Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

Additional details accusing Gov. Mike Dunleavy of illegally using his state staff for campaign purposes, including a screenshot of an employee’s computer screen with a multitude of draft campaign advertisements, were included in a supplement filed last Friday to a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The supplemental filing also states another employee was still being paid by the state months after being retained to run a super PAC to reelect Dunleavy and a third employee received a state contact from the governor exceeding the no-bid limit. The filing also requests APOC obtain independent counsel to investigate the allegations instead of counsel appointed by the state’s attorney general.

“It is unclear if APOC has been faced with investigating a complaint against a sitting governor while that governor was a candidate for re-election,” the notice filed by the Alaska Public Interest Group and the 907 Initiative states. “Because APOC is typically assigned counsel from the Department of Law, which is under the purview of the Attorney General, and because the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the Governor, it would be appropriate for APOC to obtain independent counsel for this proceeding.”

Dunleavy, in a response filed with APOC to the original complaint filed, called it “specious and unfounded,” and “categorically denies that there has been any coordination or cooperation” with other people and organizations accused. Furthermore, the governor’s reply states “a large portion of the complaint falls outside of APOC’s jurisdiction and should not be considered here” because they allege personnel rather than campaign finance violations.

The original complaint includes accusations against a total of six people and organizations, alleging a pattern suggesting illegal coordination and activities, and noting Dunleavy’s official campaign spending this year is minuscule compared to his main opponents’. It also notes Dunleavy’s staff assert they are volunteering for the campaign rather than illegally performing paid work.

Among the prominent aspects of the complaint focuses on Brett Huber, a former staffer and political operative for Dunleavy starting in 2014, whose contract with the state ended June 1, 2022. He now owns the political consulting company Strategic Synergies LLC, and the complaint alleges Huber was being paid to work for the Dunleavy administration and by his reelection PAC simultaneously.

Dunleavy’s response, filed by attorney Thomas Amodio of Reeves Amodio LLC, denies any consulting work by Huber before June 1 was campaign related.

“Strategic Synergies and Brett Huber had indeed entered into a contract with the Governor’s Office to provide consulting services pursuant to a contract signed April 25, 2022, that contract was ended or cancelled on or about May 31, 2022,” the governor’s reply states. “Significantly, the consulting services to be provided under that contract were completely unrelated to the 2022 campaign and election.”

Also, “although Huber was listed as a deputy treasurer for the Campaign, this was purely an administrative oversight and did not result in any coordination or cooperation.”

Friday’s supplemental filing expands on the general allegations, including asserting Huber received a $10,000 payment from the state on June 29, 2022. It also includes one specific item of evidence in a screenshot purportedly from a computer being used by Jeremy Cubas, who is listed in the state employee database as a digital media specialist for the governor. The screenshot appears to show a video call taking place with three reporters, while elsewhere on the desktop are images of advertising samples and copy, along with related folders with titles such as “ads to send out.”

Aubrey Wieber, executive director of the 907 Initiative, acknowledged in an interview Friday the screenshot is not proof Cubas did any work on the ads.

“It’s not a smoking gun,” Wieber said, noting he has no information the ads were actually published anywhere. “It’s a vehicle in there to get answers.”

He said he received the screenshot from a person he declined to name following a Sept. 18 news conference about the original complaint.

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, became head of 907 Initiative when it registered as an Anchorage-based nonprofit earlier this year. The attorney representing the two nonprofits is Scott Kendall, who served as chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Walker, who is running against Dunleavy this year.

Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.