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Dunbar campaign files complaint against Bronson alleging campaign finance regulation violations

Anchorage mayoral candidates Forrest Dunbar (left) and Dave Bronson (right).
Anchorage mayoral candidates Forrest Dunbar (left) and Dave Bronson (right).(Photo courtesy the campaigns of Forrest Dunbar and Dave Bronson.)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 7:01 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 7:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The campaign for Anchorage mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Monday, alleging campaign finance regulation violations by opposing candidate Dave Bronson.

Dunbar’s campaign is raising allegations of “sloppy and inaccurate accounting, deliberate obfuscation of campaign activity, and potentially tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions,” according to a press release from the campaign.

The complaint claims that Bronson’s campaign has more than $170,000 in non-compliant financial activity.

Among the complaint’s claims are that the Bronson campaign accepted, and did not refund or report as debt, a total of $1,400 in contributions from five individuals that exceeded the maximum contribution limit allowed by state statute.

The complaint claims that Bronson’s campaign cited results from three polls on the Dave Bronson for Mayor Facebook page in late March, but that the campaign did not report expenditures or debt for polling or surveys in its year start, 30-day or seven-day reports.

The complaint does note that the Bronson campaign reported a $1,500 expenditure for “data subscription” to one of the companies listed as having performed a poll, but claims that “a survey or poll would cost many times that amount.”

The post on the Bronson campaign’s Facebook page lists one of the three polls as being done by the Anchorage Press.

The complaint also alleges that the Bronson campaign accepted in-kind contributions of venue fees and food from donors who were owners or employees of the venues where his campaign’s fundraisers were held.

“It is highly unlikely that these individuals personally paid for the in-kind items,” the complaint states. “Unless the businesses are sole proprietorships or the listed individuals personally paid the amounts, the Bronson campaign should have to pay the businesses the listed amounts.”

Additionally, the complaint alleges a failure to properly report $18,000 in debt to radio stations, and hundreds of dollars in unreported Facebook ads, “with indications that a much larger amount of digital advertising may have been underreported,” according to the release.

Dunbar’s campaign has requested expedited consideration of the complaint.

“The failure to provide an accurate picture of a campaign’s finances has a definite impact on an election,” the complaint states. “Campaigns plan their strategy centered around, in part, how much money the opponent has, where the money has been spent, when and for what.”

Reached by phone Monday, Dunbar said part of the reason for the timing of this complaint filing is that it takes a while to put these kinds of complaints together. Part of it is that the two candidates are likely now heading for a runoff election on May 11, just weeks away. That’s why he requested expedited consideration, Dunbar said.

Normally when a complaint is filed with APOC, the commission has 30 days to issue its report, according to Tom Lucas, campaign disclosure coordinator with APOC. Sometimes it can take up to 45 days depending on whether involved parties request more time, Lucas said.

That’s not the case in this situation. Because the Dunbar campaign has requested expedited consideration, the commission has two days to meet and decide whether to grant that expedited consideration.

“That’s the step we’re at right now,” Lucas said.

Then, if expedited consideration were to be granted, the commission would have two days from the time it was granted to hold a hearing on the complaint. Lucas said the commission is looking at this Wednesday to meet and decide the expedited consideration request, but that a time and place has not been confirmed.

In a response sent by his campaign manager Brice Wilbanks, Bronson said his campaign will have a full response to the APOC complaint once the campaign’s attorney reviews it.

In his statement, Bronson alleged a connection between the Dunbar campaign’s filing of the complaint and the fact that the Anchorage Police Department Employee’s Union recently chose not to endorse either mayoral candidate.

“Historically, APDEA supports Democrat candidates, so the choice not to endorse either candidate is a win for us,” Bronson wrote.

Bronson said Dunbar is “using APOC as a tool” in an attempt to distract Bronson’s team during the campaign leading up to May’s runoff election.

“We are focused on this campaign and the people of Anchorage obviously want to see this city move in a new direction,” he wrote.

Dunbar said his campaign’s filing of the complaint and the APDEA’s endorsement decision are unrelated.

“We’re at the beginning of a runoff,” he said. “Our treasurer has been working on this for days.”

The full complaint is available to read on APOC’s website.

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