The election may be over, but the election-related complaints live on.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission is set to meet on Wednesday to consider issuing two subpoenas in its staff’s investigation of whether a Republican Governors Association-backed group illegally coordinated its campaign with Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. It’s one of two high-profile complaints lodged against the RGA-backed A Stronger Alaska independent expenditure group that regulators ultimately put off until after the election.
According to the most recent results, Dunleavy is poised to secure a second term as Alaska’s governor. There is no legal mechanism to alter the election’s outcome over the campaign finance violations.
In this case, APOC’s investigation into the alleged coordination between independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska and Dunleavy—which rested largely on the fact that longtime Dunleavy ally Brett Huber was listed as a member of the Dunleavy campaign while also holding a consulting contract with the group—was stymied because officials for ASA and RGA simply refused to participate. State law bars independent expenditure groups of any coordination with the candidates they support.
At an emergency hearing, attorneys for both groups argued the requests for information went too far but insisted they were not intentionally stonewalling the investigation.
That is, however, exactly what happened.
A majority of commissioners found there was no definitive evidence of ongoing coordination uncovered at the hearing—which did not include the participation of ASA or RGA officials (who happen to be the same people)—so they decided to defer to a staff-driven investigation. At the time, commissioners hoped the groups would willingly participate moving forward. Their attorneys had claimed they were keen on a full, fair and thorough investigation to clear their name, after all. That turns out to not be the case.
In a request dated Nov. 4, APOC investigators explain they have not received any response to requests for information that were delivered two RGA executives—Dave Rexrode and Erim Canligil—who also headed up A Stronger Alaska, and that subpoenas to compel their testimony would be necessary.
“APOC Staff is conducting investigation into whether the respondents in this matter have engaged in or about to engage in an act or practice that constitutes or will constitution a violation (of state campaign finance law),” explains the request. “In response to those requests, counsel for A Stronger Alaska and Republican Governor’s Association have refused to respond to Staff’s request unless a subpoena is issued pursuant to (state law).”
For the part of RGA and ASA, the group responded in a combined response that says they “do not intend to file formal oppositions” to the subpoena requests but reserved the right to fight any and all subpoenas if they are ultimately issued by the APOC commissioners. The notice also said “it is premature to address the contents of the subpoenas.”
The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, which is expected to largely be a closed-door executive session where commissioners can discuss the subpoenas with their attorneys and staff. Information on how to tune can be found Regulators also punted on that case, allowing the group to continue spending through election day on supporting the governor’s re-election, but warned that the groups could open themselves up to considerable fines if it was ultimately determined that they were doing something illegal.
“The Commission recognizes that by not finding for a violation on an expedited basis under (state law), A Stronger Alaska may continue to make expenditures in Alaska’s elections,” the order explains. “However, if it is later determined that sufficient separation between the two entities does not exist, A Stronger Alaska will continue to make expenditures at its own peril. Moreover, A Stronger Alaska could expose Republican Governor’s Association to penalties during the pendency of Staff’s investigation, if the Commission later finds that the two entities are one in the same.”
No decision has been reached in the second case and there’s been no movement to issue subpoenas, yet.
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