APOC hears complaint on Dunleavy coordination and hint at much bigger problems
Was there ever a $3 million contribution?
Happy Football Day in America, everyone!
In this edition: Campaign finance regulators heard on Friday the complaint alleging illegal coordination between a pro-Dunleavy Super PAC and the Dunleavy campaign. As it goes with these sort of things, Brett Huber—the connection between the two campaigns—said he’s done nothing wrong and there’s been no coordination. A decision will be coming in the next week but the real surprise came with a last-minute discovery by the complainants that raises some potentially red-alarm questions about this Super PAC. Also, in the campaign, Dunleavy finally went on the record with his support for a constitutional convention that’d put abortion rights—which he’s pledged to attack if re-elected—and a whole slew of other issues on the table. Also, the reading list and a weekend watching from the murder capital: Cabot Cove, Maine.
Current mood: 🏈
APOC hears complaint on Dunleavy coordination and hint at bigger problems
The Alaska Public Offices Commission held its expedited hearing on Friday to determine whether there was illegal coordination between the pro-Dunleavy Super PAC “A Stronger Alaska” and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign.
The gist of the complaint is that A Stronger Alaska illegally coordinated with the Dunleavy campaign when it signed Dunleavy ally Brett Huber to a consulting contract while Huber was still officially listed as a member of the governor’s official campaign. Earlier in the week, APOC found “reasonable cause” to believe the two had coordinated—making A Stronger Alaska’s independent spending not so independent under the law—when it called the expedited hearing.
As you might expect when the main witness to whether Dunleavy ally Brett Huber was coordinating between the two campaign was Dunleavy ally Brett Huber, we didn’t hear a lot of new incriminating information on Friday. Instead, we heard from Huber that he was basically a nobody with no involvement or knowledge of anything to do with the Dunleavy campaign where he was a deputy treasurer or with A Stronger Alaska where he’s getting an $80,000 consulting contract.
He had no direct input on or knowledge about polling, mailers, communications, campaign strategy, payroll or even who’s running the PAC. Those last two points ended up being pretty important, but I’ll get to that lower down.
A Stronger Alaska argues that since Huber said everything was fine, then everything should be fine. They argue the documents showing Huber was a campaign treasurer with the Dunleavy campaign was just a mere “oversight” with no consequence.
Complainants Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative, who are represented by Scott Kendall, argue that the documents that showed Huber was not only involved in both campaigns simultaneously but also on a state contract reporting directly to the governor’s office. Kendall noted he and the complainants simply don’t have the power to compel testimony, record private conversations or examine bank records (again, this’ll be important) but that circumstantial evidence matters.
“ASA’s counsel has said there’s no evidence of coordination. None, zero, that was his statement. I don’t know what satisfactory evidence of coordination would be for him unless Mr. Huber said, ‘My name is Brett Huber and I coordinated.’ Of course circumstantial evidence was important, of course documentary importance and of course it can show enough of a reasonable suspicion that this occurred that this commission could act.”
Speaking of documents, though, the hearing produced a far more interesting wrinkle on the whole saga.
Throughout the hearing, Kendall frequently referred to the “alleged” $3 million contribution that the Republican Governors Association made to A Stronger Alaska right before the state’s dark money disclosures went into place (which also happened to be the same day that Huber formed his consulting company, which Huber claimed was a complete coincidence). It seemed curious until he called Paula DeLaiarro, the whiz of Alaska campaign finance reports, to the table with the RGA’s IRS filings.
Basically put, DeLaiarro said the IRS filings for the Republican Governors Association have no record of a $3 million contribution to A Stronger Alaska but it does have payments directly to Huber. Now, this was presented largely as evidence aimed at undercutting Huber’s credibility but if correct, it’s a major, major, major red flag.
It’d suggest that A Stronger Alaska is no more than a shell organization that never had $3 million in the bank and the Republican Governors Association has been directly running the campaign without being properly registered to influence Alaska’s elections. It’d probably also go a long way to explain why both the RGA and A Stronger Alaska have refused to participate with the APOC investigations, a move that would push any resolution and penalty until well after the election.
