New changes to Alabama law will allow corporations, like individuals, to make unlimited campaign contributions in Alabama state and local elections. Last Friday, Governor Robert Bentley signed the law which removes the $500 per election cap on corporate contributions. (The Alabama Attorney General’s Office interpreted the $500 per election cap to mean corporate contributions to PACs were limited to $500 multiplied by the number of elections in Alabama in the year.) Among other changes, the new law also permits regulated utilities, such as power and cable companies, to make unlimited campaign contributions in races other than for public service commissioner.
One question is when this law will go into effect. According to the statute, the change is set to take effect on August 1, 2013. However, changes to Alabama’s voting or election procedures require preclearance from the Department of Justice, which can be a lengthy process. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office reportedly has been asked to consider whether the corporate contribution change can go into effect without DOJ preclearance. Covington will continue to monitor when this law goes into effect, permitting corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions in Alabama. Until then, corporate contributions to PACs other than principal campaign committees are limited to $500 multiplied by the number of elections in Alabama in the year.