Deep pockets inundate Alaska's race for governor
The federal courts—and lawmakers' inaction—erased Alaska's contribution limits, and everyone's taking advantage of their newfound access to big-ticket donors
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: Campaign finance reports for state offices came out this week, giving us our first really good look at the state of the races for governor and the Alaska Legislature. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the governor’s race where former Gov. Bill Walker leads in overall fundraising, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the fundraising for the latest reporting period and Democratic candidate Les Gara leads in both smaller-dollar contributions and in-state fundraising. But first, let’s have a talk about the limitations of crunching Alaska’s campaign finance data, or: Why we should better fund the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Current mood: 🧮
Next time: Let’s look at the state of the fundraising in legislative races
Or maybe next time: The Fundraising Superlatives
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Limitations in the data
After two-and-a-half solid days crunching the most recent round of campaign finance data, I’ve got a tidy little pile of charts and takeaways about the state of the fundraising race for governor. But before we get to all that fun stuff, we really need to talk about the state of Alaska’s campaign finance information and its limitations, whether it be the inherent design of the system or the many, many typos that are introduced when information is entered by hand (which is saying something coming form me).
Basically, it’s messy. Short of going through the roughly 24,000 contributions that have been made during the course of the 2022 primary election cycle by hand there’s no sure-fire way to sort the data with as much specificity and accuracy as we’d like. Want to know how much money candidates are getting from PACs? Me too! But there’s no simple way of filtering that out as campaigns all seem to approach reporting in slightly different ways. Heck, even Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s deep-pocketed brother is listed multiple times with slightly different addresses, with him living on a “Drive” in one report and a “Dr.” in another that makes aggregating his contributions not so easy (to be clear, he gave $200,000 directly to Dunleavy’s campaign, making him the single biggest contributor in this election cycle).
To put a fine point on the problem, campaign treasurers have found 33 different ways to list the state’s most-populous city:
Abchorage, Achorage, Acnhorage, ANC, Anch, Anchoage, Anchoarge, Anchoerage, Anchorae, Anchorage, ANCHORAGE, anchorage, ANchorage, Anchorage +, Anchorage AK, Anchorage,, Anchorage, AK, Anchorage, AK (ANC-Anchorage Intl.), Anchorage, AK 99516, AnchorageAK, Anchoragee, Anchoragerage, Anchorages, Anchoragew, Anchoragr, Anchorahe, Anchorgae, Anchorge, Anchorsge, Anchotrage, Anchrage, Anchroage, Anhorage
That’s not to say it’s impossible to get within the ballpark of some these figures, but I can’t be sure it’s exact. For example, I just spent about five hours today figuring out a way to separate individuals making contributions from groups making contributions in a manner that I feel pretty confident in, but that doesn’t mean human error still isn’t a problem. For example, some vacant fields in Christopher Kurka’s report made it look like he was hauling in a grand total of $50 from PAC contributions (He’s not).
Anyway, that’s all to say that I’ll do my best in this post to explain where I’m confident in the numbers down to the penny and when we’re working in best estimates. And, always, you know where to find me if you have any questions.
Let’s get to it.
The State of the Race: The Governor’s Race
In one run-on sentence: Former independent Gov. Bill Walker leads the way in overall fundraising for the 2022 election cycle with a running total of $1.54 million raised so far, followed by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy at $1.23 million and Democratic candidate Les Gara at $1.13 million; Dunleavy had the strongest fundraising of the period covered in the latest reports with $925,380.13 raised from Feb. 2 to July 15 of this year, followed by Walker with $831,867.80 and Gara with $575,410.14; Both Walker and Dunleavy have a fair amount of big-ticket contributors thanks to the end of the campaign finance limits while a vast majority of Gara’s fundraising would have been legal under the old campaign limits; Gara also led the way among the top-three campaigns in terms of in-state fundraising, with just 8.9% of his total fundraising coming from Outside sources compared to 42.2% for Dunleavy and 28.5% for Walker; and extreme-right Republican candidates Charlie Pierce and Christopher Kurka’s fundraising efforts were also largely Alaska-focused but an order of magnitude lower than the top-three campaigns with Pierce raising $120,353.36 so far and Kurka raising $134,991.80.
Alright, what have we learned about things so far?
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