Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux’s move earlier this year to create her own political action committee (PAC) has caused quite a stir among Alaska politicos. The move allows LeDoux to collect money separate from her own campaign funds and then to strategically spend or distribute those funds to benefit her political allies.
Of particular concern to many is that LeDoux’s PAC, Gabby’s Tuesday PAC, can also collect money from lobbyists across the state, allowing her to avoid state laws barring legislators from accepting money from lobbyists unless that lobbyist resides in that legislator’s district and prohibiting legislators from fundraising during the legislative session.
That LeDoux can apparently now do both has raised concern with some legislators because she now occupies the powerful post of House Rules Committee Chair. In that position, she can control which bills get to the floor of the House for a vote and which die without ever being considered by the full body.
On our January 1 episode of The Midnight Sun, The Podcast Sen. Kevin Meyer stated his concerns this way:
“I think if you are able to raise money from lobbyists, special interest groups, business, unions, whatever, during session and while their bill is going through the committee process, and if you are the Rules Chairman and you are the one deciding which bills go to the floor, I don’t think that helps build the public trust.”
Meyer is so concerned about that marriage of LeDoux’s position, in-session lobbyist fundraising that he pre-filed a bill to stop it. The bill attempts to bar any legislator who creates their own PAC from raising money for it while in session, and stops lobbyists from outside their district from contributing to it.
LeDoux countered on our January 8 podcast that the real conflict of interest Alaskans should be concerned about is when Meyer and Sen. Peter Micciche, ConocoPhillips employees both, vote on issues affecting their employers.
LeDoux then sent me an email from APOC Executive Director Heather Hebdon LeDoux says proves she is already barred by state law from fundraising for her PAC during session.
If that’s true, it would eliminate what he claims is the central ethical or public perception concern at its heart.
The email from Hebdon to LeDoux states:
“To your question regarding whether a legislator can raise funds for their PAC, I am assuming you mean during the legislative session, and you would be correct. A legislator cannot solicit/accept contributions for a PAC at any time the legislature is in session…See, AS 15.13.072(d), pasted below for ease of reference.”
So is Meyer correct that a new state law is necessary to protect the public process from legislators using their PACs to squeeze lobbyists for PAC cash during session under the implied threat that not doing so will cause that legislator to hold up their clients’ bills? Or is LeDoux correct that state law already addresses this.
After talking to both LeDoux and Meyer and reading Hebdon’s email, I saw a way both might actually be right.
I called Hebdon and she confirmed the substance of her email to LeDoux. Then I asked if someone registered with LeDoux’s PAC, but not the legislator herself, could raise money for the PAC during session. She said, “Theoretically, yes. The prohibition applies to the legislator, not the PAC.” She then added that such a person could not be either a sitting legislator or legislative employee, because then they too would fall under the same current prohibition LeDoux does.
So, they are both right. LeDoux cannot raise money for her PAC during session, but her PAC can. That means it would be very difficult for LeDoux to force lobbyists or anyone else to give to her PAC, under a real or implied threat to influence a bill they are working on, since her involvement anywhere in the fundraising process would make the whole operation illegal.
With all of that cleared up, is Meyer’s legislation still necessary? It isn’t clear.
From Meyer’s perspective, none of that changes the loophole that allows LeDoux’s PAC to solicit funds from lobbyists statewide, rather than just the ones in her district. Hebdon said of that issue, “There is no prohibition on lobbyists’ donation other than to a specific candidate, so a lobbyist could donate to the PAC at any time.”
LeDoux can’t use her committee position during session to influence fundraising, but she has still found a way to drain lobbyists of money in a way current law never envisioned for individual candidates and legislators.
That loophole, however, is no larger than the exact same one Meyer and his colleagues in leadership enjoy when they actively solicit that same full spectrum of lobbyists for donations to Republican or Democratic Party committees that they control.
In fact, they are doing just that this coming Monday. I’ve posted the event flyers to the right. You can view larger versions on our political calendar.
One could argue that since LeDoux has been officially disavowed by the Alaska GOP she should be entitled to the same committee-based fundraising loopholes partisan leaders, like Kevin Meyer, enjoy.