Legislative ‘Blackout’ on Campaign Fundraising Shrinks to 2 Weeks
By Tracy O at Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

Alabama is one of 29 states that has some restrictions on campaign contributions to candidates for state office during legislative sessions, but that “blackout” window is shrinking to two weeks next year.

Candidates and incumbents seeking legislative and statewide office can begin fundraising a year before their primary contest, but state law says they “may not accept, solicit or receive contributions during the period when the Legislature is convened in session” except “within 120 days of any primary, runoff, or general election.”

While primaries for statewide office have previously been in early June, next year’s contest is May 24. That means the blackout will start Jan. 11, the first day of session, and end Jan. 24. The legislative session can last up to 15 weeks, but during election years, incumbent lawmakers often like to get out of Montgomery and on the campaign trail earlier than that.

In 2018, the blackout was about three weeks, Jan. 9 to Feb. 4.

Secretary of State John Merrill has previously advised candidates to deactivate any webpages that accept contributions online to avoid inadvertently accepting funds. The fundraising freeze does not apply to officials serving at the county or local levels.

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, 29 states, including Alabama, have some restriction on campaign contributions during sessions. In 14 of those states, the restrictions apply only to contributions by lobbyists.