U.S. Supreme Court may consider Alaska’s ‘dark money’ disclosure rules

the Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court Building is seen in an undated photo. (Photo by Jim Small/Arizona Mirror)

Opponents of an Alaska law that requires the disclosure of “dark money” political donors are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the law.

A group of Republican and Republican-leaning plaintiffs filed a petition with the high court last week.

Under Alaska law, donors are required to disclose the “true source” of large contributions from politically oriented groups to local candidates. 

In other states, donors frequently obscure their political activity by giving to a politically oriented nonprofit, which then donates money to a candidate. These donations are frequently labeled “dark money.”

Ordinarily, campaign disclosure laws would only list the nonprofit as the source of the money, but Alaska’s law was designed to expose the actual donor. 

The names of top donors must be listed in advertising, and an ad must carry a warning message if a majority of donations came from outside the state.

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by former Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards and the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, which argued in last week’s filing that the law could violate the First Amendment.

The petition asks the court to review a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied an injunction seeking to halt the law that was installed as part of Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. Separate provisions of the law created the state’s open primary and ranked choice general elections.

The appeal came after Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason rejected plaintiffs’ request for an injunction ahead of the 2022 state election.

In her order rejecting the injunction, she concluded that Alaska’s disclosure laws are written narrowly and are not burdensome, duplicative or unconstitutional.

The mandated disclosures, she said, serve an “important informational interest and are narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

The Alaska Public Offices Commission, in charge of enforcing the state’s campaign finance laws, has until July 17 to file a document in response to plaintiffs’ petition.

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