By Rui Kaneya, Joe Yerardi, The Center for Public Integrity
In a little-known case out of Alaska, the federal courts have been weighing whether the U.S. Constitution allows states to impose limits on out-of-state contributions, an issue that could soon come to a head at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case, Thompson v. Hebdon, is challenging Alaska’s stringent campaign finance rules that limit how much candidates for state-level offices can raise from out of state.
Wisconsin resident David Thompson filed the case after he tried to give $100 in 2015 to the re-election bid of his brother-in-law, former Alaska state Rep. Wes Keller. Thompson’s contribution couldn’t be accepted because the Republican lawmaker had already reached the $3,000 limit on out-of-state contributions to his campaign…
The case is now pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court upheld the contribution limit.
One of Alaska’s legal arguments has been that the contribution limit is analogous to the federal ban on foreign money in U.S. elections. “Just as a Canadian citizen is not part of the political community governed by the U.S. federal government, a Florida resident is not part of the political community governed by the Alaska state government,” the state’s attorneys wrote in court filings.
But David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, which supports the deregulation of campaign finance, said the analogy falls short on a fundamental point.
“It’s quite different from Russian money influencing U.S. elections,” Keating said. “Alaska isn’t an independent, sovereign state that can do whatever it wants to do. It has to respect the people’s constitutional rights just like the other 49 states do – unless, of course, it manages to secede from the country.”