Supreme Court's corporate campaign spending ruling draws praise, criticism

The Anchorage Daily NewsJanuary 22, 2010 

The U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday allowing unlimited political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions is expected to affect state and local races and could mean immense amounts of money pouring into this year's race for governor, said key Alaska Republicans and Democrats, who had very different takes on whether the decision is good or bad.

The state Department of Law and the Alaska Public Offices Commission were still reviewing what it meant legally for Alaska.

Under the ruling, corporations and unions can't give directly to or coordinate with candidates. But they will be able to spend unlimited amounts on advertisements for -- or against -- those on the ballot. The justices split 5-4 with the majority ruling that the government should not bar political speech.

"First and foremost, the decision restores some aspects of the First Amendment. That is wonderful," said Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party. And it should rid the system of the troublesome 527 groups that raised money outside the regulated system, he said. But corporations still can't give to political parties -- a federal challenge on that is still in court, he said.

Ken Jacobus, an Anchorage lawyer who used to represent the Republican Party, said the ruling was a "huge victory for the First Amendment." He said it would apply "across the board."

"There are going to be a lot more opportunities to make money and bring money to Alaska, to finance the media," Jacobus said. "It all helps the economy."

On the other side, Democrats said that unlimited spending by big business in political races may taint the process, prevent individuals from being heard, and drown out the candidates' own message.

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