The city is still counting ballots in the April 6 election, but the race for Anchorage’s May 11 mayoral run-off election is well underway.
Today, Anchorage Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar’s campaign filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging that conservative candidate Dave Bronson has racked up more than $170,000 in campaign finance violations during the course of campaigning. Dunbar’s campaign made the announcement in a news release today, detailing several complaints that fall under six broad categories:
- The central complaint alleges that the Bronson campaign illegally benefitted from polling conducted by the Recall Felix Rivera campaign. The complaint references an ad by Bronson citing favorable polling number, but an expense was never listed by Bronson’s campaign. Instead, the Recall Rivera Campaign did report an expense to the polling company cited in Bronson’s mailer but never publicly disclosed the results of the campaign, which Dunbar’s campaign says is an “backdoor network” to funnel campaign contributions.
- $1,400 in contributions over the individual limit.
- A failure to properly report $18,000 in debt to radio stations in a timely manner
- $2,665.63 in improper contributions towards fundraising fees and event catering
- $104,185 in campaign marketing expenditures that the Dunbar group alleges were “laundered through political consultants, with the actual advertising expenses and targets hidden from the public.
- Hundred of unreported dollars in Facebook advertising
Behind the complaint is Paula DeLaiarro, Dunbar’s campaign treasurer who has a knack of digging through campaign finance reports to find potential allegations. Recently, she was behind the complaint that found now-former Rep. Lance Pruitt had $1 million in campaign finance violations as well as another one filed by the Walker-Mallott campaign against groups supporting Gov. Mike Dunleavy in 2018.
“In all my years reviewing APOC reports, I have never seen a candidate campaign at this level with this volume nor this frequency of violations and obfuscated data,” she said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Bronson’s approach to his campaign finances indicates either a gross fiscal incompetence or a willful disregard for the law and an intent to deceive the public. But my biggest concern is that the issues we have cited are just the tip of the iceberg. I am worried that there is an enormous amount of illegal dark money activity happening below the surface that we cannot see.”
The main complaint stems from a March 31 Facebook ad run by Bronson that shows three polls—conducted by WPA Intel, Remington Research Group and the Anchorage Press—that show Bronson’s support growing during the course of the campaign. “Everybody’s trying to flex polls. Here’s a summary of three legitimate polls done on the Mayor’s race – all with similar results,” the ad reads. “Polls are only a glimpse of the electorate at a specific time. Campaigns still need to be run and we are proud of the positive campaign we have run on the issues impacting Anchorage.”
Where the allegation of campaign finance violations comes in, according to the Dunbar campaign’s complaint, is the fact that neither the WPA Intel or Remington Research Group’s polling results are not public as far as they can tell and were not paid for by the Bronson campaign. Bronson’s campaign has a $1,500 expenditure to WPA Intel for a “data subscription” while Recall Rivera reported a $15,750 expenditure with WPA Intel that’s specifically for polling. The Bronson campaign does list a $69,000 expenditure to Axiom Strategies, which founded Remington Research Group in 2015, but none of it specifically lists polling.
“Given the revised date and seemingly lack of other possibilities, one might conjecture that the Recall Rivera campaign paid for mayoral polling and shared it with the Bronson campaign,” explains the report. “The Bronson campaign had access to polling data involving the 2021 Anchorage mayoral race. How did they get it and who paid for it?”
The allegation also paints a complex web connecting the Bronson campaign, the Recall Rivera campaign and Ohio resident Robert Phillips, who’s the president of Axiom Strategies, the deputy treasurer of Recall Rivera and the treasurer of an independent expenditure group Reclaim Anchorage with Bronson.