- What is a group?
- What is a non-group entity?
- How do I start a group?
- Special Reporting Issues
- "Paid for by" Identifiers - Group Questions
- Out of State Groups
- Ballot Groups
- How does the group disband?
- Initiatives, Referendums and Recalls
What is a group?
Under the Alaska Campaign Disclosure law, a “group” is two or more individuals who act jointly to influence the outcome of an election of a state or municipal candidate or ballot measure. Please see AS 15.13.400(8)(B)). A PAC or political action committee is another name for a political group.
A group that makes expenditures or receives contributions with the authorization or consent, express, or implied, of a candidate shall be considered controlled. In addition, if a group spends more than 50% if its money on a single candidate, the group shall be considered controlled. Please see AS 15.13.400(8)(B). If you have further questions about controlled groups, please contact our office at 276-4176 or 800-478-4176.
What is a non-group entity
Campaign Disclosure Law defines a "nongroup entity" as a person other than an individual that takes action the major purpose of which is to influence the outcome of an election. In addition they may not participate in business activities and cannot have shareholders that have a claim on any corporate earnings. They must also be independent from the influence of business corporations. A nongroup entity might be the local homeowners association or the local ladies knitting circle. Please see AS 15.13.400(13).
How do I start a group?
- When does a group need to register with the APOC?
A group must register with the Commission “before making an expenditure in support of or in opposition to a candidate.” In addition to paid expenses such as ordering checks or paying for bank charges, an expenditure is defined broadly to also include a promise to pay. Reserving ad space or hiring a consultant are promises to pay. Thus, it is best to register as early as possible. Please see AS 15.13.050(a).
- What else do we need to know?
Remember, the group must have its own bank account, separate from any affiliated organization, union, or corporation. The group must appoint a treasurer who is responsible for receiving, holding and disbursing all contributions and expenditures, and for filing all reports and statements required by law. The treasurer may appoint deputy treasurers that are authorized to accept contributions on the group’s behalf. The deputy treasurers must be registered with the Commission. Please see AS 15.13.060, and AS 15.13.076(2).
- Are there any restrictions on naming the group?
In general, there are few restrictions on the name of the group. If a group is formed to oppose only one candidate, the group’s name must clearly state that it opposes that candidate. In addition, if a group expends 33 1/3% or more on a single candidate, the name of the candidate must be a part of the group’s name. Please see AS 15.13.050(b).
Special Reporting issues
You will need to record and report the name and address from your contributors along with the date, amount and check number. For contributions in excess of $100 a year the occupation and employer information is required. Contributions under $100 may be reported as an aggregate amount with the total number of contributors that makes up the total amount of funds received. Please see AS 15.13.040(b).
Out of State Groups
Why are out of state organizations limited to the three avenues described above?
- What is an out of state organization?
For the purposes of this document, the term “organization” refers broadly to corporations, unions, associations and other business entities as well as federal PACs and special interest groups. An organization is considered to be “out of state” or “nonresident” if it is organized under the laws of another state, resident in another state, or has participants who are not residents of this state at the time the contribution is made. Please see AS 15.13.072(a)(3).
- May an out of state organization participate in Alaskan elections?
The constraints on participation by an out of state organization depend on the type of election the organization is attempting to influence. The Alaska Campaign Disclosure law distinguishes between candidate campaigns and ballot measure campaigns. Although the reporting requirements are similar, the law places greater restrictions on activity related to candidate campaigns than on ballot measure campaigns.
- What may out of state organizations do to influence the outcome of a candidate election for state or local office?
- An out of state organization may publish and distribute educational materials about candidates for a particular office.
Under AS 15.13.150, out of state organizations are free to engage in educational election-related communications and activities, including “the dissemination of the views of all candidates running for a particular office.” This provision would enable an out of state group to survey candidates and publish those results in a manner which did not endorse or promote particular candidates.
When the Commission has addressed the issue in the past, it has concluded that a survey which directed readers to vote for candidates who reflected the values of the group was subject to regulation, (Advisory Opinion to Christian Life Council, July 31, 1990); and flyers which summarized municipal candidates’ survey responses was not subject to regulation because the flyers did not exhort readers to vote for or against specific candidates and because the flyers included all candidates’ response to range of issues. (Advisory Opinion to Anchorage Citizens for Competent Government, April 9, 1993)
- An out of state group may send political communications to its members regarding particular candidates.
Commission regulation, 2 AAC 50.250, permits organizations which are not organized primarily to influence elections to send political communications to their members or employees or their families, as long as the communications meet the following qualifications: (1) they have the same format and nature as other nonpolitical communications by the organization; (2) they request members to exercise their right to vote; and (3) they do not solicit individual contributions to a clearly identified candidate or group.
