The Alaska Public Offices Commission released its staff report and corresponding penalties regarding the 2019 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly campaign of Nikiski’s John Quick. The report, dated Oct. 31, found that Quick violated campaign laws by failing to timely return the value of prohibited in-kind contributions from Alaska Yes, a now-defunct nonprofit political advocacy group that distributed ads on Facebook and local media outlets promoting Quick and other assembly candidates while also issuing negative claims about their opponents.
The commission is also ordering Quick to pay a maximum penalty fine of $300 for violating a campaign law for failing to return prohibited in-kind contributions from Alaska Yes Inc.
Quick is not contesting the findings of the report from the commission, a Nov. 18 notice from Quick’s attorney, Stacey Stone, said.
A phone call Monday night to Quick was not immediately returned.
A month before the last October’s election — where Quick ran for the Nikiski seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly — a complaint was filed Sept. 18 with the state commission overseeing elections.
After several expedited hearings in September, the commission issued an order directing Quick and his campaign to “immediately cease and desist from coordinating with Alaska Yes on advertisements that state they are ‘not authorized, paid for or approved by any candidate.’”
The cease-and-desist order followed revelations made during one of the APOC hearings that Quick’s then-campaign manager, Paul Huber, had been communicating with Alaska Yes Inc via email correspondence. That email correspondence, included in the staff report, shows Huber working with Alaska Yes Inc’s Peter Zuyus on campaign advertisements and signs supporting Quick’s campaign.
The commission’s investigation revealed that Quick’s campaign manager, Huber, was privy to Alaska Yes’s projects and was included on Alaska Yes’s emails detailing project plans; and, even suggested to Zuyus that certain campaign positions could be used by Alaska Yes if not used by Quick. In fact, Alaska Yes did use one of the suggestions in attacking Quick’s opponent, Jesse Bjorkman, for being a “union champion,” the report said.
This correspondence supports the commission’s findings that Quick’s campaign violated campaign law AS 15.13.114.
According to the commission’s report, Alaska Yes’s expenditures supporting the Quick campaign and opposing his opponent were not independent, but are considered contributions to the Quick campaign. The report said that because Alaska Yes used funds from businesses and individuals who contributed more than $500 to support its expenditures in favor of the Quick campaign, its contributions to the Quick campaign are prohibited and must be returned by Quick.
The commission is ordering Quick to pay the maximum penalty of $300 for failing to timely return a prohibited contribution, which calculated as $50 per day for each day the violation continues. In this case, the violation continued for six days after the regulatory grace period of 10 days. The report says the commission can reduce a civil penalty by half if the candidate is an inexperienced filer, which Quick was. However, staff at the commission did not recommend any reduction to the maximum civil penalty of $300, because Quick was well aware of Zuyus’ connection to Alaska Yes and “took no action to resolve the potential problem even after September 2, 2019, when he knew for certain that his campaign chair was making campaign suggestions to Alaska Yes,” the report said.
In addition to the civil penalty of $300, staff at the commission also recommended that Quick be ordered to pay the sum of $885.05 to Alaska Yes as reimbursement for the prohibited contributions he received from Alaska Yes and $510 to the staff at the commission for the time spent investigating the complaint. Because Quick’s cooperation with the investigation, the report says staff does recommend that the cost of the investigation be imposed.