Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Campaign finance regulators find no evidence of ‘ongoing coordination’ between Dunleavy and PAC
Just a lil’ coordination, as a treat. A regular investigation that was stymied by the groups' refusal to participate will likely be completed after the election.
It’s Monday, Alaska.
In this edition: After hearing from Brett Huber that Brett Huber hasn’t been illegally coordinating campaign efforts between a Super PAC and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, APOC Commissioners have found there’s no evidence of “ongoing coordination” between the two. That means there’s going to be no immediate penalty against the group, A Stronger Alaska, and it will be free to continue to spend Republican Governors Association money in support of the governor’s re-election. APOC Commissioners, instead, asked the groups—which have so far refused to participate with the investigation—to consider playing nice with investigators.
Current mood: 🙄
APOC: Just a lil’ coordination, as a treat
The Alaska Public Offices Commission is not pushing for immediate penalties against a pro-Dunleavy super PAC after an expedited hearing on Friday, which relied almost exclusively on the testimony of the person linking the two campaigns, “did not further establish ongoing coordination.”
The complaint alleges A Stronger Alaska—a super PAC run with $3 million in Republican Governors Association money—illegally coordinated with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign when it signed Brett Huber to a consulting contract while Huber was also a deputy treasurer for the governor’s campaign.
Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, including contributions from corporations, but are supposed to maintain a firewall between themselves and the candidates they are supporting. In granting the expedited hearing, APOC Chair Anne Helzer said there was good reason to believe the group’s independence had been undermined.
“The commission ... has found that there is reasonable cause to believe that A Stronger Alaska has expended money that was not independent of the campaign based on Alaska Statute,” said APOC Chair Anne Helzer at a hearing last Wednesday. “The public at large has a compelling need to know whether coordination occurred or continues to occur.”
In an order today, the group said they didn’t find any compelling evidence of ongoing coordination—it conspicuously doesn’t make a determination on past coordination—but would be pushing ahead with a regular investigation that will likely be completed after the election. That’ll allow the PAC to continue campaigning through the election.
Huber was the key witness on Friday’s expedited hearing, telling commissioners that everything that appeared to suggest coordination—such as the fact that he formed his consulting company the same day that the $3 million contribution was made or that he got it in good standing on the day he signed the consulting contract—was just mere coincidences. He told the commissioners that in his $80,000 consulting contract with the PAC, he’s had no personal knowledge of the innerworkings of A Stronger Alaska like the group’s polling plans, overall campaign strategy, who’s even running the campaign or who he’s getting paid by.
Scott Kendall, the attorney who was representing the complainants Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative, told commissioners that it was to be expected that Huber would avoid incriminating himself and urged the commissioners to look instead at the public documents that showed Huber was involved not just in the super PAC and the governor’s campaign but also was on a state contract where he was reporting directly to the governor’s office.
“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,’” Kendall told the commissioners. “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.”
The problems outlined by Kendall are the same that APOC investigators have faced while investigating the complaint.
Both A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governors Association, a GOP dark money group, refused to participate with campaign finance regulators’ investigation. Their demands that all documents and information be obtained through a subpoena rather than voluntarily provided prevented investigators from completing their investigation on time, leading to a request that the investigation be delayed and pushed past the election.
APOC commissioners approved that delay today, ordering everyone involved to try to work something out on the investigation with a deadline to provide information to the investigators no later than Oct 31, just a week before election day.
The order notes that if A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governors Association continue to refuse to participate that the commissioners “will entertain motions by APOC staff related to discovery” on an expedited basis.
Left untouched in today’s ruling were the surprise allegations raised by Kendall at Friday’s hearing that suggested far larger problems are underway with A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governors Association. Namely that the IRS filings of the Republican Governors Association makes no reference to a $3 million contribution to A Stronger Alaska but does include records of payments directly to Huber.
Kendall told APOC commissioners that he merely raising the issue to call Huber’s credibility into question and that it would likely be addressed in a separate complaint.
At the time, he said the possible revelations should trigger alarm bells because it would mean that the RGA is campaigning as an unregistered and unregulated entity, using A Stronger Alaska as a front in order to hide critical information about who—or what—is attempting to influence the state’s elections.
AKPIRG and 907 Initiative filed their complaint on this front today. I’ll have more on that tomorrow as I was just sent that complaint while I was typing this.
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Notes from the campaign trail
Another Monday, another candidate forum at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. This time was the gubernatorial forum and, as things go, Gov. Mike Dunleavy was a no-show. I’ll plan on pulling out more substantial quotes for tomorrow’s newsletter, but here’s the answers from the fun round of things.
Follow the thread: Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s gubernatorial forum.
What’s your favorite day of the week?
Walker: “Sunday. We have a traditional Sunday night dinner with grandkids and granddogs.”
(Dunleavy’s absence leaves the record uncertain. Is he at war with Christmas?!?)
Favorite class in high school?
Pierce: Geology and the sciences
Riskiest thing you’ve ever done?
Gara went on a fishing trip with broken ribs.
Walker skied at Arctic Man while filming a campaign commercial.
Pierce got on the back of a motorcycle driven by a risky individual.
Talking or texting?
Favorite junk food?
Gara: “Anything with pork in it.”
Walker: “Is ice cream a junk food? I Thought it was a basic food group.
Pierce: “Ice cream.”
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Walker: Listen first, act second.
Gara: Be curious
Pierce, essentially: Turn the other cheek.
Last Halloween costume?
Pierce: I don't do that anymore, but maybe a cowboy.
Gara: Fonzy, when I was 13 and still had hair.
Walker has to get a reminder from his wife Donna: I was Fonzy with no hair.