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Governor to pay state $2,800 to resolve an ethics complaint over state-funded political ads

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Undated photo.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 10:42 AM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy will pay $2,800 to resolve an ethics complaint made over state-funded political advertisements.

The ads were part of a 2019 campaign launched by the governor’s office that spent $35,000 on mailers and Facebook to support a full Permanent Fund dividend and call for the repeal of Senate Bill 91. The story was first reported by the political blog the Alaska Landmine.

The ads sparked an ethics complaint with the Alaska Personnel Board that was resolved on Friday.

John Tiemessen, the independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board, found that the vast majority of the ads did not violate the Alaska Executive Ethics Act, but two mailers were potentially problematic.

The mailers thanked Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage and then-Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, for their votes on the PFD and crime bills. Tiemessen said, “the circumstances support an inference” that they were for a partisan political purpose because both lawmakers had signaled that they would run for re-election.

“I never intended for State resources to support a partisan political purpose, and I don’t believe I violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act,” the governor wrote in a statement.

The resolution of the complaint is not an admission of wrongdoing by the governor nor is it considered a fine or penalty.

“I did not know about these communications before they were sent, and had no personal role in drafting, designing, publishing, reviewing, or approving the advertisements,” the governor said.

The allegation that the governor used state funds for partisan political ads was one of four grounds the Recall Dunleavy campaign has used to try to remove the governor from office. The signature-gathering campaign to put the recall effort before voters has slowed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alaska.

“I am reimbursing the State for the cost of these advertisements and ensuring that my staff undergoes all appropriate ethics training,” the governor said. “I am also taking this opportunity to remind the devoted public servants in my office of the very high ethical standards that Alaskans rightly demand.”

The governor has 60 days from Friday to repay the state.

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