Alaska campaign finance board upholds $38,500 fine for Mayor Bronson’s campaign

Then-candidate Dave Bronson at his campaign headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska.
Then-candidate Dave Bronson at his campaign headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska.
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 8:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Public Offices Commission has upheld a $38,500 fine for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s election campaign, finding that the campaign failed to file accurate expenditure reports during Bronson’s runoff election against then-candidate Forrest Dunbar.

The Forrest Dunbar for Mayor campaign filed a complaint against Bronson’s campaign in April, alleging numerous campaign finance violations.

In a final order released on Monday, the commission confirmed a fine of $38,500 against Bronson’s campaign, saying it violated state campaign finance law by providing inaccurate expenditure reports during the runoff. Bronson’s campaign can pay the fine, appeal it in court within 30 days or request that the commission reconsider within 15 days.

Alaska’s News Source reached out to an attorney for Bronson’s campaign for comment Monday evening but did not hear back by the time of publication.

In its final report, the commission also found that Bronson’s campaign violated state campaign finance laws by failing to return over-the-limit contributions from individuals, but explained it would not impose a fine for that due to the fact that a three-member Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel struck down several of Alaska’s campaign contribution limits in July.

The commission wrote it would not impose a fine for that violation “due to the very high likelihood that the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision overturning that limit will stand.”

Among the violations the commission did uphold fines for was the fact that Bronson’s campaign failed to make a timely report of its campaign debt to a corporate and political communications firm, Art Hackney Communications, and failed to accurately report the true amount of that debt.

“The year-start report also failed to name the local television and radio stations that would be the subcontractors on the Hackney and Hackney services,” the order states. “This information was not provided on any of the three subsequent amendments to the year-start report.”

Failing to name those advertising subcontractors also violated state campaign finance law, the order found.

A preliminary staff report on this set of violations said that after staff waded through the campaign’s “utterly confusing reports for many days, it is clear to staff that the public had no idea of what was going on in the (Bronson for Mayor) campaign until well after the April 6, 2021 election and the May 11, 2021 runoff election.”

The commission has the ability to lessen or reduce fines for campaign finance violations, and often does. In this case, staff have asked for the maximum penalty, which is $38,500, arguing that the commission gave Bronson’s campaign an opportunity to correct reporting issues before the mayoral runoff.

“But Staff pointed out that despite filing a total of seventeen amendments to the four reports, (Bronson for Mayor) never fully complied with its reporting obligations,” the order states.

Staff also noted the “pervasiveness” of the campaign violations.

“Moreover, the Commission concludes that a penalty less than the maximum here would not serve the important function of encouraging campaigns to employ campaign treasurers with the skills and training to comply with APOC regulations,” the order states. “The public deserves timely and accurate reporting of a campaign’s financial activity.”

Bronson’s campaign also faces potential fines in the amount of $33,500 for separate violations for failing to report campaign finance contributions on time during the lead-up to the Anchorage mayoral election. In August, the commission announced two separate fines — one for $15,500 for failing to file a report of a contribution for 31 days, and another fine for $18,000 for failing to file a report of a campaign contribution for 36 days.

The commission has not released its final report on that set of potential fines.

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