Supreme Court sends challenge to Alaska campaign finance limits back to lower court
© WikiMedia (Zakarie Faibis)
Supreme Court sends challenge to Alaska campaign finance limits back to lower court

The US Supreme Court Monday remanded a case challenging the constitutionality of Alaska’s $500 limit on campaign contributions from individuals to either a candidate or a group other than a political party.

This case arose in 2015 when two Alaska residents, Aaron Downing and Jim Crawford, contributed the maximum amounts permitted under Alaska law to candidates or groups of their choice but wanted to contribute more. They sued members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, alleging that Alaska’s individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group contribution limits violate the First Amendment.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court decision to uphold the contribution limits without applying the Supreme Court precedent in Randall v. Sorrell. In Randall, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that “contribution limits that are too low can … harm the electoral process by preventing challengers from mounting effective campaigns against incumbent officeholders, thereby reducing democratic accountability.

In a per curiam decision, the Supreme Court noted that Alaska’s individual-to-candidate contribution limit is “substantially lower than … comparable limits in other States,” and is not adjusted for inflation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote separately to state that, unlike in Randall, Alaska’s law does not exhibit certain features found troublesome in Vermont’s law.