Gov. Mike Dunleavy has reached a settlement for the state-funded political campaign mailers sent out in the summer of 2019 that were one of the pillars of the recall effort against him, agreeing to reimburse the state $2,800 but maintaining that he had no personal knowledge of the state-funded mailers.
The order, which was published Friday, is a settlement between the Dunleavy and the Alaska Personnel Board (one of the three members were appointed by Dunleavy). It finds much of the mailings that recall campaign supporters said were an improper use of state funds fell short of impermissible political mailers but that two intended to prop up Sens. Mia Costello and Josh Revak did, in fact, fall under a “partisan political purpose.”
The two-page order argues that most of the mailers—which targeted Sens. Cathy Giessel and Natasha von Imhof and now-former Rep. Tammie Wilson—didn’t fall under the “partisan political purpose” as laid out in the Executive Branch Ethics Act because none were actively filed to run for office. But because both Revak and Costello had filed for office, the mailers targeted an active race. The total cost of all of the mailers at issue is nearly $30,000.
The investigation was undertaken by John Tiemessen, who served as Joe Miller’s attorney during his challenge of the 2010 loss to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
These state-funded mailers were the subject of the effort to recall the governor from office. Alongside issues like the politically motivated veto of the court system, his refusal to appoint a judge according to deadlines set in state law and errors in his vetoes, the courts agreed that his use of state resources for political purposes met the grounds for recall.
Dunleavy has claimed no knowledge of the mailers, but the personnel board argues that the governor at the very least has responsibility to oversee his staff and properly inform them of the Executive Branch Ethics Act (something the governor also disputes).
In addition to the reimbursement for the Costello and Revak mailers, the governor “shall remind members of his staff to study the Department of Law’s self-guided ethics training” and provide evidence to the Personnel Board that they have completed the training by Sept. 30 and also publish a statement explaining the order to his website. The order, however, specifies that nothing in the order is an admission of wrongdoing by the governor.
Here is the full statement:
“I recently resolved a complaint under the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. The complaint concerned communications my office made to Alaskans through print and online advertising. Most of the communications complained of did not violate the Alaska Executive Ethics Act. But some of these communications referred to two legislators who, unbeknownst to my staff at the time, had filed a notice of intent to run for reelection. I did not know about these communications before they were sent, and had no personal role in drafting, designing, publishing, reviewing, or approving the advertisements. I never intended for State resources to support a partisan political purpose, and I don’t believe I violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act. Nevertheless, I believe it is in the best interests of the State to resolve these complaints, and, for this reason, I am reimbursing the State for the cost of these advertisements and ensuring that my staff undergoes all appropriate ethics training. I am also taking this opportunity to remind the devoted public servants in my office of the very high ethical standards that Alaskans rightly demand.”