Federal courts strike Alaska's cap on out-of-state campaign money

9th Circuit strikes down a voter approved $3000 cap on political donations from outside the state

The supposedly liberal 9th Circuit federal court of appeals has nullified parts of a law approved by Alaskan voters in 2006 that limited the amount of funds a candidate could raise from outside the state. The Alaskan Republican Party had challenged the law and a federal district court had initially upheld it.

The ruling drew upon Supreme Court precedent in Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC all of which equated spending campaign money as the equivalent of free speech*.* Two of the three 9th circuit judges who heard the case simply felt that reducing influence from out-of-state donors over Alaska donors did not target an 'important state interest" despite the fact that 73% Alaska voters obviously thought it was important enough to [pass](https://ballotpedia.org/Alaska_Campaign_Finance_Reform_Initiative,Measure_1(August_2006%29) the measure.

These two judges also rejected an argument by Alaska that the limits were necessary to preserve self-government. Those judges admitted that there was a "cogent case" for the view that states should be able to limit who may "directly influence the outcome of an election" by making financial contributions, but that their hands were tied by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that states to do not have a legitimate interest in curbing "influence over or access to" elected officials.

Chief Judge Thomas disagreed. He thought that Alaska voters had a legitimate need to protect their state from out-of-state oil and gas industry influence and that states generally have sovereign power under the federal constitution to protect their own separate and autonomous independence.

Many of the constitutional amendments that have been introduced in Congress to overturn the Citizens United ruling would also clearly allow states to limit campaign funds from beyond their borders.

The 3-judge panel upheld other parts of the voter initiative that lowered the amount that any donor can contribute directly to a candidate or political committee.

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