state group
On July 27, 2001, Joseph Geldhof asked the Alaska Public Offices Commission (Commission) for an advisory opinion on behalf of Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association Political Action Fund (MEBA PAC) an out of state group headquartered in Washington DC. You explain that MEBA PAC contemplates forming an in-state group, Alaska Marine Engineer's Beneficial Association PAC (AMEBA PAC) and ask if MEBA PAC may then contribute to this Alaskan affiliate.
The Alaska campaign disclosure law applies to all funds that are raised or spent to influence the outcome of an election in Alaska. If a group forms outside Alaska and is active in election campaigns for state or local elections in Alaska, Alaska law regulates their activity.
The AMEBA PAC intends to accept contributions from the MEBA PAC. While you have not said what AMEBA PAC will be using its funds for, staff is basing its response on the premise that the AMEBA PAC will be using the funds to support or oppose Alaskan candidates. The answer to your question would be different if you are planning on using the funds for ballot measures or initiatives.
An out of state group that wishes to participate in Alaska elections must comply with the requirements of the Alaska campaign disclosure law. Thus, MEBA PAC may contribute up to $1000 to the AMEBA PAC, as long as the contribution consists of funds that qualify under the Alaska campaign disclosure law, AS 15.13.
- MEBA PAC is located and operates from the union's national headquarters in Washington DC.
- MEBA PAC has members located throughout the United States, including Alaska that contribute voluntarily to the MEBA PAC. It then contributes to federal, state and local candidates. MEBA PAC, until 1995, was active in Alaska politic
- MEBA members in Alaska plan to form an in state Alaskan group that will call itself AMEBA PAC.
- The MEBA PAC would like to make contributions to the AMEBA PAC.
Campaign Disclosure Law
The campaign disclosure law defines a group as "any combination of two or more individuals acting jointly who organize for the principal purpose to influence the outcome of one or more elections and who take action the major purpose of which is to influence the outcome of an election…." AS 15.13.400(5)(B)
An individual may contribute not more than $500 per year … to a group that is not a political party. AS 15.13.070(b)(1)
Individuals, groups and political parties may make contributions to a candidate. An individual or group may make a contribution to a group or to a political party. AS 15.13.065(a)
A group that is not a political party may contribute not more than $1000 per year to another group or to a political party. AS 15.13.070(c)(2)
A candidate may not solicit or accept contributions from a group organized under the laws of another state, resident in another state, or whose participants are not residents of this state at the time the contribution is made. AS 15.13.072(a)(3)
A group may solicit or accept contributions from an individual who is not a resident of the state at the time the contribution is made, but a group may not accept more than 10% of it total contributions during a calendar year from non-resident individuals. AS 15.13.072(f)
Prior to 1997 non-resident groups were permitted to contribute to Alaskan candidates. The Commission recognized these groups and set up guidelines for the disclosure of these activities. One of the purposes of the campaign finance reform act of 1997, however, was to curtail the influence of campaign contributions that originate outside Alaska. Thus, the current Alaska Campaign Disclosure Law contains limits and prohibitions, which are difficult for groups to meet if they are organized under the laws of another state or are federal committees.
The law now limits contributions to $500 a year from individual contributors. In addition, groups may only accept 10% of their total contributions from out of state residents. And lastly, the maximum that one group may contribute to another group is $1,000.
Under AS 15.13.072(a)(3) candidates are prohibited from soliciting or accepting contributions from a non-resident group. A non-resident group is one that is "organized under the laws of another state, resident in another state, or whose participants are not residents of Alaska at the time a contribution is made." AS 15.13.072(f) applies to any group active in Alaska, including non-resident groups and states that a group may not accept more than 10% of its total contributions from non-resident individuals.
The law also contains limits and prohibitions relating to federal committees. Alaska's restrictions are stricter than federal law and in some cases other states. For instance, an individual may not contribute more than $500 per year to a group that is not a political party. Corporations may not contribute to groups. Only individuals, groups and political parties may make contributions to a candidate.
In most instances, federal groups raise, or have already raised, money according to limits higher than those allowed under AS 15.13. For instance under federal law, nonresident groups, such as corporate PACs, can accept contributions of up to $5,000 per year from individuals. A group organized under federal law would need to self-impose new fundraising constraints in order to raise funds for use in Alaska, and would not be able to use money that did not meet the filters as described in statute.
You are correct, in your letter, in stating that there does not appear to be a direct statutory prohibition against nonresident groups giving to an in-state group. Alaska's limitations on instate groups create limitations on any out of state groups contributing to instate groups. All out of state groups must meet the same filters that are applied to the instate groups, if they are intending to be active in candidate campaigns.
As outlined above, MEBA PAC may contribute up to the maximum allowed under AS15.13, which is $1000 per year to AMEBA PAC, as long as the money used to contribute meets the following filters:
- The money comes from individuals in increments of $500 or less.
- No more than 10% of the PAC fund can be from out of state residents.
- There can be no corporate, partnership, association or union money.
The Commission approved the advice in this letter by an affirmative vote of 4-0 on October 31, 2001. The advice in this opinion applies only to the specific activity for which the advice was requested.
A copy of the original letter requesting the above advisory opinion is available upon request at the Alaska Public Offices Commission. 907/276-4176.