At a state-sponsored initiative hearing on Monday, Scott Kendall and Brett Huber sparred over the mechanics of Ballot Measure 2, a voter initiative that seeks to make several changes to how Alaska’s elections are handled.
Though they sparred over the purpose and impact of ranked-choice voting and jungle primaries, they both agreed that measures attacking dark money—money filtered through groups to hide their original sources—in politics are needed.
“If were up to me, we would address difficult campaign contributes to track,” said Brett Huber, who represented Defend Alaska’s Elections, the group opposing the initiative. “To me, if you want to take that boogeyman issue up, I’m happy. … Dark money is in the eyes of the beholder.”
Kendall, who represented the support side for the initiative, fired back that Huber and Defend Alaska’s Elections were in the midst of violating Alaska’s existing election rules for how financial backers are disclosed on political advertising.
Huber said all his campaign disclosures with the Alaska Public Offices Commission—which weren’t the issue raised by Kendall—were all in order, calling the complaints already filed against the group “nuisance complaints” and said he expected another one to be filed.
And that’s what happened.
On Tuesday morning, Yes on 2 for Better Elections filed it second campaign complaint against Huber and Defend Alaska’s Elections, alleging the group has intentionally misled voters by failing to update disclosures to reflect big-ticket contributions by conservative Outside groups.
The group’s disclosures have said its top contributors are John Sturgeon, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell on social media up until late Monday night when it was updated to reflect the Alaska Republican Party, the D.C.-based State Republican Leadership Committee and Koch-backed dark money-group Americans for Prosperity.
“Defend Alaska Elections’ ‘three largest contributors’ disclosure has always been—and continues to be—an egregious, blatant, and ongoing violation of the law designed to hoodwink voters,” said Shea Siegert, the campaign manager for Yes on 2 for Better Elections. “Is it any surprise that the special interests and party insiders trying to stop Ballot Measure 2 would try to mislead voters and hide where their funding is coming from? This is why we need reform.”
The complaint also alleges the group was operating before registering with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to influence the election and for disclosures that don’t contain sufficient detail.
Even the original disclosure with Sturgeon, Begich and Parnell was misleading, the complaint argues. It notes that the top two contributors were actually Sturgeon ($1,000), Corey Mulder ($500) and a six-way tie for third at $250, which includes Begich, Parnell and several others.
“One would have expected DAE to have listed Mr. Sturgeon, Mr. Mulder and one other person of their choosing at the $250 contribution level as their third largest contributors,” the complaint argues. “But DAE has instead used a different ‘three largest contributors list in violation of the law. … It is clear that DAE’s ‘three largest contributors’ disclosure was never accurate, and that DAE had therefore purposely misled the public while violating the law.”
A previous complaint argues that Huber and Defend Alaska’s Elections also violated Alaska election law by beginning to campaign before registering as a political group.