APOC hears complaint alleging campaign coordination

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 6:01 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Public Offices Commission heard final arguments alleging that Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection campaign illegally coordinated with current staff and the Super PAC A Stronger Alaska on Friday. No decision was reached immediately, and the commission now has 10 days to issue a ruling.

Representing the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative — two government watchdog groups who filed a complaint with APOC about the alleged illegal coordination — was attorney Scott Kendall, who previously served as chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Walker.

Kendall described the case as “document based” and focused much of his questioning around a $3 million donation from the Republican Governor’s Association to A Stronger Alaska. Attorneys representing Huber, the Dunleavy for Governor campaign, and the Republican Governor’s Association argued that Kendall failed to successfully prove that illegal coordination ever occurred.

“From what we can see, the uncontested evidence is Mr. Huber was serving a triple role at least through May 31,” Kendall said. “The commission shouldn’t reward bad actors. The risk on Alaska’s elections is too high.”

Kendall began by establishing a timeline of who Huber worked for and when, calling into question the fact that Huber was listed as a Deputy Treasurer for the Dunleavy for Governor campaign until May 31. Huber said that he was only listed as a deputy treasurer to host a fundraising dinner in October of 2021, and ceased operations with the campaign after that point, leaving Alaska to care for his ailing father in Minnesota near Jan. 1, 2022.

“My involvement in Dunleavy for governor really was serving as the deputy treasurer for a specific event, and that’s really it,” Huber said. “It’s been stated numerous times that I manage the IE and that is absolutely not true, my role is fairly limited.”

Kendall argued that Huber’s status as a deputy treasurer until May 31 violates federal regulation requiring a 120-day “cooling off” period, which is not codified anywhere within Alaska Statute.

“To the best of my knowledge commissioner there is no such statute or regulation under Alaska law,” Kendall said.

Huber claimed that he received guidance from the Department of Law and Dunleavy’s ethics coordinator that he was permitted to enter into a contract for statehood defense prior to engaging in that work. Huber claimed that he asked to be removed as deputy treasurer from the campaign, and was only made aware that he was still listed as a deputy treasurer after a blog post from Dermot Cole.

“I did not seek approval from A Stronger Alaska about having a state contract, but I made them aware of the contract that I had undertaken with the state before I had consummated the contract with them,” Huber said. “My reputation and my integrity is very important to me, so just to avoid any perception of conflict I thought it better to vacate that contract and vacate that work. I don’t believe I was legally required to.”

Kendall then questioned Paula DeLaiarro, seeking to ask her about how payment of $3 million from the Republican Governor’s Association was handled, which drew numerous objections. Kendall also spoke about testimony Huber provided to the APOC in 2020, which drew similar objections.

“Should we take the words and arguments of entities that by their own public records appear to have significant issues with reporting,” Kendall said. “There’s reason to believe Mr. Huber knows where his money comes from now. If he was evasive about that, based on his answer, that should be something that the commission considers for that purpose.”

After a brief recess, the commissioners ruled that Kendall was not allowed to present that as evidence, but that the complainants were also not prohibited from filing a separate complaint with that information. Kendall claimed that he was only made aware of what DeLaiarro was prepared to testify to the night before the hearing.

“At this point, it is not an issue that’s before the hearing and it is unduly prejudicial,” Republican Governor’s Association’s attorney Stacy Stone said. ”I think it’s inappropriate for them to be provided to the commissioners today.”

Following the conclusion of Kendall’s questions for witnesses, other attorneys had their chance to offer closing arguments. Representing A Stronger Alaska, Richard Moses argued that Kendall’s case was based on “ifs and buts.”

“Mr. Kendall is asking you to infer something nefarious from a lawful transaction,” Moses said. “You do not get to bring a complaint of this nature in the closing days of a campaign on nothing but ifs and buts. Simply put, that is wrong and an abuse of process.”

Moses noted that Kendall tweeted about the arguments that later ended up as a substantial part of the complaint filed by AKPIRG and the 907 Initiative in May, but that the actual complaint was not filed until September.

“There is no evidence of coordination, and the reason there is no evidence of coordination is because coordination did not occur,” Moses said. “It has to be active coordination or cooperation, it can’t be the appearance of such cooperation. There has to be evidence.”