ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) — A federal judge has ruled that four provisions strictly limiting state-level campaign contributions in Alaska don't violate the free speech or equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
Three Alaska Republicans and District 18 of the Alaska Republican Party sued members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission on First and 14th Amendment claims in November 2015. A weeklong bench trial concluded on May 3 before U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess.
In a memorandum of decision issued Monday, Burgess acknowledged that "it is well established that the First Amendment protects political association as well as political expression," and "well-established laws which limit the amount of money a person may give to a candidate or campaign organization intrude upon both of those First Amendment interests."
However, he said in his 26-page ruling that because campaign contributions "lie closer to the edges than to the core of political expression," laws regulating this type of expression are held to "a lesser but still rigorous standard of review" and that it is the state that bears the burden in this case.
He noted he was "initially skeptical" that the state would be able to "defend any of the campaign finance laws at issue", including a $500-per-person annual limit on contributions to candidates and restrictions on out-of-state contributions.
"But the court finds that defendants have presented adequate evidence that the $500 base limits further the sufficiently important state interest of preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance and that those limits are closely drawn to that end, Burgess wrote.
He similarly found that the $3,000 nonresident aggregate limit and the political-party aggregate limit are in the state's interest and do not trigger First Amendment concerns.
"Accordingly, the challenged provisions of Alaska's campaign finance laws are upheld as constitutional," Burgess wrote.
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