- An out of state group may make a contribution or an independent expenditure supporting or opposing a candidate if it creates an Alaska entity which complies with the requirements of the Alaska Campaign Disclosure Law.
A “group” is defined in AS 15.13.400(8) as two or more individuals who organize and act with the primary purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. That entity becomes an Alaska group and may participate as an Alaskan group if it satisfies the following requirements:
- it does not accept more than $500 from any one individual or $1000 from any other Alaskan group;
- it does not accept contributions from corporations, unions or other business entities; and
- it does not accept more than 10% of its total income from individuals who are not residents of Alaska. A “group” which satisfies these filters must register with the Alaska Public Offices Commission before making any expenditures in Alaska; and must file all required group reports as AS 15.13.050.
Several provisions in the Alaska Campaign Disclosure law limit the participation of out of state organizations in Alaskan campaigns. First, AS 15.13.072(a)(3), specifically prohibits a candidate from soliciting or accepting a contribution from an out of state group. Second, AS 15.13.135 states that only “an individual or group may make an independent expenditure supporting or opposing a candidate for election to public office.” Thus, unless an out of state organization qualifies as a group under Alaska law, it is prohibited from making independent expenditures.
What may out of state organizations do to influence the outcome of a ballot proposition or question?
There are no limitations on the source or amount of contributions and independent expenditures on ballot measure campaigns. AS 15.13.065(c). However, foreign nationals who are not landed permanent residents may not contribute. Subject to Alaska reporting requirements, out of state groups may make contributions and independent expenditures of any amount supporting or opposing ballot measures. An out of state group must file a Statement of Contributions (Form 15-5) within 30 days of contributing to a ballot measure group an amount equal to or greater than $500 or an increment of $500. If an out of state group makes an independent expenditure of any amount on a ballot measure, it must file a Statement of Expenditure (Form 15-6) disclosing the amount spent within 10 days of the expenditure.
- What is a ballot group?
Under the Alaska Campaign Disclosure law, a “group” is two or more individuals who act jointly to influence the outcome of an election of a state or municipal candidate or ballot measure. Please see AS 15.13.400(8)(B). A ballot group may be formed to
- sponsor an initiative, referendum, 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. Please see AS 15.13.065.
- What are the requirements of ballot groups under the Campaign Disclosure Law?
Ballot groups must:
- register with the APOC;
- file periodic Campaign Disclosure Reports; and
- identify all political communications with a “paid for by” statement.
- When does a ballot group need to register with the APOC?
Initiative stage [Initiative Proposal Application (IPA) Group ]
- State Level:
- When a Initiative Proposal Application group has formed to sponsor a State initiative, referendum or recall, the group must register with the Commission “30 days after its first filing with the Lieutenant Governor….” “First filing” means the date the group first files, with the Lieutenant Governor or Division of Elections, the proposed language for an initiative along with the signatures of 100 supporters of the proposed initiative. Please see AS 15.13.110(e).
- Municipal Level:
- An Initiative Proposal Application group that has formed to sponsor an initiative, referendum or recall on the municipal or local level will report within 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter until the group ceases its petition drive or the group is successful in getting the initiative certified and on the ballot. Once certified the group will pursuant to AS 15.13.110(a).
If question is already on the ballot:
A group that forms to support or oppose an issue already 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. Please see AS 15.13.050(a).
When are reports due?
Initiative Proposal Application groups 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:
- the group ceases its petition drive, or
- the 30 Day Pre-election report is due (if the group is successful in getting the initiative certified as a ballot issue). Please see 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 standard campaign disclosure reports.
- Are there limits on contributions to ballot groups?
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. AS 15.13.065(c).
How does the group disband?
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 under 26 U.S.C. (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. Please see 2 AAC 50.384.
Initiatives, Referendums and Recalls
A group that sponsors a state initiative, referendum or recall has reporting requirements under the Alaska Campaign Disclosure Law, AS 15.13. The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) administers the provision of AS 15.13.
- When do we register?
AS 15.13.110(e) provides that "a group formed to sponsor an initiative, a referendum, or a recall shall report [to the Commission] 30 days after the first filing with the Lieutenant Governor.". The "first filing" occurs when the group files an application for initiative, referendum or recall with the Division of Elections. Once the group files an application, it has 30 days to file a Group Registration with the APOC.
- When do we file reports?
After a group’s first filing with the Division of Elections, it "shall report within 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter on the contributions received and expenditures made during the preceding calendar quarter until reports are due under (a) of this section." AS 15.13.110. The group is required to file quarterly Campaign Disclosure Statements until: (1) the group ceases it petition drive, or (2) the group is successful in getting the initiative, referendum or recall certified as a ballot issue. Once certified, see standard reporting requirements.
- What exactly gets reported?
