Dunleavy campaign responds to APOC complaint

Alaska's News Source Anchor Ariane Aramburo Brings you the FastCast daily digital headlines.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 3:04 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Wednesday, two watchdog groups filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging that Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign for reelection had committed “unprecedented violations of Alaska’s campaign finance laws.”

Dunleavy’s campaign has since responded to the complaint.

“In response to the improper accusation that Dunleavy for Governor is misusing state funds to boost its efforts, we have reviewed the complaints and now have further comment,” the campaign’s statement said. “These attacks are a gross exaggeration of the facts and are entirely inaccurate. Unfortunately, these accusations from Bill Walker’s Chief of Staff, Scott Kendall, are more of the same, baseless attacks meant to distract voters from the real issues in Alaska: inflation, public safety, education reform, and economic growth.”

Wednesday, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative filed the complaint with APOC against Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Republican Governor’s Association, Super PAC A Stronger Alaska, Strategic Synergies, and Brett Huber. The AKPIRG is a nonprofit consumer protection watchdog group. The 907 Initiative “works with individuals, organizations, and grassroots coalitions to promote a greater quality of life and promote Alaskan values,” according to their website.

“Each violation outlined in the complaint stands on its own merits and has no place in our democracy. Together, they show utter disregard for Alaska’s campaign finance laws, and an attempt to subvert the will of voters and the integrity of fair elections,” the press release accompanying the complaint said. “Rather than using campaign dollars to pay campaign employees, Dunleavy is having state employees and recipients of no-bid state contracts “volunteer” on his campaign. The result is taxpayer dollars funding a partisan campaign.

The complainants allege that state employees funded by taxpayer funds are blatantly subsidizing the costs for campaign staffing. The release noted that Dunleavy’s reelection campaign had spent only $6,200 on staffing by July 15. In comparison, former Gov. Bill Walker’s campaign had spent $180,000 over the same time period, and former legislator Les Gara’s gubernatorial campaign had spent $50,000.

The release also alleges Dunleavy’s reelection campaign of directly coordinating with A Stronger Alaska, a super PAC supporting his campaign. The complainants ask APOC to refund donations to A Stronger Alaska and immediately dissolve the super PAC, and request that APOC “thoroughly investigate” the claims of improper campaign financing.

“Regulatory structures exist for a reason: to safeguard the integrity of elections. The nature of these violations is a shocking abuse of power,” AKPIRG Executive Director Veri di Suvero said.

According to APOC Campaign Disclosure Coordinator Tom Lucas, the commission has received the complaint but has yet to set a hearing. Lucas noted that no other complaints had been received about any other gubernatorial candidates during this election cycle.

“The first step in the procedure is for staff to determine whether or not to accept the complaint. Staff has not yet made that determination,” Lucas wrote in an email on Wednesday. “APOC has had prior complaints concerning whether or not an independent expenditure group is truly independent of the candidate.”

Dunleavy finished first among all 10 tickets running for governor in Alaska’s primary election on Aug. 16. Dunleavy and his running mate — former Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom — received 76,534 votes accounting for over 40% of all ballots cast. Gara and running mate Jessica Cook received 43,660 and Walker and running mate Heidi Drygas received 43,111, while former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and running mate Edie Grunwald came in fourth place with 12,458 votes.

“As reported, Scott Kendall has a nearly four-year record of attempting to remove the current Governor and vocally opposing his policy initiatives. It was expected, yet still unfortunate, that Kendall would use public resources to further his personal agenda,” Dunleavy’s campaign said in their statement. “This campaign is staffed by people who believe in Mike Dunleavy’s vision for the future.”

Both the filers of the complaint and those alleged to have committed the campaign finance violations have 15 days — until Sept. 22 — to issue responses. The APOC has 30 days to file an investigative report.

“Subsidizing a campaign with taxpayer dollars creates an uneven playing field. And a candidate openly coordinating with a SuperPAC is a blatantly unlawful recipe for corruption,” 907 Initiative Executive Director Aubrey Wieber said. “This is about protecting fair elections and good governance. It’s critical we address these issues in real time rather than wait until after an election.”