Earlier this week, we reported on the amount of money that’s been spent on independent expenditures on candidates and initiatives, finding that overall spending by independent political groups has surpassed $8 million in the run up to this year’s elections (though that figure pales in comparison to the spending on the 2014 oil tax referendum).
Since then, we dove into the numbers to find out where that money–which can come in unlimited contributions–is coming from by pulling individual contribution data from the Alaska Public Offices Commission’s database of independent expenditures. These groups can support or oppose candidates (as long as they don’t directly communicate with candidates) and ballot initiatives with the help of unlimited contributions by individuals and companies. Direct-to-candidate contributions are capped at $500 per individual per year.
According to The Midnight Sun’s analysis of the reports, five companies have each contributed more than $1 million to defeating the Stand for Salmon initiative. Those companies are Donlin Gold ($1.2 million), BP Exploration Alaska ($1.02 million), Red Dog Mine-owner Teck Alaska ($1.01 million), Kinross Fort Knox ($1 million) and Pogo Mine-owner Sumitomo Metal Mining ($1 million).
With multiple large contributions by other resource development or resource development-adjacent companies and groups, a grand total of about $8.5 million has been raised to oppose the initiative. Another roughly $500,000 in non-monetary support has also been put into the campaign, according to separate APOC reports.
Meanwhile, groups supporting the initiative has raised just north of $1 million, according to our analysis. The biggest three top contributors to those groups are The Alaska Center ($424,668), the Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund ($222,893) and Florida resident John Childs ($100,000).
The Stand for Salmon initiative faced a legal challenge that brought it to the Alaska Supreme Court, which yesterday axed some key provisions but cleared the majority of it to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Opponents of the initiative were critical of the decision, arguing that the remaining portions of the initiative would still imperil resource development in the state.
“While the Court confirmed that the Alaska Constitution prohibits the use of an initiative to usurp or encroach on the Legislature’s sole authority to allocate state resources, many of the initiative provisions were preserved,” said Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, in a prepared statement. “That’s disappointing, especially since the court also recognized that while some provisions of the initiative were not facially unconstitutional, there may be future cases in which they are subject to successful ‘as-applied’ constitutional challenges.”
That’s a point that Alaska Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree argued in a dissenting opinion. Winfree agreed with the court’s decision to remove two key provisions of the initiative that would have explicitly tied the hands of the state regulators when it comes to permitting projects, but said there were other provisions that could do the same in practice.
That’s all to say that the spending on the initiative is unlikely to slow anytime soon.
Other big-ticket spending came in for three now-defunct ballot initiatives. Two initiatives that would have enshrined popular elements of the Affordable Care Act were ultimately pulled from the ballot by its sponsors because of federal and financial uncertainty. The third would have put legislative per diem, legislative ethics and campaign contributions from foreign-owned companies on the ballot. It was ultimately preempted by a Legislature-approved law. The Midnight Sun Publisher Jim Lottsfeldt had worked with all three efforts.
While spending on initiatives has lagged behind the 2014 election, independent expenditure spending targeting candidates is already far ahead of where we were in 2014. That’s thanks almost entirely to big contributions pouring into the independent expenditure group, Dunleavy for Alaska, which has raised more than $700,000 in contributions according to our analysis. The top contributors to the pro-Dunleavy group are Dunleavy’s brother Francis Dunleavy ($305,000) and Anchorage businessman Bob Penney ($250,00).
Here’s a full list of all contributors who’ve spent more than $10,000 contributing to independent expenditure groups that are targeting this year’s elections.
|Contributor||Amount||Purpose of Spending|
|Donlin Gold||$1,205,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|BP Exporation (Alaska) Inc.||$1,028,009.60||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Teck Alaska Inc.||$1,015,097.70||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Kinross Fort Knox||$1,008,605.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo||$1,003,800.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|ConocoPhillips Alaska||$806,541.56||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Hecla Mining Company||$632,928.19||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Coeur Alaska||$609,030.11||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Pebble Limited Partnership||$608,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|The Alaska Center||$424,668.45||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|The Fairness Project||$393,312.14||Supporting the health care initiatives|
|Francis Dunleavy (Mike Dunleavy’s brother, Texas)||$305,000.00||Supporting Mike Dunleavy|
|Represent.Us||$287,963.48||Supporting the per diem initiative|
|Robert Penney (Anchorage)||$250,000.00||Supporting Mike Dunleavy|
|New Venture Fund||$222,893.92||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Alaska Miners Association||$112,615.50||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|John Childs (Florida)||$100,000.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Wild Salmon Center||$97,844.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Alaska Oil & Gas Association||$95,796.01||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Cook Inletkeeper||$84,411.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|ANSCA Regional Association||$79,099.93||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Dittman Research/DRC LLC||$68,250.00||Supporting Mike Dunleavy|
|Council of Alaska Producers||$56,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Josh Pepperd (Anchorage)||$50,000.00||Supporting Mike Dunleavy|
|Michael Kowalski (New Jersey)||$50,000.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Peak Gold LLC||$50,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Trilogy Metals dba NovaCopper US Inc||$50,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Resource Development Council||$40,157.43||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Doyon, Limited||$38,913.98||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Mel Gillis (Anchorage)||$30,227.00||Supporting Josh Revak|
|Thomas Barron (Colorado)||$25,000.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Alaska Chamber of Commerce||$21,800.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Usibelli Coal Mine Inc.||$18,240.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Connect Solutions LLC||$18,023.26||Supporting Scott Hawkins/Alaska Free Market Coalition|
|Associated General Contractors||$15,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Salmon River Coalition||$13,170.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Robert Griffin (Anchorage)||$10,030.00||Supporting Mike Dunleavy|
|Alaska Conservation Foundation||$10,000.00||Supporting Stand for Salmon Initiative|
|Alaska Frontier Constructors||$10,000.00||Opposing Stand For Salmon Initiative|
|Ed Rasmuson (Anchorage)||$10,000.00||Supporting Mead Treadwell|