Groups registered with APOC are to report all income received and expenditure made under AS 15.13.040 and AS 15.13.110. For specific questions on reporting requirements for initiative proposal application groups on the State or Municipal level please call the Anchorage office.
- What is a “Zero” report?
An initiative, referendum or recall group that accepts donations and makes expenditures solely to gather signatures on the municipal level may file a "zero" report. This will satisfy the quarterly reporting requirement under AS 15.13.110(e). A municipal initiative proposal application group filing "zero" reports should be careful to confine its financial activity solely to gathering signatures.
The accuracy of the group’s "zero" report could be challenged if the group simultaneously campaigns for the future ballot measure. "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 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(a).
- Are there contribution limits?
There is no limit on the amount a person, organization, or group can contribute to a group sponsoring or opposing an initiative, referendum or recall. A recall is viewed as a ballot issue, not a candidacy for the purposes of the campaign disclosure contribution limitation. An office holder raising or spending funds to defend against a recall effort should set up a separate bank account, apart from his or her campaign account.
- Do “Paid for By” requirements apply?
Advertising which is intended to influence the outcome of a ballot issue such as a initiative, referendum or recall question must include the phrase "Paid for by…" identifying the individual, person or group paying for the ad. See AS 15.13.090 for details. This requirement does not apply to advertising intended solely to gather signatures to qualify an initiative, referendum or recall petition.
On January 1, 1997, corporations, companies, partnerships, associations, organizations, business trusts or sureties, labor unions, or publicly funded entities that do not satisfy the definition of group in AS 15.13.400 were prohibited from contributing to candidates and groups. However, employees or members of those entities may set up separate political groups to campaign for or against candidates.
1. What is a PAC?
The term PAC is commonly used when talking about a group of individuals who have an interest in common and want to support or oppose candidates. Under the Alaska Campaign Disclosure law, a political action committee, or PAC, is another name for a group. A “group” is two or more individuals who act jointly to influence the outcome of an election of a state or municipal candidate or ballot measure. Please see AS 15.13.400(8)(B).
2. How do we get started?
When the members of an entity decide to form a group, they must create a separate account. No funds from the entity’s general operating fund may be used. This group must be registered with the APOC prior to accepting contributions or making expenditures per 15.13.050.
3. May the entity announce the formation of the PAC?
Yes. The entity may make an initial announcement of the formation of the PAC to the employees or members as long as the following conditions are satisfied:
- The announcement is of the same nature and format as previous communications on nonpolitical matters.
- The announcement does not solicit contributions to the PAC.
- It may provide contact information for the PAC. Please see 2 AAC 50.250(3)(D).
4. From whom may the PAC solicit contributions?
There are no restrictions on whom the PAC may solicit. However, the following conditions must be met by all contributors to the PAC:
- Contributions to the PAC must be from individuals and other PACs and must be voluntary.
- Individuals may not contribute more than $500 per year to the PAC (cash contributions are not to exceed $100 annually). Other PACs may contribute up to $1,000 per year.
- Only 10% of the PAC contributions may come from non-Alaskan residents. Please see AS 15.13.070 and AS 15.13.072.
5. May the entity assist in collecting the contributions to the PAC?
The entity may provide the services necessary to set up a payroll deduction plan. In providing these services, the entity must not exercise any control over the use of the PAC funds, except to reject and return prohibited contributions.
6. May the entity assist in preparing APOC reports?
The entity may provide administrative assistance necessary to comply with the legal and accounting requirements of the Campaign Disclosure Law. This assistance includes bookkeeping services and legal advice.
7. May the PAC use the entity's mailing list?
Yes. The Commission has concluded that an entity may make its own membership or mailing list available to its PAC. However, a PAC may not accept another entity’s mailing list without reimbursing that entity at a commercially reasonable rate. Please see 2 AAC 50.250(3)(H).
8. May the PAC use the entity's facilities and equipment?
Yes. A PAC may use the entity's facilities and equipment, as long as the PAC reimburses the entity for all costs involved at a commercially reasonable rate, in a commercially reasonable period of time. Examples of such items include: rooms, computers and phones. Reimbursable expenses might include a portion of operating and maintenance costs of the computer system, extended janitorial services if the building is kept open after hours, or any other cost that might be associated with using the facilities. Please see 2 AAC 50.250(3)(G).
9. What may the entity do independently of the PAC?
An entity may communicate with its members or employees on political subjects and the communication is not a contribution if the following conditions are met:
- The communication is of the same format and nature used by the entity when it has communicated on nonpolitical subjects.
- The communication does not request members or their families to do anything other than exercise the right to vote.
- The communication may not solicit individual contributions to a clearly identified candidate or group. Please see 2 AAC 50.250(3)(D).