It was clear that the allegations raised some alarm bells on everyone’s front but it won’t reach a resolution here. Instead, it’ll likely become the basis of its own separate complaint… which will also likely take some time to resolve.
Why it matters: As Kendall has previously noted to APOC, there aren’t any do-overs in Alaska’s elections no matter how big a fine is incurred. Racking up big campaign finance violations is increasingly looking like a cost of doing business.
Stay tuned: The APOC Commission has 10 days from the Friday hearing to make a decision on the coordination complaint. Expect something earlier this week, probably.
Follow the thread: APOC hears complaint in Dunleavy coordination case
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Gov. Dunleavy, who’s pledged to attack abortion rights, finally confirms support for constitutional convention
Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has pledged to go after Alaska’s constitutional right to an abortion if reelected, finally confirmed this week he supports a constitutional convention where abortion rights—as well as judicial independence and a bevy of other issues—would be on the table.
The governor made his position clear during a yes-or-no round of questions at this week’s gubernatorial forum hosted by the Alaska Resource Development Council where candidates were asked if they supported a constitutional convention. Previously, the governor had spoken glowingly about a constitutional convention—which voters have the option of calling every ten years—but stopped short of directly advocating for the vote.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, it appears to be the first time a sitting governor has ever supported a potentially complete overhaul of the state’s constitution. Independent opponent Bill Walker and Democratic opponent Les Gara both said they opposed a constitutional convention while far-right Republican candidate Charlie Pierce said he would support a convention.
While the decennial question of calling a constitutional convention has typically been a non-mover, long-time advocates for altering the constitution have seized upon the unresolved fight over the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend—an issue that’s been central to Dunleavy’s electoral success—as the driver for this year’s vote. But key advocates are clear that it’s just the start.
“The PFD is the spark but when you the spark like that and there’s no limit to what a constitutional convention might produce,” said Alaskan Independence Party chairman Bob Bird, a long-time advocate for far-reaching constitutional changes. “Then we can look at the incredibly long list of things that need correcting.”
The scope of the constitutional convention would be up to the elected delegates to decide, but Bird and company have proposed a litany of other far-right positions like outlawing abortion, giving the governor the power to interpret law and the option to ignore the Alaska Supreme Court, making public education optional and banning government employees from voting in some elections.
Dunleavy has been similarly keen on altering the Alaska Constitution both while in the Legislature and as governor. He’s taken aim school vouchers, at the makeup of the judge-screening Alaska Judicial Council as part of an effort to swing the judiciary to the right, proposed enshrining the dividend in the constitution as well as a change that would set a strict spending limit for the state budget and a measure that would make it near-impossible to ever implement new taxes.
Following the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Dunleavy announced that if re-elected he would put forward a constitutional amendment to the Legislature.
“I, like many Alaskans, am pro-life,” Dunleavy said at the time. “I also recognize that many Alaskans are pro-choice. The recent decision by the Supreme Court returns the issue of abortion back to the states. I believe this presents an opportunity for the people of Alaska, not a handful of elected officials or appointed judges, to decide the future of abortion in Alaska.”
Amending the Alaska Constitution through the Legislature, though, has proved to be a dead-end for many of Dunleavy’s proposed changes because it requires a two-thirds majority of each chamber to advance a proposed constitutional amendment to a public vote. A constitutional convention, while a lengthy and uncertain process, would avoid that high bar and make it easier to explicitly deny abortions.
Dunleavy’s on-the-record announcement of his position on the constitutional convention drew a quick response from former Gov. Walker on Twitter.
“Dunleavy has removed all doubt, he’s coming for women’s right to choose, and he is going to use a ConCon to get there, and he’ll succeed if re-elected,” his campaign wrote. “This cannot happen. The purpose of the ConCon is clear and when I said I will veto any legislation that limits a woman’s right to choose I mean it.”
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In honor of the late, great Angela Lansbury. For all sorts of fun episode recaps, PushingUpRoses on Youtube has a whopping 28-video playlist.
Have a nice Sunday night football, to all those who celebrate.