FEC drops Joe Miller's Senate race complaint against Alaska Native corporations

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint by losing U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller alleging Alaska Native corporations broke federal law by pumping more than $800,000 into the effort to re-elect Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Miller's campaign filed the complaint in the heat of the election, in October 2010, when the Native corporation money was helping Murkowski in her ultimately successful write-in effort after losing to Miller in the Republican primary that August.

The FEC ruling comes a year later and could carry major implications. It confirms the Native corporations, which banded together as the group Alaskans Standing Together, were acting within the law and could do so again to have an influence on future elections. Miller's complaint was one of the first tests of new campaign finance rules in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme court, which allows unlimited independent campaign spending by corporations and labor unions so long as the spending is not coordinated with the campaign it is intended to support.

Miller accused Alaskans Standing Together and the 11 Native regional corporations that donated to the group of breaking laws that forbid federal contractors from contributing to any political party, committee or candidate for federal office.

The FEC ruling, sent to those involved in the case Thursday, said eight of the companies involved have no federal government contracts. It made a distinction between the corporations and the federal contracts of their subsidiaries.

"Although they each have subsidiaries that hold federal contracts, those subsidiaries are separate and distinct legal entities from them, and the parent companies have sufficiently demonstrated that they made their contributions (to Alaskans Standing Together) with revenue sources other than the federal-contract-holding subsidiaries," the Federal Election Commission ruled.

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