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The Alaska Public Offices Commission held its expedited hearing on Friday to determine whether there was illegal coordination between the pro-Dunleavy Super PAC “A Stronger Alaska” and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign.
The gist of the complaint is that A Stronger Alaska illegally coordinated with the Dunleavy campaign when it signed Dunleavy ally Brett Huber to a consulting contract while Huber was still officially listed as a member of the governor’s official campaign. Earlier in the week, APOC found “reasonable cause” to believe the two had coordinated—making A Stronger Alaska’s independent spending not so independent under the law—when it called the expedited hearing.
As you might expect when the main witness to whether Dunleavy ally Brett Huber was coordinating between the two campaign was Dunleavy ally Brett Huber, we didn’t hear a lot of new incriminating information on Friday. Instead, we heard from Huber that he was basically a nobody with no involvement or knowledge of anything to do with the Dunleavy campaign where he was a deputy treasurer or with A Stronger Alaska where he’s getting an $80,000 consulting contract.
He had no direct input on or knowledge about polling, mailers, communications, campaign strategy, payroll or even who’s running the PAC. Those last two points ended up being pretty important, but I’ll get to that lower down.
A Stronger Alaska argues that since Huber said everything was fine, then everything should be fine. They argue the documents showing Huber was a campaign treasurer with the Dunleavy campaign was just a mere “oversight” with no consequence.
Complainants Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative, who are represented by Scott Kendall, argue that the documents that showed Huber was not only involved in both campaigns simultaneously but also on a state contract reporting directly to the governor’s office. Kendall noted he and the complainants simply don’t have the power to compel testimony, record private conversations or examine bank records (again, this’ll be important) but that circumstantial evidence matters.
“ASA’s counsel has said there’s no evidence of coordination. None, zero, that was his statement. I don’t know what satisfactory evidence of coordination would be for him unless Mr. Huber said, ‘My name is Brett Huber and I coordinated.’ Of course circumstantial evidence was important, of course documentary importance and of course it can show enough of a reasonable suspicion that this occurred that this commission could act.”
Speaking of documents, though, the hearing produced a far more interesting wrinkle on the whole saga.
Throughout the hearing, Kendall frequently referred to the “alleged” $3 million contribution that the Republican Governors Association made to A Stronger Alaska right before the state’s dark money disclosures went into place (which also happened to be the same day that Huber formed his consulting company, which Huber claimed was a complete coincidence). It seemed curious until he called Paula DeLaiarro, the whiz of Alaska campaign finance reports, to the table with the RGA’s IRS filings.
Basically put, DeLaiarro said recently discovered IRS filings for the Republican Governors Association have no record of a $3 million contribution to A Stronger Alaska but it does have payments directly to Huber. Now, this was presented largely as evidence aimed at undercutting Huber’s credibility but if correct, it’s a major, major, major red flag.
It’d suggest that A Stronger Alaska is no more than a shell organization that never had $3 million in the bank and the Republican Governors Association has been directly running the campaign without being properly registered to influence Alaska’s elections. It’d probably also go a long way to explain why both the RGA and A Stronger Alaska have refused to participate with the APOC investigations, a move that would push any resolution and penalty until well after the election.
It was clear that the allegations raised some alarm bells on everyone’s front but it won’t reach a resolution here. Instead, it’ll likely become the basis of its own separate complaint… which will also likely take some time to resolve.
Why it matters: As Kendall has previously noted to APOC, there aren’t any do-overs in Alaska’s elections no matter how big a fine is incurred. Racking up big campaign finance violations is increasingly looking like a cost of doing business.
Stay tuned: The APOC Commission has 10 days from the Friday hearing to make a decision on the coordination complaint. Expect something earlier this week, probably.
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