APOC fines former GOP Alaska Rep. Pruitt for “widespread, serious” campaign finance violations

Former East Anchorage Republican Rep. Lance Pruitt (Josh Edge/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska’s campaign finance watchdogs have slapped a former top state lawmaker with a $20,000 fine, saying he broke multiple laws with vague and sloppy reporting, banned contributions and late reimbursements to himself.

Lance Pruitt is a Republican former state House member from East Anchorage who lost his re-election bid last year to Democrat Liz Snyder. He’s not saying yet whether he’ll appeal the fine to the courts.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission unanimously voted to issue the fine this week after a complaint against Pruitt from a progressive political operative, Paula DeLaiarro.

“The commission decides that the widespread and serious nature of the violations warrant a penalty of this size,” the commissioners wrote in a 12-page order. “Pruitt’s testimony before the commission was unconvincing and appeared to be self-serving. At best, his reporting and attempted compliance with the law was haphazard. At worst, he engaged in deliberate non-reporting.”

Read APOC’s order here

Pruitt didn’t return a phone call. But in a prepared statement, he said his errors were were unintentional and “strictly administrative.”

“In hindsight, I wish I would’ve hired someone to do my reports instead of trying to balance that and a campaign by myself,” he said.

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His attorney, Tom Amodio, said Pruitt was considering his options for an appeal to the courts, but weighing the potential cost of a legal case against the size of the fine.

The commissioners, in their order, wrote that they found inaccuracies in nine of Pruitt’s campaign finance reports from 2016 and 2018, along with omissions from his financial disclosures in 2019 and 2020.

They said Pruitt waited for vendors to send him invoices before reporting his spending, rather than reporting expenses when services were performed.

They also ruled that Pruitt waited too long to reimburse himself at least five times for campaign spending that he paid with his own money. That kind of reimbursement is only allowed within three days of the expense, but the commissioners said Pruitt sometimes waited months.

Finally, the commissioners ruled that Pruitt broke part of the state’s financial disclosure law requiring him to identify the clients of his wife’s media consulting businesses, PS Strategies, which included the Alaska Republican Party and other political groups.

Pruitt explained the missing information by saying that he asked his wife’s company for the information and didn’t get it. But the commissioners noted that Pruitt could have gotten the details another way: from his wife’s own financial disclosure, which she was required to file as a former top aide to Governor Mike Dunleavy.

Pruitt’s wife, Mary Ann Pruitt, had asked APOC in 2019 for an exemption to the law requiring her to disclose her clients. But the agency rejected the request, saying that the public had the right to disclosure of Mary Ann Pruitt’s ties to corporate and political entities, given her high-ranking role in state government at the time.

Related: Regulators: Top Dunleavy administration official can’t conceal consulting firm’s clients

Pruitt’s violations, the commissioners wrote, “undermined the transparency the law requires, particularly because some of Ms. Pruitt’s clients may have advocated before the Legislature.”

“The financial disclosure law is intended to discourage legislators from acting on private or business interests in the discharge of their duties, to assure that legislators do not present a conflict of interest with the public trust — either in fact or appearance — and to foster public confidence in officeholders,” they wrote. “Rep. Pruitt’s incomplete disclosures were detrimental to those aims.”

Nathaniel Herz is an Anchorage-based journalist. He's been a reporter in Alaska for a decade, and is currently reporting for Alaska Public Media. Find more of his work by subscribing to his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com. Reach him at natherz@gmail.com.

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