State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Alaska Public Offices Commission

Alaska Department of Administration, Alaska Public Offices Commission

AO 05-06-CD

Number: AO 05-06-CD

Requested by: The Honorable Kevin Meyer
Alaska State House of Representatives

Prepared by: Brooke Miles, Director

Date Issued: June 3, 2005

Subject: Incidental use of corporate equipment during a campaign cycle

This letter responds to your May 27, 2005 request for an advisory opinion regarding the incidental use of corporate phone, computer, office space or fax machines during an election campaign cycle. You have asked what steps a candidate should take if an election-related communication is received while at work.


Short Answer

Receiving unsolicited email, fax, or telephone communications regarding your election campaign at your workplace does not violate the prohibition on corporate contributions because neither you nor your employer can control incoming communications. However, your response to these communications must be limited to informing the sender that it is inappropriate for you to receive these communications at work and that the sender should contact you regarding your election campaign at another email address or fax or phone number (for example at home or at your election headquarters).

Campaign Disclosure Law and Regulations

The Alaska campaign disclosure law prohibits contributions from a corporation, company, or partnership. Campaign contributions may only be made by individuals or groups under campaign disclosure law. AS 15.13.074(f).

The law defines “contribution” very broadly; it includes “all goods or services for which a charge is ordinarily made,” which would cover the use of such resources as telephones, fax machines, and computers. AS 15.13.400(4).

Facts

When you are not on a formal leave of absence, you work for a high profile corporation in Alaska.

Without your knowledge, a person could send you an unsolicited email message regarding your election campaign to your work email address; similarly, you could receive unsolicited facsimile transmissions relating to your campaign.

You are concerned that opening such an email message, or receiving a campaign-related fax may result in a campaign disclosure law violation by both yourself and your employer.

You have stated that you receive phone calls during a campaign cycle that are work-related, and during the course of the conversation, a person will ask about your campaign. You have also stated that, when this occurs, you politely refer the caller to your campaign telephone number.

Analysis

The statutory prohibition on corporate contributions in AS 15.13.074(f) does not allow even the incidental use of corporate resources, and thus, as a general rule, the use of corporate telephones, faxes, or email to influence an election is prohibited. Nevertheless, telephone calls, facsimile transmissions, or email messages can be beyond the control of the recipient, and you or your employer may be unable effectively to prevent them. However, by limiting your response in good faith to redirecting callers to your campaign office or telephone, you can avoid a violation, educate the sender about the limits on the use of your employer’s resources in AS 15.13.074(f), and discourage such use of corporate resources in the future.

Conclusion

If your response to unsolicited election-related communications received at your workplace is limited to informing the communicator that all election-related communications must be through your campaign resources, staff concludes that you will not have violated the ban on corporate contributions.

The Commission approved the advice in this letter by an affirmative vote of 5-0 on June 22, 2005. 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.