Members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission issued subpoenas to two officials with the Republican Governors Association accused of illegally coordinating their pro-Dunleavy independent expenditure group with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign.
The subpoenas were issued on Wednesday, following a closed-door meeting to discuss staff investigators’ request to compel testimony after attempts to work directly with the officials went unanswered. The order gives the two executives—RGA Executive Director Dave Rexrode and RGA CFO Erim Canligil—until next Wednesday to respond.
The core complaint was brought by Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative and argues the independent expenditure group illegally coordinated with Dunleavy, violating laws intended to keep candidates separated from unlimited corporate spending. They point, primarily, to the fact that longtime Dunleavy ally Brett Huber was hired as a contractor while he was still officially part of Dunleavy’s personal campaign while also holding a $50,000 sole-source contract with the Dunleavy administration.
Huber and the Dunleavy campaign have argued there was nothing untoward about the arrangement, claiming his listing on the Dunleavy campaign was simply an oversight and he had no meaningful contact with the campaign well before he signed the consulting contract with the group. During testimony before APOC, Huber went on to downplay his $80,000 contract with A Stronger Alaska and said he occasionally looked over materials and took local meetings.
APOC commissioners decided to punt on any action ahead of the election after they found no evidence of “ongoing coordination,” allowing the group to continue to campaign in favor of the governor (who is on pace to win). They relegated the issue to the usual staff-driven investigation, which had been delayed in the first place by RGA and ASA’s refusal to respond to the APOC investigators without subpoenas.
Attorneys for the groups said the initial requests were too broad but were cagey about whether they would respond if investigators asked for a narrower set of documents. Still, commissioners had hoped that the two would find some way to work together without issuing subpoenas.
That turned out to not be the case, with the request from staff investigators for the subpoenas explaining that their inquiries have still gone unanswered.
The subpoenas seek clarity on the operations of the independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska—which was funded solely with a $3 million contribution from the RGA before stronger disclosure laws went into effect.
They seek a complete list of people involved in A Stronger Alaska, a description of their roles, any communications between A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governors Association, communications between A Stronger Alaska and Brett Huber and all bank statements of A Stronger Alaska.
This is one of two high-profile campaign finance complaints that have targeted A Stronger Alaska and the Republican Governors Association. The second complaint, which is still in the process of being reviewed after commissioners declined to take action ahead of the election, argues that the groups are essentially one in the same and that RGA should be directly exposed to the state’s disclosure laws.