Latest complaint alleges pro-Dunleavy group is ‘nothing more than smoke and mirrors’

Attorney Scott Kendall attempts to convince APOC commissioners that circumstantial and documentary evidence ought to be enough to prove coordination, especially when they’re relying on the word of the individual whose involvement is in question, during an expedited hearing on Oct. 17, 2022. APOC ruled against him.

The groups accusing the pro-Dunleavy PAC “A Stronger Alaska” of illegally coordinating with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign may not have been able to convince campaign regulators to take immediate action, but they likely uncovered a much bigger issue along the way.

Based on documents uncovered during the course of the coordination complaint, Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative filed a new complaint this week that alleges the group is “nothing more than smoke and mirrors” plot by the Republican Governors Association to evade the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws.

“This complaint outlines some of the largest campaign finance irregularities that APOC has ever been presented with. The evidence tends to show that the RGA has ‘created’ (A Stronger Alaska) as nothing more than smoke and mirrors to prevent timely disclosure, to hide the RGA’s own role in the election, and to avoid the Dark Money disclosure regime that went into effect on February 28, 2021,” argues the new complaint, which will be heard by APOC commissioners at an emergency meeting Thursday to determine if immediate action is needed.

Document: Read the new complaint

A Stronger Alaska’s official story is that it was formed in early 2021 and received $3 million directly from the Republican Governors Association, a dark money group that uses its nonprofit status to hide the identity of donors backing conservative causes, just days before a voter-approved measure that requires stronger disclosures for precisely these kinds of contributions went into effect. At a hearing last week, A Stronger Alaska attorney Richard Moses claimed there was nothing wrong about it.

“It was three days before the change in the law. Well, that was the law on that day,” he told commissioners. “There was nothing illegal about that. There’s nothing illegal about the expenditure of these funds.”

But RGA’s tax filings paint a different picture, raising questions of whether the payment even happened.

Those documents, which are filed quarterly with the IRS, have no record of a $3 million contribution to A Stronger Alaska but they do include references to several $11,500 payments directly to consultant Brett Huber, a Dunleavy ally whose involvement in the Dunleavy campaign and the independent expenditure group was at the heart of the coordination complaint. That would mean the RGA is spending money to directly influence Alaska’s elections without any registration or disclosure.

Huber was asked about his knowledge of A Stronger Alaska’s operations as well as how he was getting paid during the coordination complaint but claimed ignorance of nearly everything including who was signing his checks. He also claimed that the formation of his consulting company on the same day as the $3 million contribution was allegedly made was mere coincidence.

Additional IRS documents, filed on the night the complaint was filed, continue to show payments to Huber as well as several other payments for polling and campaign strategy that mirror payments that A Stronger Alaska told the Alaska Public Offices Commission it had made as part of its campaigning for the governor’s re-election.

An example of several expenses the RGA reported to the IRS. This one shows a $11,500 payment to Strategic Synergies, which is owned by Brett Huber.

The complaint filed by AKPIRG and 907 Initiative characterizes the activity as particularly brazen with far-reaching implications.

“In short, the RGA has either falsified its filings with the IRS, or it has (through ASA) knowingly filed false reports with APOC,” argued the latest complaint. “If these records reflect reality, the RGA—and, by extension ASA—are violating a litany of APOC’s reporting requirements. Specifically, the RGA may be guilty of: (1) operating as an unregistered I.E. Group; (2) filing false/deceptive reports with APOC; (3) issuing communications with false “paid for by” disclaimers and lacking necessary “three largest contributors” disclaimers; and (4) failing to disclose donors as required by the Dark Money provisions of Ballot Measure 2. Collectively, these violations could amount to fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more.”

Why it matters: Alaska doesn’t get do-overs on its elections, even when it comes illegal campaign finance activities. Conservative groups and candidates have racked up significant APOC fines in recent years but that hasn’t stopped them from winning.

Stay tuned.

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