The latest campaign financial disclosure reports bring to light Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux’s strategy of creating her very own political action committee, take lots of money from lobbyists then give it to friends.
The reports show LeDoux’s PAC, named Gabby’s Tuesday PAC, took $500 donations from ten well-known Juneau lobbyists (including the publisher of The Midnight Sun Jim Lottsfeldt) and even a union PAC. LeDoux’s PAC then doled that money out to ten candidates for state house.
The PAC gave donations to the following candidates:
All PACs are created to raise campaign money into a central location and then distribute that cash back out to candidates.
What is different about Gabby’s Tuesday PAC is that unlike other PAC’s in Alaska, which are organized around some interest, set of values, or a cause, LeDoux’s PAC is created specifically to benefit one person, her.
The group is named after LeDoux and she is listed as Chair and Treasurer, so there is little doubt the money is going to a fund to be distributed solely at her discretion. That means LeDoux and her agenda, whatever may be, is the major beneficiary of contributions to the PAC.
It is a pretty naked effort by LeDoux to use special interest money to build influence among her colleagues in an attempt to play powerbroker when the Legislature organizes leadership in January.
In fairness to LeDoux, the PAC is completely legal. The single headliner nature of the PAC, however, raises serious questions as to whether LeDoux is deliberately circumventing an important campaign finance law in Alaska. The law says that registered lobbyists are only allowed to donate money to legislative candidates if that candidate is running in the district where the lobbyist is registered to vote.
Here is the full text of Alaska Statute 15.13.074(g): [emphasis added]
“An individual required to register as a lobbyist under AS 24.45 may not contribute to a candidate for the legislature at any time the individual is subject to the registration requirement under AS 24.45 and for one year after the date of the individual’s initial registration or its renewal. However, the individual may contribute to a legislative candidate for the district in which the individual is eligible to vote or will be eligible to vote on the date of the election. An individual who is subject to this subsection shall report to the Commission, on a form provided by the Commission [Form 15-5A], each contribution made to a legislative candidate while required to register as a lobbyist. This subsection does not apply to a representational lobbyist as defined in Regulations of the Commission or to a volunteer lobbyist.”
Representative LeDoux, through the creation of Gabby’s Tuesday PAC appears to be undermining the spirit of that law by letting lobbyists, living in various districts, donate directly to her.
It looks like the creation of essentially a slush fund for Rep. LeDoux to dole out to friends, and presumably curry leadership votes. Lobbyists will donate to almost anyone in an effort to buy access, but for a legislator to create their own PAC on the side is something new and concerning.
For her part. LeDoux acknowledged that the PAC was designed to help candidates she wants to support.
She bristled, however, at the implication she is doing anything wrong. According to her she is simply bringing a common practice at the federal level to state politics. “In the federal government, for example, every single Senator has a PAC. And they use that PAC to support their colleagues. I’m sort of surprised that isn’t done more here.”
LeDoux went on to point out that both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan have their own PACs (Denali PAC and True North PAC). Those senators are bound by federal campaign finance law, not state rules. They have no connection to Alaska’s anti-lobbyist donation law.
When asked if she thought her PAC was violating the spirit of that law, LeDoux responded sharply “No, they are not donating to me because I’m not getting any money from my PAC. I’m not writing myself a check from the PAC. I don’t know whether that would be legal for me to do so, but I’m certainly not doing it. So I get no personal benefit from this PAC whatsoever.”
The definition of “personal benefit” in this case is debatable, but one thing that isn’t is that if this PAC is successful this year, expect this kind of campaign finance model to quickly proliferate throughout Juneau in the coming year.