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.
The law you cite seems very clear regarding the prohibition and does not indicate that any payments can simply be routed through another party. It even goes so far to place a time limit. I think the voters have a valid case to seek protection from this abuse. So where is our new Attorney General on this (probably where the last one was on the LIO contract fraud – nowhere to be seen)?
File a complaint with APOC.
To what end? How could she have pulled this off without APOC compliance? Absent a specific complaint are all actions by Ledoux and her ilk to establish these “slush funds” allowable by APOC?
She might have run it my APOC first to see if it is ok, and was told it was. But a formal complaint will force APOC to officially address the issue of whether lobbyists can route money through another party- as you noted above, and what clearly appears to be a skirting of the law and breach of ethical behavior on the part of Gabby and those “government consultant/lobbyists” who are funding the slush fund.
And a formal complaint might make donees think twice about accepting dough from Gabby PAC.
I just spoke with “Heather” at APOC and she told me that there is no written opinion and that I as a voter have no standing to submit a request for a formal complaint because it would present a “hypothetical” situation. I have also expressed my concerns to the Governor asking for an inquiry by the Attorney General. I fear that this government is every bit as corrupt as when Bill Allen ruled from Room 604.
That Gabby started GabbyPAC?
That Gabby knows that lobbyists can’t donate directly to legislartive candidates outside of their districts of residence?
That lobbyists are contributing to GabbyPAC, knowing their $$ will support- and has supported- legislative candidates outside of their districts of residence?
And if an Alaskan voter doesn’t have standing, who does? Bill Allen?
p.s. Good idea about contacting Governor walker about this. I think I will too.
Please do contact the Governor. How long until we have 60 “Gabby Pacs” in the Legislature all dedicated to laundering money for contributions to each other? Governor Walker announced that the Attorney General’s Office now has a public integrity section, although nothing has been done about the LIO so don’t hold your breath on this on either.
As a lawyer, Gabby LeDoux should be familiar with Alaska v. Alaska Civil Liberties Union (4/16/99), 978 P 2d 597, the case in which the ACLU challenged the campaign finance reform legislation and was largely unsuccessful.
“The State introduced evidence, through affidavits and a survey commissioned by the state senate, of perceptions of the role lobbyists play in political fund-raising. According to the survey, fifty percent of registered lobbyists believe fund-raising pressure by special interests is a “serious problem,”because monied interests get special access to and influence over legislators.
Eighty-seven percent of lobbyists said that the refusal to make campaign contributions sometimes adversely affects lobbying. Thirty-seven percent said that this happens frequently and that lobbyists often give contributions “defensive[ly] to ward off negative reactions and the loss of access.”….
…”The State also discussed APOC records that imply that substantial risks of actual or perceived corruption attend lobbyists’ special relationship with elected officials. The records concerned questionable financial relations between legislators and lobbyists, including informal loan arrangements and unreported lobbyist payment of air travel costs.
“This evidence supports the State’s assertion that lobbyists’ contributions are “especially susceptible to creating an appearance of corruption.” The State argues: When in session, Alaska’s legislature is
geographically isolated from the state’s core population. Lobbyists are, by definition, paid to influence administrative or legislative action. AS 24.45.171(8). Their professional purpose, coupled with their proximity to legislators during the legislative session, makes them particularly susceptible to the perception that they are buying access when they make contributions.
“Based on this evidence we conclude that the State had a compelling
interest justifying some restraint on speech. ….We therefore uphold the ban on out-of-district contributions by lobbyists.”
In sum, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of provisions in statute that restricted lobbyists from making out of district donations.
The intent of the law was to eliminate corruption, and Gabby LeDoux notwithstanding, APOC needs to properly interpret the law and/or fix this loophole- if it exists- via a new regulation.
Thanks for that history and analysis. This PAC situation is about as sinister a threat to our legislative process as is their self-granted exemption from state open meeting law. Now behind those closed doors the sky is the limit as they arrange “donations” from each other’s PAC to seal the deal. Perhaps the immediate counter now is for the opponents of the recipients of LeDoux’s largess to exploit this pay-to-play tactic; however, I fear many of them might see no problem with what she has done and now want a PAC of their own.
There is NO hypothesis here. There are facts, not hypotheses.
Spot on, Lynn Willis. Corruption knows no Party or affiliation.
Rep. LeDoux is not telling the truth when she says that she is bringing what is done at the federal level to the state.
Why? Because federal lobbyists are not barred by federal law from donating to candidates outside of the districts of residence, as are Alaska lobbyists for state races. As a lawyer, Rep. LeDoux knows that or should know that.
Rep. LeDoux may or may not be breaking the law, but she certainly is skirting the law by setting up a slush fund for lobbyists to donate indirectly to candidates to whom they cannot contribute directly. Given the “Legislator-lobbyist” complex that runs Juneau these days, and all the wining and dining that goes on, is it out of the realm of possibility that a lobbyist donates to Gabby PACX, and then coincidentally tells Gabby that he or she rally likes a certain candidate to whom the lobbyist cannot lawfully donate? I sure can.
Finally, apparently Gabby PAC’s report has been amended at the request of APOC to show that the lobbyists who are donating are “lobbyists,” not mere “government consultants.”
Let’s just call it “The LeDoux Laundry” PAC where she launders money for palm pressers. And look for the union label on that laundry.