A complaint accusing Gov. Mike Dunleavy and supporters of his reelection campaign of campaign finance violations by “using taxpayer-funded state employees to subsidize expenses for campaign staff” was filed Tuesday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission by two nonprofit groups.
The complaint by the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative alleges an unprecedented level of coordination in Alaska between the governor, campaign workers and supposed independent entities working on behalf of a gubernatorial candidate.
“As of July 15, the Dunleavy campaign had spent a total of $6,200 on staff,” a news release announcing the complaint states. “During the same time period, the Walker-Drygas campaign spent $180,000 on staff and the Gara-Cook campaign spent $50,000 on staff. Rather than using campaign dollars to pay campaign employees, Dunleavy is having state employees and recipients of no-bid state contracts ’volunteer’ on his campaign. The result is taxpayer dollars funding a partisan campaign.”
The accusations have received widespread media coverage during the past couple of years, which is noted in the 40-page complaint and accompanying exhibits, but with little apparent effect or enforcement action on the alleged improprieties.
“We are still reviewing the filing and have no comment at this time,” Andrew Jensen, a communications assistant for Dunleavy, wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Robin O’Donoghue, AKPIRG’s communications manager, said the timing of the complaint is because “when you file something like this you want to make sure you’ve done your homework property, you have your facts straight.” He said it was also important to file it with enough time for APOC to consider it before the November general election.
“Retroactively taking action on this after the election compromises the integrity of the election,” he said.
The 907 Group, which registered as an Anchorage-based nonprofit on Aug. 23, is headed by Aubrey Wieber, a former Anchorage Daily News political reporter who was the communications director for Democratic candidate Chris Constant’s U.S. House bid this year. In an interview, Wieber said the group was formed to pursue a wide range of issues related to campaign violations, but has filed no other complaints so far and has nothing specific pending.
Also, the attorney representing the two nonprofits is Scott Kendall, who served as chief of staff for then-Gov. Bill Walker and was a major supporter of the successful ballot initiative implementing ranked choice voting, which was opposed by a former Dunleavy staff member who is among the principals targeted in the complaint.
AKPIRG, formed in 1974, has advocated for numerous campaign-related issues, including a successful 2006 voter initiative imposing campaign donation limits. The group also filed an ethics complaint against former Dunleavy chief of staff Ben Stevens regarding his communications with ConocoPhillips as a state employee before working for the company that was dismissed.
The complaint includes a mix of supposedly illegal as well as legal activities, with AKPIRG and 907 Initiative asserting the legal activities are evidence to support the overall accusation of a coordinated illegal effort. Specific parties and allegations include:
■ The Republican Governors’ Association, which made a $3 million contribution to Dunleavy’s campaign in February of 2021, three days before a state law took effect requiring the disclosures of the donors of those funds. AKPIRG and the 907 Initiative officials acknowledge the donation was legal, but are challenging it as part of the broader coordination complaint.
■ A Stronger Alaska, “a SuperPAC apparently created for the sole purpose of supporting Dunleavy’s re-election,” according to the complaint. It was formed on Feb. 24, 2021, and received a single donation — $3 million — from the RGA a day later. Again, the formation of the group and the RGA donation are legal.
■ Brett Huber Sr., a former staffer and political operative for Dunleavy starting in 2014, whose contract with the state ended June 1, 2022, and now owns the political consulting company Strategic Synergies LLC. Among the accusations in the complaint are Huber was being paid to work for Dunleavy and by ASA for his consulting company’s work simultaneously.
Work by numerous other people working for the Dunleavy administration who say are volunteering additional time for campaigning, as well as additional activities by campaign entities are mentioned in the complaint.
“It’s uncharted territory,” Wieber said, regarding the inclusion of legal activities as part of the collusion allegations. “The complaint is intended to show an intention. The reason why we file something like this is so (APOC) can make a determination whether there is or is not a violation.”
Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org.