APOC defers decision on complaint against group backing Dunleavy’s reelection

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Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 5:54 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Public Offices Commission has deferred a decision to their executive director in a non-expedited fashion concerning a complaint filed by two watchdog groups against the Republican Governor’s Association and A Stronger Alaska.

The APOC commissioners heard testimony on Oct. 21 from representation for the complainants — the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative — alleging that A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governor’s Association were not sufficiently separate organizations, and were therefore expending funds illegally.

Wednesday, APOC issued the order that said the matter would not be ruled on in an expedited fashion but would be determined by APOC Executive Director Heather Hebdon.

“After a six-hour hearing and two days of deliberation over the facts in this case, the Commission has decided to remand the complaint to the Executive Director for consideration on a regular rather than an expedited basis,” the order said.

On Feb. 24, 2021, Republican Governor’s Association Executive Director David Rexrode created A Stronger Alaska in a filing with APOC. One day later, Rexrode transferred $3 million to a bank account called “Republican Governor’s Association - A Stronger Alaska.”

“The evidence before the Commission so far shows that Republican Governor’s Association did little to distance itself from A Stronger Alaska,” the order said. “Apparently, Republican Governor’s Association created A Stronger Alaska at the behest of their high-ranking employee David Rexrode, who in turn ran the independent expenditure group. There is no independent board overseeing A Stronger Alaska’s expenditures. There is no independent address, no independent phone number, and no other existence of A Stronger Alaska other than a single APOC filing and a bank account it shares with Republican Governor’s Association’s own accounts.”

Representing the complainants was attorney Scott Kendall, who previously served as the chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Walker. Kendall argued that the organizations were not sufficiently separated.

The order says that the matter is being considered up against two Alaska Statutes. Per AS 15.13.050, the groups are required to register with APOC before making any expenditures. In order to follow AS 15.13.074(b) and AS 15.13.084(2), the monies contributed must not be provided under a fictitious name, or the name of a separate entity.

“The Commission recognizes that by not finding for a violation on an expedited basis under AS 15.13.380(d)(1), A Stronger Alaska may continue to make expenditures in Alaska’s elections,” the order said. “However, if it is later determined that sufficient separation between the two entities does not exist, A Stronger Alaska will continue to make expenditures at its own peril. Moreover, A Stronger Alaska could expose Republican Governor’s Association to penalties during the pendency of Staff’s investigation, if the Commission later finds that the two entities are one in the same. The Republican Governor’s Association and A Stronger Alaska are encouraged to obtain the Commission’s advice whether their chosen structure complies with Alaska’s campaign finance laws prior to making any further contributions and expenditures. "

The conclusion of the order stated that the Republican Governor’s Association and A Stronger Alaska “are not insulated from penalties for future expenditures if the Commission ultimately concludes there was not sufficient separation between the entities in this case.”