ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Two watchdog groups on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging Governor Mike Dunleavy’s re-election campaign committed “unprecedented violations of fundraising laws.” Alaska campaigns”.
Dunleavy’s campaign has since responded to the complaint.
“In response to the inappropriate accusation that Dunleavy for Governor is misusing state funds to bolster his efforts, we have reviewed the complaints and now have further comment,” the campaign statement read. “These attacks are a gross exaggeration of the facts and are completely inaccurate. Unfortunately, these accusations by Bill Walker’s chief of staff, Scott Kendall, sound more like baseless attacks intended to distract voters from the real issues in Alaska: inflation, public safety, education reform. and economic growth.
On Wednesday, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and Initiative 907 filed a lawsuit with APOC against Governor Mike Dunleavy, the Republican Governors Association, Super PAC A Stronger Alaska, Strategic Synergies and Brett Huber. AKPIRG is a non-profit consumer protection watchdog group. Initiative 907 “works with individuals, organizations, and local coalitions to promote a better quality of life and promote Alaskan values,” according to their website.
“Each violation described in the complaint is independent and has no place in our democracy. Together, they show a complete disregard for Alaska’s campaign finance laws and an attempt to subvert the will of voters and the integrity of fair elections,” reads the press release accompanying the complaint. “Rather than using campaign dollars to pay campaign workers, Dunleavy is asking state employees and recipients of untendered public contracts to volunteer for his campaign. The result, c is that taxpayers’ money is funding a partisan campaign.
Plaintiffs allege that taxpayer-funded state employees blatantly subsidize campaign staff costs. The statement noted that Dunleavy’s re-election campaign had spent just $6,200 on staff as of July 15. By comparison, former Gov. Bill Walker’s campaign had spent $180,000 during the same period, and former lawmaker Les Gara’s gubernatorial campaign had spent $50,000.
The release also alleges Dunleavy’s re-election campaign is coordinating directly with A Stronger Alaska, a super PAC supporting his campaign. The plaintiffs are asking APOC to refund donations to A Stronger Alaska and immediately disband the super PAC, and are asking APOC to “thoroughly investigate” allegations of improper campaign funding.
“Regulatory structures exist for a reason: to preserve the integrity of elections. The nature of these violations is a shocking abuse of power,” said AKPIRG Executive Director Veri di Suvero.
According to APOC campaign disclosure coordinator Tom Lucas, the commission has received the complaint but has not yet scheduled a hearing. Lucas noted that no other complaints had been received regarding other gubernatorial candidates during this election cycle.
“The first step in the procedure is for the staff to determine whether or not they accept the complaint. Staff have yet to make that decision,” Lucas wrote in an email Wednesday. “APOC has already received complaints about whether an independent spending group is truly independent of the candidate.”
Dunleavy finished first among 10 gubernatorial candidates in Alaska’s primary election on August 16. Dunleavy and her running mate — former Department of Corrections commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom — received 76,534 votes, or more than 40% of all votes cast. Gara and his running mate Jessica Cook received 43,660 and Walker and his running mate Heidi Drygas received 43,111, while former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and his running mate Edie Grunwald arrived at the fourth place with 12,458 votes.
“As noted, Scott Kendall has a nearly four-year record of attempting to impeach the current governor and vocally opposing his policy initiatives. It was expected, but still unfortunate, that Kendall would use resources to advance his personal agenda,” Dunleavy’s campaign said in its statement. “This campaign is led by people who believe in Mike Dunleavy’s vision for the future.”
Filers of the complaint and those who allegedly committed the campaign finance violations have 15 days – until September 22 – to issue responses. APOC has 30 days to file an investigation report.
“Subsidizing a campaign with taxpayers’ money creates a level playing field. And a candidate who openly coordinates with a SuperPAC is a patently illegal recipe for corruption,” said Initiative 907 Executive Director Aubrey Wieber. “It’s about protecting fair elections and good governance. It is essential that we address these issues in real time rather than waiting until after an election.
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