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APOC denies expedited consideration of Dunbar campaign’s complaint

The complaint filed this week alleges campaign finance violations by the Bronson campaign
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. 14, 2021 at 7:28 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the likely runoff in this year’s Anchorage Municipal Election approaches – with the top two candidates for mayor of Anchorage taking part – a complaint filed by one campaign against the other will not see expedited consideration, following a determination from the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday.

The campaign for candidate and Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who is currently sitting in second in the mayoral race, filed the complaint with APOC on Monday alleging race leader Dave Bronson’s campaign violated campaign finance regulations. The complaint makes claims such as certain expenses not being reported, over-the-limit contributions going unreturned, underreporting of expenditures and failure to provide details on media, advertising and consulting expenses.

The Bronson campaign has called the complaint a “distraction,” and said in an email to Alaska’s News Source on Tuesday evening that Dunbar’s actions — and those of his campaign — “reflect the current state of our city and its leaders.”

“As of now, we have an attorney looking into the allegations,” Bronson said via an email sent by Campaign Manager Brice Wilbanks. “My opponent’s recent negative press release energized my supporters. Tonight, more election numbers were released, and we have pulled even further ahead. I am focused on this campaign to take the city of Anchorage in a new direction.”

When filing, the Dunbar campaign requested expedited consideration of the complaint, given the nearby arrival of the mayoral runoff, of which Dunbar and Bronson are both expected to be a part.

During the APOC hearing Wednesday evening, the committee said it intended to deal primarily with whether or not consideration of the complaint should be expedited, as well as consider “whether or not alleged violation or violations — if not immediately restrained — could affect the outcome of the mayoral election,” according to APOC Chair Anne Helzer.

Members of both campaigns were asked to speak at the beginning of and throughout the hearing. With the burden of proof on the Dunbar campaign, a representative spoke to several alleged violations, including but not limited to overages, unpaid debt, inaccurate reporting and an overall lack of transparency. A representative for the Bronson campaign, however — while acknowledging shortcomings on behalf of the Bronson campaign’s financial reports — maintained that expedited consideration was unnecessary, that any mistakes in reporting were small, and that that an audit was and is currently being conducted.

Following about 90 minutes of deliberation in executive session, APOC returned with its decision.

“After extensive conversation on the topic, the commission has decided to deny the expedited consideration,” Helzer said. “The commission has done so in reliance on counsel for the Bronson campaign, and her representative statements that an audit is underway, and that any violations of campaign finance law will be corrected expeditiously.”

Helzer added that all of the allegations are to be investigated by APOC staff, and they will then be brought forth at a regularly-scheduled hearing.

“A denial of expediting consideration does not shield any campaign from any penalties that could accrue on a daily basis,” she continued. “We encourage the counsel for the Bronson campaign to correct any issues that have been raised today.”

APOC will be issuing a written order of its determination on Thursday by 11 a.m., Helzer said.

In a non-expedited situation, APOC has 30 days to issue a report after a complaint is filed. That time frame can sometimes be extended if an involved party requests more time.

As of Wednesday evening, Bronson was leading the mayoral election with 24,236 votes compared to Dunbar’s 22,763 votes. The candidate garnering the next highest number of votes had not yet surpassed the 10,000 mark, per the municipality’s unofficial results sheet released Wednesday night.

Only one more APOC report will be released ahead of the mayoral runoff. That election, if confirmed through the certification of the April 6 election, will take place on May 11.

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