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Alaska lawsuit challenges new donor disclosure requirements

A lawsuit filed in federal court challenges new donor disclosure requirements that were part of a 2020 ballot measure.
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 4:24 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - A lawsuit has been filed in federal court against new donor disclosure requirements that come from Ballot Measure 2, an initiative that was narrowly approved by Alaska voters in 2020.

The initiative implemented open primaries and ranked-choice voting in Alaska, which will be used for the first time this year. The Alaska Supreme Court rejected a separate challenge to the state’s new voting system in January.

This lawsuit is focused on challenging the constitutionality of new donor disclosure requirements on First Amendment and privacy grounds.

Ballot Measure 2 requires that the true source of donations above $2,000 in a single year to SuperPACs, or independent expenditure groups as they’re known in Alaska, be disclosed within 24 hours. Delays in disclosure could see fines up to $1,000 per day.

Any group receiving more that 50% of its donations from out of state also needs to disclose that in any campaign mailers or television and radio advertisements.

The lawsuit has been supported by the Liberty Justice Center, a conservative nonprofit legal firm based out of Chicago, which participated in the earlier legal challenge to ranked-choice voting. Craig Richards, a former Alaska attorney general, is representing the plaintiffs alongside Daniel Suhr from the Liberty Justice Center.

Attorneys for five Alaskans and two independent expenditure groups argue that new disclosure requirements are too burdensome and could act as a disincentive for donations. The complaint says that there could be “reprisals against them and their business interests in the current climate of cancel culture.”

Suhr argues that the disclosure requirements compel long disclaimers during ads that compel speech and that they are duplicative, aggressive and overly complicated.

“Our system should be built for everyday people to be able to make their voices heard in the public square to support candidates and causes that they believe in,” he added.

The lawsuit has been filed against officials from the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the regulatory body that manages the state’s elections. Alaskans for Better Elections advocated for Ballot Measure 2 and Scott Kendall, the group’s lead attorney, said it would seek to defend the reforms in court.

Jason Grenn, executive director of Alaskans for Better Elections, said the group is ready to defend “the integrity of our elections from the influence of secret money.”

“Alaskan voters made it clear that they want increased campaign transparency and have a right to know who is spending money on their elections. Nothing in ballot measure two violates the first amendment, nor does it limit political speech,” Grenn said through a prepared statement.

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